CONTENTS THESIS CONCEPT
BRUCE TERRIER STYLE FRAME
THESIS CONCEPT Sundae Stroll is an animated short that pays homage to the classic cartoons from the late 1920â€™s to early 1930â€™s, a period heralding the Golden Age of American animation. The narrative revolves around Bruce Terrier and his attempts to enjoy an ice cream cone during a stroll in the park. What begins as an simple enough goal soon becomes increasingly problematic as other characters in the park insert themselves in the mix. An elephant who helps himself, a pick-pocketing baby kangaroo, a high-flying bandit bird, and even a tipsy octopus all find their way between Bruce and his afternoon delight.
IMPERATIVE My thesis project began as a reaction to the current state of children’s cartoons on television. Watching cartoons is every child’s favorite pastime -- it is pure entertainment packed in a bite-sized format, perfect for the short attention span of young children. Present day children’s cartoons, however, are growing progressively inappropriate in nature, often relying on harmful stimulus and shock value to attract young viewers. Children definitely learn through observation, and it is disturbing that so much of today’s cartoons promote very negative influence on its young impressionable audience. Video game culture in particular has had an enormous impact on introducing extreme levels of violence into the mainstream to the point where it becomes the norm and worse, condition-
ing children to expect this kind of stimulus in order to hold their attention. Also troubling is the fact that contemporary cartoons are surprisingly lacking in quality storylines compared to their classic counterparts. A growing number of poorly made cartoons to fill the demands of the commercial industry have led to a systemic decline in standards over the years. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Arthur, Martha Speaks, Sid the Science Kid, and Between the Lions, which are free of any inappropriate behavior, and although they are popular among children, they are not comical like their ancestral counterparts. This puts them at a disadvantage when up against the more audacious competition populating the field.
SID THE SCIENCE KID
PROPOSED SOLUTION To create a cartoon that will captivate today’s young audience with humor and clever narrative, without relying on violence or otherwise harmful stimulus. Early sound cartoons from the late 1920s and early 1930s purposely avoided fighting and intense violence which would be harmful if imitated by children. New children’s cartoons based on the early sound cartoon model can still contain characters outsmarting each other with pranks and jokes, while avoiding the intensity or imitable behavior of violence. Another important focal point will be to anchor the piece with a clever, captivating narrative to hold the viewer’s attention without the need for gratuitous stimuli. Sundae Stroll aims to offer a clear departure from the current mainstream, delivering quality content mindful of its young audience — and funny!
Sound Department worker George Groves, operates Vitaphone sound-on-disc equipment in the late 1920s at Warner Bros. Studios.
VISUAL TREATMENT Aesthetically, this short will be done in a very simple black and white style, reminiscent of the classic early cartoons from the 1920’s-1930’s. The visual style is intentionally stripped down to its purest form in an effort to dial things back from the over-stimulating aesthetic of today’s programming and to put the focus back on the authenticity of storytelling. There will also be no dialogue, as a tribute to the cartoons of the silent film era such as Felix the Cat, or early works of pioneers such as Windsor McCay and Walter Lantz. The animation will instead rely strictly on the expressiveness of the characters’ movements to unfold the story. The characters will be modeled and animated in 3D using Autodesk Maya, in a low polygon style meant to reflect the minimalist styles of early black and white cartoons. The animation will then be FELIX THE CAT composited with 2D backgrounds and other elements in After Effects.
CHARACTER LINE UP
3D MODELS /
BRUCE + ICE CREAM VENDOR
3D MODELS /
ELEPHANT + KANGAROO
3D MODELS /
PELICAN + OCTOPUS
3D MODELS /
RESEARCH FELIX THE CAT APRIL MAZE (1930) I highly admire the use of simplistic designs. You really donâ€™t need an abundant of detailed textures of the fur or realistic human walk cycles. They are already as real as us with personality in their body movement.
ANIMAL CROSSING NINTENDO (2001) This video game style demonstrates the low-polygon 3D quality which is suitable for a homage for my 1920-30s cartoon. It represents a primitive aesthetic before excessive details and textures in most 3D renderings.
UB IWERKS YEARS ACTIVE 1920-1965 Ub Iwerks was the man who created Disneyâ€™s famous Mickey Mouse. He was responsible for the distinctive style of the earliest Disney animated cartoons. His style of animation was unique giving an extra characteristic to the double bounce walk along with music to make a more comical film.
FEEDBACK I was fortunate to have had an early start on my project and therefore able to take advantage of a lot of valuable feedback in shaping this piece. For example, in early versions, there were too many characters which posed a major problem for realistically producing this piece on time. I received many helpful suggestions on how to streamline the sequence and decrease the number of characters while still retaining all of the best scenes and working towards the necessary punch at the end. Some other key points involved Bruce Terrier’s character design. As the main character, it was important to infuse him with a look that was immediately appealing to the audience. He originally had sharp pointy ears which did not lend to making him instantly adorable, instead
making him look more like a geometric Mickey Mouse than a cute puppy. The stiff upright ears also made it difficult to convey a range of emotions. The suggestion was made to soften the ears and go the extra mile to figure out how to rig them to be floppy in order to give Bruce a softer, more puppy-like quality with the added flexibility to express a wider range of emotions. Also extremely helpful were specifics suggestions on extracting as much as possible out of the physical, slapstick comedy. Ideas such as a “double-take” when the elephant snatches Bruce’s ice cream cone or ways he could use his trunk to playfully tease Bruce helped improve early motion tests considerably.
PUPPY-LIKE QUALITY EARS
FINAL PRESENTATION FEEDBACK During our final presentation to external critics, I received some more helpful comments. Since this is a silent, character animation piece, Magnus Atom from Omega Darling affirmed that my characters’ movements, poses, and actions should always be slightly exaggerated and visually dynamic. At the end of the day, this animation is a character-driven piece and dramatic poses are the way to go with extra bouncy and springy movements as typical of the silent era. Tibo Charroppin from Flickerlab agreed, saying the poses would look more appealing with occasional freezes to convey the flickering unevenness of 30
vintage films. He also said such “paused moments” allow the audience to absorb the moment and develop empathetic feelings for Bruce Terrier. Paul Imperio from Suspect talked about pushing the black and white color palette for more of my characters, pointing out that the gray of the elephant was getting lost against the gray of the background. He also mentioned more Steamboat Willie style character movements with loose, rubbery arm movements. All of them said they loved the story, and I was pleased that it generated laughter in all the right places from a fresh audience.
PRODUCTION SCHEDULE AUGUST WEEK 01 - 3D model (6) Characters SEPTEMBER WEEK 02 - finishing modeling WEEK 03 - model elephant WEEK 04 - model kangaroo WEEK 05 - UV map each character OCTOBER WEEK 06 - continue UV WEEK 07 - rig each character WEEK 08 - finish characters WEEK 09 - character rig tests
NOVEMBER WEEK 10 - begin animation, scene 01 WEEK 11 - animate scene 01 WEEK 12 - critique scene 01 WEEK 13 - revised scene 01 DECEMBER WEEK 14 - animate scene 02 WEEK 15 - FINAL PRESENTATION FOR THESIS II / SPRING 2013 - continue animation, scenes 02-05 - compose soundtrack - title card/typography research - design backgrounds