Artistic Failure

Hey, everybody! In case you weren’t aware, right now I’m plugging away on a new web series I’m really excited about. It’s called Cartoon Remake, and I’ll be taking famous or classic movies and converting them into zany, old-school, slapstick-heavy cartoons.

The “pilot” is going to be a parody of The Shawshank Redemption; I’ll be taking the incredible story of Andy Dufresne and turning it into a series of Road Runner-style gags of Andy trying and failing to break out of prison. Oh, and it’s going to have stop-motion wraparound sequences featuring a Morgan Freeman caricature, in a nod to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s really turning out well, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it.

But right now, it’s time to talk about when things don’t turn out well. Making an animated film all by yourself involves a lot of trial and error, particularly when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing, like me. And I ran into a pretty stupid mistake recently that I’m going to tell you about right now.

I was working on a scene where Andy is walking toward what looks like a huge gust of wind. Then, when the shot pans out, it is revealed that the “winds” are being caused by a mouse blowing his nose. HILARIOUS, RIGHT? (Humor me, please.)

Anyway, to accomplish this, I imported a background into Toon Boom and used the Transform tool on it. Meaning that I resized the background to be large in the first shot, resized it to regular size in the final shot, and the software filled in the frames inbetween so it appears to be zooming out. Simple enough.

Except I also had Andy walking in front of the background and he had to “zoom out” right along with it. And I couldn’t use the transform tool on him because I wasn’t dealing with a single image, I was dealing with a series of frames. And I had already drawn his walk cycle, so I figured I could just eyeball it and resize him a little with each frame so he starts getting smaller and smaller. What could possibly go wrong?????

Well, apparently, I suck at eyeballing things, because what came out was the most jittery, unnatural-looking “zoom” you’ve ever seen. Still images don’t do justice to how weird this looks in motion, but here are the frames that totally failed in creating a successful motion:

It was only after this that I came up with a solution, which was to take a single frame of Andy, sketch lines around the border of the background, and then transform that image so it lines up with the background zoom. Then I had a good reference for how big Andy should be at the beginning of the zoom and the end of it, so I could trace over the unmoving Andy drawing with a walking motion. It took a lot more work than what I originally had planned, but that’s what it takes if you want something that doesn’t look horrible. Here’s my Andy still with lines sketched around the border:

So that’s my story, boys. If you’re animating a character moving over a zooming background, maybe this will help you out. And if you aren’t an animator and were under the impression that animation is fairly simple, maybe this will disavow you of that notion! Anyway, viva la cartoons!

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