Monday, 20 February 2012

The Major Project - The Story So Far

I haven't posted much on the story yet, but already many ideas have been considered. After I've shown the first completed draft storyboards, I just want to go over the rational behind the current story. Feedback most welcome too.


_______ Act 1

Exactly how it starts is still in a state of flux but for now, the title is made out of letter fridge magnets and they fall down amongst other lost objects, swirling around into a bright white light. Likely to change though as I want to add in some floating lanterns at this point.

The camera pans down onto the monk, just releasing one last lantern.
The camera cuts close up to the basket as it drifts up, focusing on the label. The label twists around as labels generally do. First showing lost keys belonging to someone, with an address on the other side. (the actual name and address are irrelevant other than that they are a name and address!)

The monk takes a look at his sundial watch! He decides it is time to tidy up.
He picks up (in this case) a broom. (but actually what he picks up first depends on what shot I cut to next)

He is busy raking up pen lids. Shovelling coins in a crate. Hoisting heavy crates up. Then lastly, but most importantly, he is sweeping up the socks.

_______ Act 2 Part 1

While sweeping he is surprised by a noise. A kitten pops out of the sock pile.

He picks up the kitten and strokes it. He picks up the attached string, but there is a missing label. At this point the kitten hops in his sleeve.

The kitten travels down the monks clothes and pops out the other end and runs away. This scene may be cut short due to the practicalities of a kitten being able to run around inside his clothes.

_______ Act 2 Part 2

The kitten runs past a large ink bottle, running over a puddle of ink. The monk sees the messy trail left by the kitten. A sound of piled up baskets toppling over is heard.

He follows the trail to the fallen baskets. He has a mop! When he sees that the trail leads to one particular basket he drops his mop and lifts the basket.
Nothing is under there. Meanwhile another basket moves in the background and goes off screen.

(Room for any extra or alternate scenes)

_______ Act 2 Part 3

After hearing the kitten meow, the monk comes back to the area with the crates and socks to find that the kitten is stuck at the top of a pile of crates. The monk starts to climb up. The creates are piled precariously and are wobbling.

He tries to reach for the kitten. He goes onto tip toes. He's practically reached the kitten when his foot slips.

As he falls the kitten jumps into his arms, pushing the crates over, and they both fall into the pile of socks. A sock flies in front of the camera.

When we come back to the scene, he is sitting up with the kitten in his arms and another hand on the ground. He sees that his hand is on something. It is a label. The missing label of the kitten. He realises that the kitten must now be returned. He's sad.

_______ Act 3

He opens his address book. Scans down the page for the right address. The camera cuts to a shot revealing the ridiculous size of the book.

He puts the kitten in a basket then lights a candle. The basket slowly lifts. The monk is sad and happy at the same time.

The camera pans up to the sky as the basket floats away. As the monk turns around to walk off screen, the kitten pops up in his hood!


One of the earliest decisions was how to distinguish between the lost items, and the props of his world. Being a monk character I made the decision to keep his stuff old fashioned. He sends lost items back with floating lanterns, has a sundial watch, and an address book with so many addresses it would have to be huge. All the unlabelled lost items get stored in large crates which he has to manoeuvre himself with lots of rope and tackles. Generally, the things that are lost are small and the things in his world tend to be larger.

Of course thats an awful lot to introduce in one short animation. When starting to figure out how the story was going to work, I thought it was probably going to be necessary to show the cycle of one random lost object being lost and going through the system until it is floated away.
One option to save myself from having to waste valuable running time on explanations and not on the actual story, was to not properly introduce the kitten until the end. So rather than the monk chasing this kitten, he is just doing his usual job, while finding this trail of destruction that the kitten has left.
Here are some of the boards that I drew to test the idea. (mixed with storyboards from the main edit)

It might have worked, but it seemed a bit bland and the ending wouldn't have worked well.

The problem was that whenever I tried to find the quickest and most efficient way to introduce the whole world it seemed to feel disjointed, slow or rushed.
In the end I came to the conclusion that it was only necessary to introduce some things, but not everything straight away. I could get to the main story (the kitten) much quicker and still show the complete process at the end, with hints in the middle.
In other words, the whole mechanics of the world didn't need to be spelt out before the main story.

I have considered the practicalities of animating a kitten in 5-ish weeks along with the monk. I'm not a cat expert and don't have any pets so while reference videos from youtube will help, I've got to be economical about how much the kitten is 'alive' on screen for.

This is why I've tried to maintain the focus of the story with the monk, and limit the kittens presence on screen. So one good run cycle is needed and there are a couple of scenes where the kitten and monk interact, but the majority of animation is still with the monk.

I suppose the only things left to decide is whether it is necessary to show the kitten flying down with the other props, or something that might look like a kitten but fall down too quickly to properly notice, and whether it is necessary to introduce the kitten as being lost in the real world. This is one of the things that to me might make it feel disjointed, when the rest of the animation is in his world.

Here are a few other segments of story boards that I've cut from the main edit. That's not to say some can't be put back in.

I have had plenty of feedback from home already, but I am interested to know what other people think.

For now though, I'm going to take a short break from the story, and go back to the design side of things.

A Flock of Pixels.

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