Annoyingly most of this background will be cropped out when I add the animation, but it felt stupid not to illustrate the whole room. However, I may end up reusing the scene for a wider shot later down the line.
The original design was literally going to be a bed, a chair, and some stacked boxes. I drew this idea out and it looked horrendously garbage, not to mention lazily designed, so I went back to the drawing board. This is the main living area inside the tree that we see the mouse character run into, which is why the room is curved. Also, look at all those books! The chair closest has a hole in the back for the mouse’s tail to fit through. I didn’t want to overdo it in terms of reverse engineering everything for a mouse, mostly because I’m not that smart, but also because I wanted to keep things recognisable. In terms of adding the animation, the character will enter frame from the right, pause uncertainly, and then move towards the lit area in the middle (there’s going to another scene before this one which I’m working on now).
I severely underestimated how long it would take to complete this! Firstly, the previous animation came in at 1.5 seconds, was 12 frames long, and it took me about a day to complete. This one is 3.8 seconds, almost 40 frames, and there’s a lot more going on, so I’ve no idea what made me think I could do it in a day.
I felt a bit more comfortable navigation the process this time so that helped speed things up. The original idea (and the reason I probably thought I could complete it so quickly) was that the mouse would run in and slide to a stop in the middle of the scene, but it occurred to me that I wouldn’t learn all that much about how animate the character in different poses and facial expressions do that, so I changed direction (literally). It’s still not as smooth as I’d like it to be and frame to frame I can see I’m consistent in drawing the proportions, but I’m getting there I think.
The major challenge here (apart from… well… all of it) was the “fall and get up”, as I’ve never drawn those poses before I don’t think. I found myself having to act it out and think about what limbs I was moving and then translate that to the character in a different 3D plane. In hindsight I should just video myself from the angle I want and draw that. The other challenge here was adding the light, which for this test was direct light and a bit of bounce light. I’ll maybe start getting a tad more adventurous with the rendering of light and shadow as I progress, but really the focus will be on getting the movement right as a before I attempt to get too fancy.
The top image is the next background for the animation. This next scene will probably last a little longer than the previous one – perhaps five seconds or so. The colours are fairly muted/desaturated because I want to keep the focus on the character who will be running in from the left.
This background previously would have been pretty quick to draw, but I’m now trying to visually develop everything, insomuch as I’m drawing multiple designs of all the props until I settle on what I think looks appropriate. The pictures in the frames on the wall are of cheese FYI.
I’ll try and pump out the next part of the animation tomorrow or Thursday!
I’m not much of an animator if I’m honest. I made two animations while I was at uni and both were made over two years ago. We were specifically told to avoid walk/run cycles because they would be too difficult to animate and extremely labour intensive. They were right. To be fair it didn’t take me as long as I thought it might – I thought about 12 hours, but it took about 6 – but it’s also not as smooth as I’d like, however the jerkyness (not a word) seems to work for the character. I could go back in and add more frames, but this is only a test for what is gonna be a bigger project.
Going forward I’ll be doing more background art and potentially animating some more scenes. I genuinely enjoyed making this, but it’s going to take a fair while to master the basics, I do however own “Drawn to Life” which is a book of all Walt Stanchfield’s teachings on animating that was compiled while he worked at Disney.
With these pieces I’m simultaneously trying to create a believable world (well, as believable as a world can be with sentient woodland creatures) and build up my background painting portfolio for animation (I will be adding colour at some point as well).
The top piece is a zoomed in version of a pervious concept that has be rendered a little more thoroughly. I literally cut and pasted from the older concept as it was worth using same dimensions and angles, plus it saved me a bunch of time in having to redraw.
The bottom concept gives you a more complete idea of what the mouse’s house will look like. I’m going to fill this with more props to give it a more lived-in feel as it is little more than a shell of an idea at the moment.
A couple of very Disney-esq character designs. These were done mostly as a response to watching the Disney classic “Basil the Great Mouse Detective” which is still a great film, but looks really roughly animated when you compare it to some of its polished modern counterparts. The character designs seem basic, there’s less thought about peripheral characters (mostly they all look the same), the backgrounds are less interesting etc… These issues are mostly due to time constraints and the fact that Disney was still growing and learning. When you watch the modern animations, like Zootropolis, you really see how far things have come! Every piece of dialog has meaning, the environments are immersive and have hidden easter eggs for the eagled eyed viewer, the main characters are thoroughly work-shopped and designed, and the background characters all have a look and personality of their own too.
It’s a melancholy feeling watching those old animations because you love them so much, but you know Disney has moved on from hand-drawn animation and are unlikely to ever return to them, and that’s really sad. There’s something amazing about those hand-drawn films; maybe it’s nostalgia (in fact I’m positive it is) or maybe it’s like when you see a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh painting in the flesh instead of a print. Or maybe it’s the fact that there’s something sacred about knowing it’s all hand-drawn; the most fundamental way of drawing, the way everyone starts, the way the cavemen did it. Maybe it’s that.
I’ve just signed-up for a character design course by Wouter Tulp on schoolism.com. For those of that don’t know who he is, here’s a link to his website https://www.woutertulp.com/. He’s not only one of my favorite character artists, but also one of my favorite artists full stop, so it wasn’t difficult picking this course from schoolism (i’m not getting paid to plug them by the way).
The course is called ‘conceptual characters’, there are nine lessons, and each lesson has a video where Wouter teaches you a new concept and then gives examples from other illustrators/animators/character designers etc… There’s also a section at the end where he critiques students who have paid a premium to get one-on-one feedback from the master himself, which is frankly more useful than the actual lessons, because Wouter gives you his thought process as he re-draws the students work.
Anyway, the first lesson is about how to generate ideas from simple prompts. The prompt for this lesson is ‘wise’ and ‘bottle’. The idea is to write down as many iterations of each word and then combine the two words to create three characters. From left to right my reasoning goes; streetwise miracle-cure peddler; Shaolin master demonstrating extreme concentration; Shaman mixing an unusual concoction.
I’ll keep you updated as I progress through the lessons.