Client/Instructor: Deborah Krikun, SUNY WCC- Digital Animation
Designer/Animator: Jason G. Gregory
Project Title: The Rescue
Introduction and Inspiration:
The primary inspiration for this animation is my love of dogs and my history with animal rescue. Particularly Dobermans. As a fan of Sci-fi and animation in general, I decided I wanted to do something different from the assigned “Cat in a Tree” animation that was given as a preliminary idea from the Instructor. Using my own Doberman puppy, Rias, as the basis for my character design, I began to wonder how dogs really see us as a species. Are we alien to them? Do they look at humans as some sort of weird, grotesque, sci-fi creature, with our bipedal movement and all the strange sounds that emanate from our mouths in the form of speech? I contemplated how we, as a species, make dogs our own. Whether it is in the cosmetic form of dressing them up in collars and bandanas, hanging tags around their necks as identifiers, or putting them in ugly sweaters and carrying them in a handbag, to the emotional side of how canine companions become the loyal and loving animals we let comfort us, lick our faces, and sleep in our beds. That led me to wonder, “What would a real alien do to make a dog his/her own?”
Therefore, I decided to tell the story of an unwanted puppy who was kicked out of her house for breaking something only to find happiness in the company of an alien being.
To get an idea of how I should approach the drawings, I spent a great deal of time studying Rias, as well as Doberman puppies online in the form of still life positions, expressions, and studying puppy proportions. Typically, Doberman puppies are pudgy and stumpy in their early development, and do not begin to “fill out their paws” until around 7 months of age. I wanted my puppy to be very young and prone to accidents that would have been natural for a puppy in a home (i.e. broken vase). I also spent a bit of time looking at animated space ship interiors to get ideas on how I should approach its design.
To be completely honest, I did not have a set strategy for this animation other than keep working until it was completed, and make sure it told a good story. I wanted the viewer to feel sorry for the puppy in the beginning but turn that emotion into happiness by the end of the animation. I fully intended to allow the music to do much of the storytelling by setting the overall tone. I utilized Adobe Animate 2018 for all aspects of the drawing and animation sequences, however, with Animate being somewhat “Buggy” for sound, I finished the projects sound effects and musical score in Adobe Premier Pro and rendered it in H.264 compression format.
Some of the biggest challenges I faced while working on this animation were character design and software integration.
The character design was difficult for me, as I am not a skilled cartoonist. I wanted the characters to be recognizable for what they were. Making that a reality was a major challenge for me. Getting the proportions, expressions and movement of the puppy right took a great deal of time. For the animated sequences such as walking, I relied heavily on “The Animators Survival Kit” by Richard Williams, especially the section on dog walking animation pp. 330-331.
The alien however, posed a separate set of challenges, as there was no instructional guidance on making an octopus like creature move out of water. In that instance, I used my own imagination about how I thought a creature like that might move on dry land.
Software integration was also a major issue for me as the animator. I have never had any experience in animation so there was a steep learning curve when attempting to use Adobe Animate 2018. My inability to learn the more complex tools early in the process within the animation software led to my doing much of the opening sequences in frame-by- frame. While I did rely on the use of Motion Tweening on several occasions, predominately, the animation is done using symbol swaps at frequent intervals between 2 and 4 frames.
This became very time consuming and led to my need to have almost 400 individual symbols, for everything from eyes, and heads, to bodies in individual positions without heads or limbs. Forty of these being devoted to the puppy’s legs alone to complete a single walk cycle.
I also used the camera tool to enhance the animations in locations where the movement is static. Fortunately, I was able to learn the bone tool in time to complete the final animation sequences of the transformed alien puppy. But, the outline tool left some serious issues with “line crimping” in the final rendering. Furthermore, I found myself bouncing back and forth between scenes and on several occasions changing or deleting entire sequences to obtain the desired effect. In the end however, this was a major accomplishment for me, as I am not software savvy, and the use of “Bone” cut down on the need for frame-by-frame animation.
Finally, my greatest challenge was time. At over 900 hours of work for a 3:15 production, working an average of 5-8 hours per day, over 14 or so weeks, I began to become concerned I was not going to finish in time. As I said, there is a steep learning curve to the software, and it took me a great deal of time, and thousands of mistakes to find out how “NOT” to do things and find the right path.
To be honest, considering the sheer amount of time and effort I put into the animation, I was hoping for a more refined outcome. The animations are choppy, and the drawings lack finesse. That being said, I am not totally displeased with the final outcome, as the roughness of the drawings and choppy feel of the movements lend themselves to the idea that this was my first real attempt at animation. Furthermore, because it is consistent throughout, the style is cohesive and has a certain continuity. While this short film may never make it to Pixar Studios, it was definitely a learning experience.
Final Production Video