Week 6 (5th-11th Mar. 18) – Animated Short, Brainstorming and Research

Our final task for this module was to make a 15-25 second animated short. My group includes Rebecca McEwan (https://beccamcewan.com/), Patrick Moorhead (https://patrickmoorheadblog.wordpress.com/) and Megan Sutton (https://msuttonuub.blogspot.co.uk/).

After watching some of the shorts that have been made by previous year groups, I was initially surprised at just how short 20 seconds actually is in terms of storytelling. It was apparent that this was a specific type of storytelling that didn’t have the capacity to be developed into the full arc of the ‘Hero’s Journey.’ Despite the challenges due to the creative restrictions of the task, I was really excited to get started on my first 3D animated short.

Initial Research, Thoughts and Ideas 

I came across an article that gave some good advice on how to go about writing a stories for short films and some principles to keep in mind throughout the process. Some helpful advice was to watch lots of short films to get an idea for what has already been made and to keep the practicalities of making the film in mind whilst writing the script. The piece of advice that stood out to me to most was “show, don’t tell”. I think I often forget the importance and power of using film as a visual language.

Here are some short animations that sparked some initial thoughts and ideas:

  • “Lucas the Spider” – short that focuses on character and performance, changing people’s perception of something.
  • “Isle of Dogs” clip –  unexpected twist, comedy, idea of two opposing characters.
  • “The Thomas Beale Cipher” – visual style, textures, vintage colour palette.
  • “Lift Up” – good example of using simple objects as characters, keeping it simple and focusing on good animation.
  • “Geoff Short Film” – appealing character design and story, relatable to audiences
  • “For the Birds” – opposing personalities, conflict, comedy, appealing character design.
  • “The Adventures of André and Wally B.” – straight forward storyline, conflicting characters, comedy.
  • “Fizzed Up” – student short from last year, stylistic feel and lighting.
  • “Mount Macabre” – student second year short, purple lighting and colour palette.

Going into the first group meeting, I wanted to do either a comedy or use  conflicting characters in some way. I wanted to focus on keeping everything simple, with the idea that ‘less is more’.

Notes from first team meeting – Tuesday

  • Research adverts and how they capture attention in a short space of time.
  • Ending could be an unexpected twist?
  • Simplified humans – limbless but able to pick up things, could bounce instead of walk.

More references to look at (opposite characters):

  • “Day and Night”
  • “Tale of two lemonade stands growing into huge corporate” (Chipotle advert) – use of shot-reverse-shot.

After we each presented our ideas, Patrick, Rebecca and myself agreed on using comedy as our genre and liked the idea of conflicting characters. We decided on a basic outline of two opposing neighbors that engage in an escalating argument as they try to show that one is better than the other. We envisioned these characters living on cliff edges.

We all had a different idea of what the ending should be, so Rebecca suggested we come up with a beat sheet and character designs each for Friday, but all based on the same conflict premise.

Some quick character ideas I drew during the first team meeting

Character Concept Research

Character design isn’t one of my strong points, so I wasn’t exactly sure how I should be going about creating two opposing characters. I came across an article about how to design character combinations which helped me get started. It gave me three main steps to get an idea of the characters’ profiles:

  1. Give both superficial similarities – eg. demographic, activity, affiliation
  2. Meaningful differences – eg. conflict resolution, disposition, skills
  3. Create a unifying influence – eg. have a glue character, establish an absolute authority, use a voting system within the group

I knew I wanted the characters to be neighbors, around the same age and of a similar species; however I wasn’t sure what I wanted their differences to be. It had to be something that would cause conflict so I listed some polar opposites:

  • Hot & cold
  • Big & small
  • Light & dark
  • Full & hungry – conflict could be caused by fighting over food.
  • Messy & clean – conflict over clean character always tidying up after messy character.
  • Clumsy & graceful
  • Morning person & night owl  – conflict over one character being noisy while the other is trying to sleep.
  • Dog & cat, elephant & mouse (probably too cliche)

Simple Character Design

I wanted to try to avoid human characters to keep animation as straight forward as possible. I considered using a species of animal that live on cliffs, but decided to look into even more simple creature designs:

Sei Nakashima

I particularly like Nakashima’s character designs (top left) where the animals are broken down into simple forms.


Cesc Grané

Unusual creatures that aren’t overly detailed or complicated.

Zigor Samaniego

I love Samaniego’s 3D character designs from his “Amigos” projects. It is evident that he understands how to communicate a character’s personality visually: using shape, texture and lighting. His work shows me that a character’s design doesn’t need to be complicated to tell an audience a lot of information about them.

Danil Krivoruchko

More exploration of textures with simple arms and legs.

Concepts from Pinterest (artists unknown)

I also found a lesson on character design from Bowling Green State University School of Art where the class was asked to design characters from simple shapes. The link also has a list of shapes to use as a base which came in useful when I was drawing concepts the following week. This is exactly the kind of thing I am aiming for so it was helpful to see the process they used:


Advertisement Research – Ending Ideas

I needed some more ideas for how to end my story so I looked to some short advertisements to see how they use a small amount of time to capture an audience.

  • McDonald’s advert – Character still wondering about/appears back at the end, idea to have this after the credits roll at the end. My characters could be still continuing to fight at the end/say something funny at the end? Discovers the other character has left something to annoy them and gets really angry again.
  • Animals Australia advert – having something out of context and then wide shot puts it in context. Idea that my characters’ argument is actually really petty?


Week 6 Reflection

Our goal this week was to brainstorm ideas and possibilities, so things are progressing according to plan so far.


Joalland, S. (2012) 7 Rules for Writing Short Films. Available from: https://www.raindance.org/7-rules-for-writing-short-films/ [Accessed 5 March 2018].

Lucas the Spider. (2017) Lucas the Spider. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrS6akzR3sk [Accessed 5 March 2018].

Fox Searchlight UK. (2018) Isle of Dogs | ‘OK, It’s Worth It’ | Official HD Clip 2018. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Lxqzem01IU [Accessed 5 March 2018].

polymix. (2011) Award Winning Animation Short Film: The Thomas Beale Cipher. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKMxtfMSPTM [Accessed 5 March 2018].

Bloop Animation. (2014) LIFT UP | 3D Animated Short Film. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WRQJyRFriI [Accessed 5 March 2018].

grhd497. (2013) For The Birds True 1080p with Original Audio. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZYAHGwS3mA [Accessed 5 March 2018].

Von Christie. (2017) The Adventures of André and Wally B. 1984. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_9Tsbduk9E [Accessed 5 March 2018].

David Pollock. (2017) “Fizzed Up” Final Animated Short. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFmaccK_inU [Accessed 5 March 2018].

David Pollock. (2018) Mount Macabre Animated Short. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO_qsqEaYZk&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 5 March 2018].

minsguitar. (2016) Day and Night – Composition for Image. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q864EalnLvs [Accessed 6 March 2018].

The Ad Show. (2016) Tale of two lemonade stands growing into huge corporate. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGYhPheWS6g [Accessed 6 March 2018].

Winkle, C. (2014) How to Create Powerful Character Combos. Mythcreants. 14 February. Available from: https://mythcreants.com/blog/how-to-create-powerful-character-combos/ [Accessed 7 March 2018].

Sei Nakashima. Available from: http://seinakashima.com/ [Accessed 8 March 2018].

Cesc Grané (2018) Available from: http://www.cescgrane.com/ [Accessed 8 March 2018].

Zigor Samaniego (2018) Available from: http://zigorsamaniego.net/ [Accessed 8 March 2018].

1000 Ksoids (2013) Available from: http://www.myshli.com/onet-housand-ksoids/ [Accessed 8 March 2018].

Animated Short (2018) Available from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/smsmsm428/animated-short/ [Accessed 8 March 2018].

Research Character Shapes (2015) Available from: http://digitalarts.bgsu.edu/faculty/bonniem/Spring15/artc3000_1/assignments/shapes.html [Accessed 8 March 2018].

Dave Theune. (2011) McDonalds 15-Second Commercial. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_2I1NVn8vU [Accessed 9 March 2018]

Animals Australia. (2014) That ain’t no way to treat a lady – 15 sec TV Ad. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pEjd9FxUmA [Accessed 9 March 2018]


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