Setting up the Group
During the summer before final year, Danielle and I decided to team up and do an animated short film as our Major project as we had a lot of fun working as a group in first year on the design a world project, Nespresso Noir, have similar art styles and a shared interest in 2D animation we knew we wanted a fun upbeat animation that was a bit comical with the style of the old cartoons from the 1920s with the rubber hose limbs.
To keep ourselves organised and create an efficient way to communicate Danielle and I created a Discord server as well as a OneDrive to upload and backup all our files, a Miro board for brainstorming ideas and gathering initial references, a Trello board for our to-do lists which we ended up not using much for favour of an Excel sheet with week to week scheduling and a full shot list broken down into the stages needed for the final animation.
When Danielle and I met up in the first week of class we researched into the animation pipeline for 2D animation so that we would have a better grasp of what stages we would need to do to create a completed 2D animated short film. A good visual reference of the pipeline I found was a video by ARA Studios which showed each completed stage of animating a candle flame type character. I found this pipeline to be simple to follow so Danielle and I chose to use the stages they used for their project.
After we identified the stages of a 2D animated short film we created a schedule in Excel on a week to week basis where we estimated how long each stage of the process would take us to complete. Looking back on the schedule now that the project is completed we were being overly optimistic with how long each stage would have taken us and it was too generalised with the only description of what we had to do during that allotted time was a stage of the animation process.
Near the start of March I created a new schedule that went into more detail of what we needed to complete each day to finish the animation by the deadline. I made sure to include the days that we had other obligations to the schedule as well as time to make adjustments to scenes after the feedback sessions from Mike after class. We were able to visually see what needed to be completed each day which kept us on track better than the previous schedule as well as allocate time to work on our Creative Futures work.
Initial Ideas for the Project + Story References
In the beginning, Danielle and I had a bunch of different concepts and really vague ideas for potential stories we could create, we then picked our favourite ideas and expanded them more using the sticky notes in Miro to help place the rough beats of each idea before settling on creating an idea we were happy with.
When we showed our progress to the tutors, Henry advised giving the story more of a narrative and a message so we overhauled our previous plot and created a new one that focused on the rivalry between new and old.
We took inspiration for films like Toy Story, Monsters University and Tom & Jerry for the new direction of the narrative for our short film as we like the dynamics of the two opposing characters of each film and wanted to emulate the same characteristics with our characters as we want to be able to create some comedic moments within our animation and clearly show the development of the rivalry of our two main characters.
After deciding on the story we wanted, which was Arcade Animatronics, we broke the story down further using the sticky notes in Miro to place the beats of the narrative and make rearranging plot points easier. We went through multiple iterations of the plot and broke it down further to get a better understanding and grasp of what we wanted and work out any issues based on feedback from the tutors; we wanted the narrative of the story and the characters development to be clear to audiences so that our theme of enemies that become friends who learn to work together to put the enjoyment of others before themselves.
Concept Art + References
When Danielle and I created the initial story we gathered some references for some potential characters and the various environments that we would need as well as a list and some silhouettes for character shapes that would have been used in the story before we scaled back our idea due to the change in narrative and time restraints of the major project deadline. When cutting down the character list, Danielle and I made sure to discuss and agree on which characters to remove so that we would get to keep the characters we liked and were interested in developing further.
*Silhouettes created by Danielle*
When thinking of what we wanted our animation to look like we immediately thought of the rubber hose animation used in 1920s cartoons so we looked into other media that had a similar style to what we wanted like Cuphead, Silly Symphonies and Adventure Time. Alec also recommended that we check out an artist on Instagram called tony babel as he produces content with a similar theme to what we wanted our animation to look like so we looked into his work. I love the look of the bouncy, stretchy movements that he creates in his animations and I hope to be able to replicate that when it comes time to start animating our short film.
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For the character designs, we drew inspiration from the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, in particular their more human animatronic designs as Danielle and I wanted to create animatronic characters that had human-like proportions so it was a good starting point.
We both brain stormed some ideas for elements that we wanted to have on each character to make their designs more cohesive and to look as if they both were produced in the same factory which can also be seen as a reason for why Gumball has such a distaste for Lollipop as he is the newer, more improved model of Gumball which will overshadow and take Gumball’s pride of place as the centre of attention of all the children.
We decided to make the animatronics look a bit clown-like with the painted cheeks and puffy, balloon-like trousers as they are commonly used to entertain children at birthday parties so it felt like a good theme to give the animatronics.
To help portray the personalities of the characters we looked into the use of shape language in character designs and a great video from Winged Canvas came up.
It explained the difference of shape design and shape language and how different orders and proportions of shapes can create internally unique characters. Due to Danielle and I wanting the characters to look similar our use of shape language had to be a bit more subtly like in the shapes used to create their facial features and the different proportions of the bodies. Even though we didn’t lean too heavily into exaggerating the shapes for the characters for this project it is something that I will try to do more in future character designs and projects.
*Lollipop concept art created by Danielle*
*Turnarounds created by Danielle*
Once Danielle and I were happy with our current progress we presented our designs to Mike for feedback which included; Gumball needs to look older and more worn than Lollipop, Lollipop needs softer shape language as he is not supposed to be an outright villain and needs to look newer. After feedback Danielle adjusted Lollipops concept art according to the feedback and made turnaround sheets for both characters alongside some children concepts that also got adjusted to better suit the more chunky shapes of the other characters and environments. For Lollipop’s newer design Danielle decided to lean more heavily into action figures like design like the gauntlets for Lollipop’s hands while still maintaining the design elements that Danielle and I agreed upon so that the characters would remain more cohesive and better suit the style of the environment that they will be placed in.
*Lollipop concept art & Turnarounds created by Danielle*
*Children concept art created by Danielle*
While Danielle continued to work on concept art I created style guides for the characters, a no-no sheet for their faces and a style guide for how everything within this project needed to look and how to get that look.
*Height Guide created by Danielle*
When designing the environment Danielle and I discussed what we would need to create the look of an arcade for children that hosts birthday parties as well as furniture and props we wanted to include. It was essential that the characters looked like they belonged within the environment as well as the furniture and props looking like they were made with children in mind. We decided on a colour scheme for the environment so Danielle started by creating the concept art for some props and furniture while I designed the arcade machine and a few colour variations. We both knew that the environment would not be a major part of our animation so we kept our designs simple and versatile so they could be used multiple times throughout the animation.
*Prop Concept Art created by Danielle*
While Danielle continued to work on concept art, some possible room layouts for our environment and colour schemes for the props and furniture I began modelling the arcade machine in Maya so that we could create a pipeline test with a render of the environment for the background and an animated character edited together to see if it looked good and was the direction we wanted to go with for the background.
*Room Layouts and Prop Concept Art created by Danielle*
Storyboards & Animatics
Based on the story that Danielle and I plotted on Miro, I drew some storyboards for the key plot points then expanded them and adjusted them based on tutor feedback during the pitch presentation.
—Storyboards V1 – Adjusted—
The storyboards went through several iterations and a few story changes to better portray the development of the characters based on feedback from Danielle and various tutors before they were finalised enough for Danielle to make an animatic.
—Animatic 1 (WIP)—
*Animatic created by Danielle*
Like the storyboards, the animatic went through various adjustments and changes to better suit the feedback from myself and the tutors as well as plot out the rough timing of each scene to get a better feeling of the flow that the final animation may have.
*Animatic created by Danielle*
Once the story and animatic was settled we moved back to creating pipeline tests to see if what we wanted to create was possible with our current skill levels, the time restraint and if the 2D and 3D elements meshed well together as there was concern that 2D characters and a 3D background may become jarring or a distraction that could detract from the efforts we put into the animation so it was essential that we completed a pipeline test of the full process to ensure that everything worked well together. Furthermore, I wanted to get a rough pipeline test done as soon as possible so that I would have the time to draw all the backgrounds if our 3D backgrounds didn’t mesh well with the 2D characters, I wanted to ensure that I left myself with enough time to create new backgrounds if necessary.
While I continued to model the background elements, Danielle focused on creating some animation tests to get a feel for the characters stretchy proportions and arms as well as a loop animation of balloons swaying to add to the background of the animation.
*Gumball’s entrance and Balloons created by Danielle*
I focused on finishing the modelling of the arcade machine then moved onto texturing the model in Substance painter. After I was finished with the arcade machine I moved into Unreal Engine to attempt to create an outline and toon shader to create the cell shaded and drawn look we wanted for the background.
I had no idea on how to create a toon shader in Unreal so I looked up some video tutorials but I was having some problems making the toon shader work the way I wanted it too so I consulted Mike.
After a meeting with Mike we decided it was best to build the environment in Blender as it would be faster to render so I followed some video tutorials that Mike sent me on how to create a toon shader in Blender;
With a few tweaks to the toon and outline shader to better match the specifications of the style guide I was set to render a background once I made a texture for the floor that we both liked.
During this time, Danielle was also creating a pipeline of one scene from our animation through to the end of production to get a better grasp of what the full pipeline for our project would be and length of time it would take to create a full scene from start to finish.
*Pipeline created by Danielle*
Overall the initial ideas and pre-production process was fun for both of us as Danielle and I enjoyed creating cohesive character designs and environments for our project. The pipeline process was more cumbersome as we ran into a few problems like the toon shader not working the way we expected and the amount of time the full animated pipeline would take to create and adjust but now that it is done we have figured a few ways to shave some time off production and we like the outcome of what our final animation should look like so we were happy to move onto production.