Category: Student’s Design Guide

Co-writing for animation

I haven’t posted since the 6th January because of a mixture of being busy and taking it easy. Right now I’m working on the third D&D short which is due late this month so it should be live early next. In between scenes I’ve been looking at the sky with my binoculars, playing World of Warcraft on weekends and in the evenings and sleeping well.

I entered Waterlollies into Annecy International Animation Film Festival, sending my DVD by express international courier on Feb 11th so that it would arrive by the deadline Feb 15th. It cost $50 to send but I figured it would be worth it, being such an important film festival for animation.

February 20-fucking-9th it arrived at their offices (grr!) but they graciously allowed my film to be judged because it was postmarked Feb 11th. Phew! Not that it did me any good. I hadn’t heard anything for a while so I went to the Annecy website and saw that Waterlollies hadn’t made the cut.

I was, I guess you could say, devastated. I usually make my films in NTSC aspect ratio and frame rate, but I made Waterlollies in PAL, especially for Annecy (France). The Annecy festival was a golden rung in the ladder towards getting recognition and finance to make the Brackenwood feature film.

Co-writing

I was feeling really low for a couple days until I spoke with my friend Ryan, who is co-writing the Brackenwood feature film with me. We had a 2-hour story meeting over Skype and it lit some rockets under me. I’m really excited about the project. There’s a lot of work to be done but I’ve basically been giving Ryan the bare bones of the story and he’s tearing it apart, telling me where and how it sucks and what should be added, moved or deleted to make it work.

Ryan lives and works in Los Angeles and is currently head of story on a couple of big-name upcoming features. I’m 100% confident that with his help in writing this movie, Brackenwood will be a success. Several times, people have expressed concern that I’m teaming up with someone on the other side of the world, but Ryan is one of my three closest friends and we’ve worked together for almost 15 years. So ssshh now 🙂

Ween

When we went to see Ween play their sold out show in Sydney, I wish I had taken the camera, especially when I got backstage and met the band. It was an amazing show and in true Ween style, the theatre was a complete mess of smashed plastic cups and crushed beer cans by the end. A security guy told me that he had never seen the theatre in such a state and it the big topic of conversation among the theatre staff was that the bar sold over 6000 beers to the crowd of 2500. Brilliant.

The show itself was the best thing I’ve ever seen, and probably the loudest thing I’ve ever heard (apart from the time my hearing was temporarily damaged from using a 12g shotgun every morning for a couple of months). Meeting Aaron, Mickey, Claude, Dave and Glenn afterwards was just awesome and they were really cool. Jeanette and I got to chat privately with each of them, except for Dave the bass player – who was catching up with old friends at the time. Aaron even mentioned that my Transdermal video had become an integral part of his kids’ lives growing up (can’t believe it’s been 5 years since that video).

 

Mickey was just brilliant.. he loves hanging out and chatting with fans and his tour blog has been calling for fans to come fishing with him. I just love the way Ween treat their fans.. like old pals instead of the frothy freaks we are!

Anyway, the backstage meeting was the perfect end to a perfect night. As much as I wish I had photos, I can’t think of anything worse than meeting your heroes and just snapping a camera in their faces the whole time. Memory’s good enough for me (touch wood) 😀

Don’t touch that remote

Next post, I think I’m going to talk about Toon Boom Digital Pro (and perhaps Storyboard Pro if I get find a little more time to actually use it!). Until then!

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Episodes for Schools in First Semester

All of these episodes have been made using Macromedia Flash on my home computer. Except for Auld Sage episode, all of the music you hear in the movies are my own compositions, played and recorded by me; some with real instruments but mostly with MIDI.

The four completed episodes – most recent first – are:

Bitey’s personal water supply becomes contaminated, so he goes to the river for a drink. There he finds the place occupied by five prowlies.. strange creatures that are usually passive, but can be unpredictable and dangerous.

Prowlies at the River is 2005’s Grand Prize Winner of the world’s largest digital online storytelling competition, ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’, as well as a Finalist (TBA) in Flash Forward San Francisco.

Read these articles on the movie:


Bitey is the fastest thing on the planet, but occasionally his speed advantage does him no good whatsoever. Whenever karma catches up with Bitey, it gets him good, and we see it happen in this episode.

This Brackenwood movie took the Runner-up prize early this year in the first annual ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’ competition.


 

The Auld Sage is a bigfoot who has lost all his hair with age. For some reason he is the wisest thing on the tiny forest planet of Brackenwood. In this short movie, we find him walking and singing on a warm evening.

This is not really an episode, just an introduction to the Auld Sage. The song is an untitled bonus track from the Coldplay album ‘Parachutes’. It is used without permission from EMI records, so the episode is not really an ‘official’ Brackenwood episode.


Bingbong is lured by the music of the faeries. In his excitement, he runs to join them in their dance, and true to the tales of old, the faeries begin to weave their magic.

This Brackenwood movie was a cartoon category finalist in the Flash Forward Film Festival in San Francisco, March 2004.

The following episodes are currently in various stages of production, some in initial concept with basic story outline and sketches, some are at the storyboard stage, and one of them I have begun to animate.


Brackenwood series title sequence

episodes

Currently in storyboard stage of production, this short piece will be the sequence that plays at the start of each Brackenwood episode. One at a time, it shows each character and the essence of his/her personality, as well as how he/she interacts with the other characters.


Waterlollies

currently being animated. Bitey is feeling very hungry and is on the lookout for some food to steal. At the edge of a lake, he encounters the Auld Sage who is waist-deep in the water, picking Waterlollies and humming happily to himself. A bowl of waterlollies, picked by the Auld Sage, floats at the water’s edge so Bitey empties the contents down his throat and sits down to bask in the sun. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s just done something very dangerous.


Busting

Bitey needs to take a wizz, but everywhere he goes, someone is watching.


Helpful Bingbong

As Bingbong encounters a string of creatures in distress, he tries a little too hard to help each one.


Birthday Present

for the Auld Sage’s birthday, Lemonee Wee gives him an enchanted gift.


Lemonee Wee, The Brackenwood Witch

In her own episode, this is an introduction to Lemonee Wee. We tag along with her to glimpse a day in the life of the Brackenwood witch.


Bitey versus Bingbong

for the first time ever, Bingbong and Bitey meet. Bingbong is delighted to have found a new best friend, and Bitey is delighted to have found a challenge.

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Inhabitants – guide for students

There are very few intelligent inhabitants on the tiny forest planet of Brackenwood. As a matter of fact, you can count them on one hand (providing you have at least 3 fingers on that hand). Apart from this handful of beings, the known areas of the planet are populated by animals, some elemental type beings such as faeries and yu-yu’s, and various species of.. shall we say ‘mindless’ creatures.

At one time there were probably more people in the world because those who exist here must surely have come from somewhere. Any traces of these past civilizations, however, are nowhere to be seen and on the face of it, Brackenwood appears untouched since the dawn of time.


One of the biggest of many Brackenwood mysteries is the Auld Sage. He is of the Bigfoot race of creatures but has lost most of his hair with age. Despite the hallmark stupidity of his species, he is for some reason the wisest thing in the world. While he knows everything there is to know, he is much more interested in a long conversation over a cup of hot tea, than imparting any knowledge or wisdom on request.

If you need to know something, you’d better have some time on your hands, because it’s not the way of the Auld Sage to just blurt out wisdom. It is more likely to ‘fall’ out of him in the course of a long conversation.

The Sage loves his world and all in it, including the nasty ones. He is tolerant, gentle, kind and is never in a hurry. He speaks the language of all living things, and is the only one who understands all the mysteries of Brackenwood, including the way he himself came to be.

His favorite pastime is traveling to see a friend. His best friend is the Brackenwood witch, Lemonee Wee and he can be found at her house each afternoon for tea.

The Auld Sage has starred in his own movie simply called ‘Auld Sage’ which you can find in the Episodes section. He also makes a cameo appearance in Bitey of Brackenwood, also to be found in that section.


The Brackenwood witch spends her life taking care of the forest all over the world. She lives alone, but each day spends some time with the Auld Sage as the two are fast friends. She is very intolerant of nonsense or damage to her forest (something that happens only very rarely and usually by accident) and she is quick to summon a spell in order to clean up a mess, repair broken foliage, or teach a lesson.

Her magic is very powerful as it draws upon the elemental forces of nature that beat at the heart of the planet. One of these she calls the ‘fliquid’ spell and she uses it more than any other. When the spell is cast, it appears as sheets and rising splashes of water, but it moves like fire, dancing and leaping from the ground upwards. The transparent ‘flames’ travel through the forest soaking all in their path. She uses a smaller version of this spell to water her own garden or make a pot of tea.

Lemonee Wee knows where she is from, and she also knows much of the history of Brackenwood, but the Auld Sage is the only one with whom she can discuss such things, as he is the only one intelligent enough to carry a conversation with her

Bitey of Brackenwood is an episode featuring Lemonee Wee.


Bitey is the fastest thing on the planet. Nothing can match his speed and it usually gets him anything he wants. He has grown up alone in the world, always getting his own way. He has never had to hunt for food because he can simply steal it from someone else using his extraordinary ability.

The malicious and mischievous satyr-like creature has been alone for as long as he can remember, but occasionally some very vague memories of his parents come flashing back to him. When he dreams about his parents, he always sees them from behind as they flee something terrible amidst a howling musical storm.

This complete absence of role model is probably the sole reason for Bitey’s attitude in life. With nobody to teach him any lessons, he is an opportunist, self-absorbed, cruel and arrogant. When he sees some creature enjoying itself or having a nice time, Bitey feels compelled to ruin the day. It gives him immense pleasure knowing that he’s better than everything, but this is always his downfall. In his pride, he is often vulnerable and his speed cannot save him at times like those.

Despite these unfortunate traits, Bitey has feelings and most of the time we can empathize with him. He is introduced in his own episode called Bitey of Brackenwood as well as a starring role in the most recent Brackenwood movie: Prowlies at the River.


The origins of this weird little fellow are as obscure as other great mysteries on the planet of Brackenwood. With obvious physical likeness to some kind of elf or goblin, Bingbong is the embodiment of stupidity. Despite his slight build and 4-year old mentality, he has a hidden power: he is the strongest creature in the world. He means no harm to anyone though, and in fact, he goes out of his way to help where he can. This often turns to disaster simply because Bingbong has no idea of his power and in his rush to help out (often in situations that don’t need his help) he messes things up even more. So much so, that certain creatures have come to recognize his giggles and slapping footsteps approaching from a distance, and have learned to keep at a safe distance.

Everything is a potential best friend or favorite toy to Bingbong, that is until something else grabs his attention.

Bingbong is adored by the great Auld Sage and Lemonee Wee, but they leave him to innocently wander the planet alone as he loves to do. He may be stupid, but Bingbong must surely be the happiest thing alive.

Bingbong’s introductory episode was the first Brackenwood episode ever. You can find Bingbong of Brackenwood in the episodes section.


Faeries

While the faeries are known to have a playful streak, they like to go about their lives undisturbed and usually frown upon any intrusion into their affairs. Occasionally however, they will show sympathy towards a lost wanderer or helpless animal in the deepest, wildest parts of the forest. While they are usually aloof and treat outsiders with a mixture of caution and mistrust, both Lemonee Wee and the Auld Sage are highly respected by the faeries and are always welcome in their realm.

If you disturb the faeries, or if they decide to have some fun with you, they can punish you in any number of ways. Mild punishments include headache, dizziness and nausea, but the heavier punishments are too terrible to mention. They have been known to trap people in their world with food, music or through a circular weaving dance. The sights and sounds of their revelry is so captivating that the passer-by cannot resist rushing to join the dance. The music gets louder, the dance gets faster and soon you vanish from this world and find yourself the next, where you will wander alone and aimless for the rest of your life.

How the faeries treat you is largely a matter of luck, but you have a better chance to gain their favor if you respect the forest, move quietly and leave food for the birds and ants (such as honey, cake or biscuit crumbs).

The faeries feature in Bingbong of Brackenwood.


Yu-Yu’s

The Yu-Yu’s are a dangerous race of little shadow people. They are about as tall as your knee and you only ever see or hear them as you’re on the edge of sleep. If you hear the Yu-Yu’s coming, be sure to open your eyes and sit up in bed, otherwise they will steal you away to be their slave in the shadow world where the sun never shines and everything is in silhouette.

When you close your eyes to sleep, you are making a little journey from the waking world to the world of dreams. Between the two worlds is ‘the gateway’, and it is here that the Yu-Yu’s ambush you and drag you into their world.

When you are crossing the gateway you will hear them chanting ‘yu-yu yu-yu yu-yu’. This is the only time you’ll hear them, but otherwise they communicate silently by flashing their eyes in different color-sequences to one another.


Prowlies

These strange creatures are usually passive but can be dangerous when disturbed, especially in numbers. Prowlies are territorial and live in groups of five. When a new prowlie is born, one of the group will leave and go out into the world to find a mate and start its own family.

Prowlies are very resourceful, dextrous and tough. Above all though, they are playful and curious. They have a natural tendency to protect or care for smaller animals than themselves and have been seen going to some extraordinary lengths to help smaller animals avoid danger. Knowing this, it may come as a surprise to learn that they are very adept swimmers and survive mainly on fish.

There is an episode featuring some prowlies in Prowlies at the River


Animals

The animal life on Brackenwood is almost as diverse as the plant-life, with each new episode discovering some new and wonderful creatures. Here is a brief outline of the few that have featured in episodes so far:

Bigfeet – these large hairy bipeds are the gentle giants of the forest. They are almost like guards, in that they watch over the forest and listen for trouble. They are vegetarians.


Fatsacks – probably the most useless creature ever created. The fatsack sits in the grass like an overfilled water balloon and when it needs to, it moves like one too. With its short trunk, it feeds by inhaling gnats from the air which are dissolved in its internal juices. Disgestion is an ongoing process within the fatsack, so gases are released frequently and noisily from its trunk. Fatsacks have sharp claws but they only ever use them to tear grass and leaves in order to disturb gnat-nests.


Chisel-lizards – the reason for the existence of the chisel-lizard, like the fatsack, is unknown. They appear to have no other purpose but to make holes in trees. From the study of their stools, it may be that they ingest small amounts of wood as they work, but they are very difficult to track and so nobody can say whether they eat anything else.


Mood Birds – The mood of this bird is displayed in the coloring of its feathers, which can change almost instantly. It has no ‘usual’ color, suffice to say that when a mood bird is content, it is blue. When it has been disturbed it turns green (probably a defensive camoflage reflex), and when it is angry it becomes red and goes into attack mode. There are many other colors and shades in which the mood bird has been observed, but the emotions associated with those are unclear. Feathers displaced will always remain the color they are at the time of removal.


Blood-Coat – this little tree-dwelling biped is fairly harmless and eats nothing but beetles and fireflies, so the name tends to describe it in a negative way. The fur is quite beautiful in sunlight, being crimson, shiny and dense. The skin is very saggy like an oversized coat, but when stretched from its extended arms, legs and tail the skin becomes like wings and the Blood Coat can fly with flapping movements. It also has very dextrous hands, each with five naturally sticky fingertips, like those of a gecko, which help it to climb trees and grasp prey.

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