Saturday, 2 May 2015


… Or how storyboard & editing combine to make necessary, yet sad, cuts to the film.
One such necessity was a charming and funny scene between Karl and a new character, the tarot card reading Astromancer and soothsayer Nutria.
This was a difficult choice to make, as the scene and it's assets where the first to go into production, therefore the model of the character, 
props and the set were the first designs to be built and to go through lay-out and then animation.
Yet when I was looking at ways to make the film shorter, and to streamline the first act in order to make the flock take off for their migration sooner, 
the Nutria scene started to look superflous.
It definitely helped establish Karl's character better, getting to know his personality and motivation much earlier, but the information the scene was passing to the audience could have been given in a simpler and more straightforward way.
Nutria scene comes immediately after Karl finds out that Autumn is coming and that the flock should start getting ready for the journey ahead. 
Karl swoops to the top of the tree to have a brief chat with Darius and ask why he's always the last to know these things. Darius makes a little joke about Karl having a sixth sense, and he should have known already.
This prompts Karl to go and visit the fortune teller, Nutria and have his moss read, in order to know if the migration ahead will go well for him. 
Nutria is played by the ever reliably funny Cedric Yarbrough, who gives us a water rodent who's cunning yet appears scatterbrained.
Their exchange is around 3 minutes yet to me remains one of the funniest scenes in the film.
The decision to cut it from the final edit was necessary though as I felt we need to push the main story forth more, and reduce the amount of time between the flock realizing Autumn has arrived, and their departure.
As a 'road movie' we could not spend over 20 minutes of the film still in the bird's home tree, we needed to get them up in the air.
Below you can see the entrance to the set Nutria's Den, which is located under the tree in which the flock live, on an little isle in the middle of a stream. 
This was one of the first texture and light passes on the set.
As well as the set there is the colour model of Lucille, a tertiary character who comes to have her palms read after Karl has had his tarots read.
Below her you see Nutria's model: one of our few furred characters.

Here are a few clips showing the progression in the set lighting as well as the caustic pass, showing some light effect created to simulate the water 
reflecting on to the cave's walls.

In the following clips you'll find my brief to the animators, a montage of some mannerism I wanted the character to have, one of our only characters who we allowed to move a little more anthropomorphically, with some references from various films: I wanted the character of Nutria to be natural animal movement combined with elements from Billy Crystal's crackpot soothsayer in The Princess Bride (copyright Act III Communications, Buttercup Ltd,  20th Century Fox), Italian comic Toto` in the film Miseria e Nobilta` (copyright Carlo Ponti, Dino De Laurentis, Excelsa Film) from director Mario Mattoli from omonimous Napolitan theatre play by Eduardo Scarpetta,  and Warick Davis as Willow (copyright 20th Century Fox) attempting to perform a magic trick.

 The above clip is the second pass of the whole Nutria scene in storyboard format. As you can see the scene did not vary a lot from the rough storyboard drawings, with the animation blocking pass and some of the following steps in the previous clips.

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