So through most of August and September I have been working with The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales & Literature Wales (Llen Cymru) to bring a poem to life in the form of a short animation. The poem has been beautifully written and performed by Connor Allen (Children's Laureate Wales).
The poem, 'Keys to the Future', was inspired by a series of poetry workshops on the effects of technology on children's mental health.
When I first heard about the project I could not wait to show them my ideas, and 2 months later here we are! All the visuals and animated aspects have been created by me: from the character design to the backgrounds, to the lady bird and rockets.
The brief for this project was fairly open, and so basically all of the ideas for the animation had been put on my shoulders to create. Based on the lines of the poem, I first started with sketching out storyboards to help me visualise what I would be animating.
My main focus was to create movement of characters and backgrounds that transitioned smoothly between scenes, and complimented the flow of the poem.
Here are the initial character designs I illustrated for the animation. My first thought before putting pen to paper (or Apple pencil to iPad in this case) was that this project will be shown on multiple online platforms, in schools,  and literature based events.
The idea was to create characters simple enough to avoid there being distinct genders while still having a level of relatability for the viewers. As you can see in the complete piece there are many more characters, purposely diverse in many ways for inclusion and representation purposes.
Next came the backgrounds.
I have always loved cartoons like Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes. What stuck out to me most was all the beautifully painted backdrops that seemed so traditional and warm against the clean, bold illustrated characters. They felt safe, dystopian almost, and I think that is what I wanted to create with these environments.
Because of the pacing of the poem, each scene only really shows for 5-10 seconds at a time. I purposely created contrast between the environments and the characters that lived within them so that they wouldn't be a distraction away from whatever actions the characters were making.
Another note is that I had a play with creating scenes in day and night, as a way to break up lines of the poem, and to help create chronology and continuity as the story developed.
Throughout this animation you will see the characters performing a bunch of actions. I used a combination of tweening and frame-by-frame animation, depending on the complexity of the motion. The majority of character movement has been drawn by hand, frame-by-frame, but there are certain aspects I chose to tween to create a smoother movement.
The rockets shooting out of the heads is probably my favourite ideas in the entire piece. It symbolises the limitless imagination and creativity that children have. This is a perfect example of how I have used both tweening and frame-by-frame animation in one shot. The heads opening are tweens. I moved the centre point of the object to where the hinges are so that they open at the back of heads. The rockets are also a tween, starting slow as they launch and easing in to a faster speed as they take off further. The flames and smoke are both animated by hand as they needed a more fluid feel to them.
Notice the lids of the heads bounce back a bit when they open? Little details like this help a motion seem more familiar to how objects would act and react in real life. You might have noticed a couple more examples of that in this animation, as I often try and add these touches in where I can.
And that's about it! I could go on all day about this project but I'll let you check out some of my other work!
If you would like to hear more about the origin of this project then you can check out the live new story here!
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