Monday, 13 April 2015


In the coming days I'll be delving into the music of Yellowbird, talking with the composer Stephen Warbeck about his work process and the score of 
our film, as well as opening the door to the animation and editing work of the film, where I have input from our main editor Fabienne Alvarez-Giro  
(The Secret of Kells) a great lady of cool, calm attitude and sharp mind.

Yet before we go and open that Pandora's Box few more storyboard samples before I start discussing animation.


Below you'll find the sequence in the film in which the flock arrives at the coastal resort of the Hotel Tree, run by the devious and conniving Owl, 
voiced by the impeccably funny Elliot Gould, who sounds like he had a lot of fun with the character infusing him with a charming blend of wit and cheekiness.

I had a lot of issues getting this sequence to where I was content with it. Initially it was so overlong it stalled the film's story, yet we had a 
and hilarious performance by  Gould, and losing any of it seemed wrong somehow.
I needed to boil down the scene and dialogue to the absolutely necessary story and character points, while retaining the scene's core 
humour and jokes.

The opening of the sequence is untouched, with the flock arriving as the mice who form the Hotel Tree staff, the Owl's minions if you will. 
In the previous scene we see the flock approch the tree from afar, the camera behind them travelling towards the far away tree. 
I opted then to cut to the mice at work to mark the end of that scene and the start of another, the simple cut away for one or two shots 
is enough to establish this is a new scene, and to introduce swiftly another set of new characters.

Putting the mice immediately at work establishes who they are in this new scene, and we immediately wonder why they are sweaping and
 cleaning the tree, and who they are.

I trimmed some of the Owl's dialogue then from his introduction, keeping a few jokes about the fact that he's already conning the flock 
into believing they arrived in Spain, and the funny interaction between him and the mouse, quickly establishing their working relation.

Then I opted to cut the presentation of the rooms, as I found this to be superflous and unnecessary, and as I started cutting I discovered 
that we did not really need to find a real explanation or way to 'lose' the children from the following scene, as they did not need to be there, 
chose to quickly see them jump into one of the nests/rooms and leave them there.

They were superflous to the following scene, which originally was a dinner scene for the adults in the group, setting up the fact that we 
wanted to have a 'bed time story' scene for the children later as a way to refresh the audience's memory of the Iron Birds.

In the first versions of the storyboard there was the added scene, prior to the dinner scene, between the Owl and the mice. 
This was a way to reinforce the idea that the Owl was just out to con the flock out of their fee and to stress the relationship between 
the Owl, a mean, unscrupulous hotel manager, and his lowly and humble workforce. 
The important story point of the hotel being in Holland rather than Spain is hit on enough in the previous scene, and in the short scene 
between Karl and a mouse so I felt this extra scene between the Owl and the mice was now unnecessary and, although very funny, 
we cut it from the sequence.

Then we come to the dinner scene which as lovely as it might have become, with the setting sun casting a warm light on the diners, 
the mice playing a striking flamenco guitar, and the fireflies providing an intimate almost romantic lighting, was again too long 
to fit into the sequence and film.

It also slowed down the story too much so I decided to include the main story or character points of this scene and its dialogue, 
into the previous and following scenes, by tweaking the lines to add the information needed to get these story points across: 
reminding the audience that Yellowbird has no name, as we have an important scene between Yellowbird and Delf coming up, in which 
this point is of main importance to the rest of the film's story.

 The following clip remained pretty much untouched, except for a tweak here or there. Yet once we went to lay-out then animation 
we moved the cameras around as the set was built differently than previously planned. So the scene was re-storyboarded directly in lay-out 
and pre-vis, rather than storyboarded one more time.

I often treated the lay-out stage as another pass of storyboarding, once the 3D elements have been placed in the set it is easier to find out 
if all of the shots work, if the distances in the scene, and the camera moves require more screen time, and if the rhythm of the scene 
works as well now that it has the 3rd dimension added to it.
This liberty to vary from the storyboard is more akin to live-action, where often you plan things in careful detail, then find yourself 
improvising something new based on the fact that the set, or location, or actor is doing something which previously could not be planned.

 Below is the whole of the sequence in rough animation as it appears in the final cut of the movie.
The temp music you hear in the storyboards is the Spanish-Guitar Flamenco piece 'a Malaguen' performed by Yannick Lebosse
We used this as reference until our composer wrote something which fit the mood yet retained the ideas I had.

For the storyboard panels of the part of the sequence where Karl confronts a mouse and extorts the truth of the Owl's deceit, and Yellowbird's 
blunderous detour, see the boards below by the talented Alban Rodriguez, and retouched by myself once the final cuts were made.

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