hnn I love bunnies //melts happily
update: OH BTW, I’ll be uploading the first update for patreon tomorrow, because no access to scanner today! Sorry for the delay and hope the patrons understand! <3
We’re thrilled to announce our 56th animated feature film, Moana! Renowned filmmakers Ron Clements & John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) will direct the CG-animated comedy-adventure, coming to theatres late 2016.
Very fortunate to be getting to character design on our Fall 2016 release, Moana!
cornflakebox said: Hi Lissa! I love your work and your stories. I hope to work as a story artist myself, and I was wondering if you could give me some tips! Thanks a bunch!
Answering publicly, because i get this question a lot :)
Sorry to anyone who’s asked this before and gotten an abbreviated answer (or no answer, sorrysorrysorry!), it’s a big thing to sit down and write and i want to be as thorough as i can. But i hope this helps anyone who needs it!
Story tips, wow.
I’ll try and list as many as i can! I’ll try to keep it from getting too ramble-y because man, there’s just so much to talk about! I know i’ll leave some out anyway, because there’s stuff i forget all the time. I’ve had the benefit of learning from some really awesome people and goodness knows i’m still learning from them.
I’ll try and get the biggies :)
NOTE: These are all coming from my experience working in feature animation at one studio. Different studios will have different cultures and ways of working, and i understand that boarding for T.V. is a whole different animal from boarding for feature, but i think most of these should apply to visual story-telling across the board.
And as always, these are TIPS not RULES :)
- CHARACTER IS KEY.
Always think about your character, what they are doing and why they are doing it. This applies to camerawork too. THE CAMERA IS THE INVISIBLE CHARACTER IN EVERY SCENE. Just as a character wouldn’t do something unmotivated, camera moves and shots need motivation too. What are we looking at? WHY are we looking at it? HOW are we seeing it? How is it making the AUDIENCE FEEL? That’s the core of any visual story-telling medium, and in a time-based medium like film you get a whole other level added on.
- Related note: we should always be with the main character. this doesn’t necessarily mean always LOOKING at them, but we should know what’s in their head, what they want, how they feel about what’s going on at any given point in the story. Usually they are the anchor for how the audience is supposed to feel about what’s happening. You lose them, you lose emotion.
- YOU ARE AN ENTERTAINER!
"Entertainment" doesn’t always equal "comedy"; it equals "What i’m watching makes me feel something". I’ve found that entertainment often comes from specificity. Think about how you do ordinary things, how people you know do them. Say you have a scene where your character is cooking breakfast. How does she do it in a way that no other character would? Maybe she does a little dance while she’s making an omelette if no one else is around. Maybe she NEVER gets a clean break in an egg and always has to pick bits of eggshell out of there. Maybe she’s out of milk and has to sub in yogurt or something and just prays it doesn’t make her omelette totally gross…
(…sorry, i’m digressing, this is just… a description of me making an omelette.)
Think about specifics, make your character feel real, no matter if they’re making an omelette or falling in love or fighting giant robots.
- All that being said, you also have to be CLEAR and ECONOMICAL with screen time. Consider how much time you have to convey an idea. Sometimes you have time to linger and do fun character stuff. Sometimes you just have a few shots to convey a plot point. Learn to gauge what a scene NEEDS and try and see it in the context of the story as a whole. (note: there are usually still ways to get character specificity in these quick beats. try and find them!)
- CLARITY IN DRAWING.
Clarity is important for drawing boards too. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be detailed (and in many cases it SHOULDN’T be), it doesn’t have to be finished… as long as it’s CLEAR. This is probably the big difference between storyboarding and illustration; story is NOT the place for making pretty pictures :)
- Hand in hand with the last point, is for story you need to be able to draw clear and FAST. Sequence turn-around can be quick (i once had to do three passes on one scene in a week), and in the course of working on a project most of what you do will be redrawn many, many times. Don’t be precious, don’t be afraid to kill your babies.
- KNOW STORYTELLING.
As a lot of these tips have probably implied, drawing is only a part of storyboarding. You have to understand story structure and film making. There are a lot of resources out there for this. Robert Mckee’s book, simply titled “Story” is a good starting point for understanding story structure, and Bruce Block’s book “The Visual Story” is an amazing breakdown of all the elements of visual story telling as applied to film (but really it applies to anything). I also always direct people to Mark Kennedy’s blog. Mark is a head of story here at Disney, amazing board artist, teacher, and all around good dude. His blog is a masterclass in itself, and he covers a variety of topics from drawing to composition to story: http://sevencamels.blogspot.com/
- DON’T HAVE AN EGO.
This is a big one and functions on many levels; you have to work with a team; you have to be able to give notes constructively and not get offended if your notes aren’t taken; you have to remember that you’re working to support the DIRECTORS vision, not your own; you have to be able to take the notes you’re given and not take them PERSONALLY; you have to be willing to throw out all the boards you’ve spent the last week working on and start over if the production requires it; you have to be willing to see your sequence handed off to a different artist who will probably re-draw most of it.
You can’t have an ego because almost NONE of these things are actually about you. They very rarely have any bearing on your ability as an artist. This is just how the process works, and at the end of the day almost no one will actually see the thousands of drawings and all the hard work you’ve done over the course of about two years. They say “all story no glory” and it’s absolutely true.
If you’ve gotten through all of this and aren’t totally terrified… then maybe story is for you :)
Also, to reiterate; many studios work differently. Some places will give you more creative freedom as a story teller than others. I’m really fortunate to work in a place where i do have an amount of creative freedom and feel that my voice is heard and my opinion is valued. But no matter where you work, all of these things can always, always ALWAYS be applied to your own stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big studio or paying the bills as a barista or are still in school, you can ALWAYS tell your own stories :)
Above all, work with confidence, listen to criticism without letting it own you, find the truth in it that will help you be better. And draw draw draw! :)
Im going to be thinking about this all day and flipping out when i remember things i’ve left out.
i hate it when adults assume i’m on the internet all the time by choice. if i had enough money to travel around and etc, do you think i would be withering away my youth behind a computer screen you useless paperclip.
I dont think i have ever heard the term useless paperclip used as an insult before.
clearly you never tried to write a word document in the 90s