Before we delve deep into the character development and then the story process of the film I wanted to share with you some further visual development work which has helped shape the film's style.
When developing a project as complex as a film there is a lot of pre-planning and research done ahead of finalizing the style.
Creating a visually interesting and exciting World is one of the key factors to making a memorable animated experience. The design should be original and take you on a fantastical journey, yet there needs to be some familiarity in the depiction of these environments, something that triggers some connection and does not jar the audience from the film's narrative.
Even the fantastical World's of Wreck It Ralph or The Incredibles retain elements that feel familiar, connect us to them, and allows us to immerse ourselves deeply into the story and the characters.
On Yellowbird we had a number of artists working on researching and evolving the artistic direction of the film, all briefed to follow a few specific key points: maintain the stylized graphism developed by Benjamin; work into the style a hand-made quality; work extensively with texture; and most importantly to take our audiences to a familiar place and give it a fresh twist.
The visual development artists experiment with the varied elements of the film straight from the scripts' page, at times working closely with the story artists who are just beginning to visualise the narrative.
On both Fantastic Mr Fox and Frankenweenie my colleagues and I started working on the storyboards with only few approved designs in place. The first drafts of the storyboards were created with the few designs we had, while other designs were inspired by the ideas we included in those first boards.
And many times you have to re-storyboard a scene based on new approved designs; for example if you stage a whole sequence based on the notion that the main character's school is to the left of his or hers house, then the director prefers the design and lay-out of the neighbourhood with the school to the house's right, you have to restage the whole sequence as flopping the shots is simply not going to be enough to amend the storyboard.
On Yellowbird, while developing the environmental design for the World of characters would inhabit we landed on the idea of giving everything a creased paper textured look. We applied this to all assets, all surfaces.
Even our characters retain this notion in the way the feathers are developed and produced.
But it is in our sets and environments where this stylization is very tangible.
Modern day visual development artists are now skilled in both creating inspiration through the art they produce as well as providing the technical knowhow and support to establish and guide the look of a film through the rest of the pipeline that follows and interacts with the visual development process.
In 3D animation this knowledge is essential, and coming from a traditional 2D background I rely heavily on my team and their experience to aid me through these processes and to help me visualise and construct my ideas.
Here Vincent blocks out the stages in his process of applying the paper texture then a dry-paint brush texture to the surfaces of one of the environmental elements.
A staging plan from Vincent depicting the action illustrated in a passage of the storyboard for the Paris sequence. The development of this set being done by working closely with the storyboard artist in order to create a set that works for and with the action.Above some colour sample from Dominique Monfery, who headed the film's development prior to my arrival on the project; while below some of the gorgeous artwork by the super talented Romain Joundeau, who will talk us through his work in the next post.