Friday, 19 February 2010

Latest Character Animations

Hello all, here are my animations for the first week which involved my human walk and run cycle and my animal walk and run cycle.

Danielle Walking

Danielle Running

Fred the Hippo Walking

Fred the Hippo Running

I received good feedback on them from friends. Sadly I didn't get to show my animations in the first critique (which lasted 4 hours because there are so many of us) but was able to the following day with everyone else who missed out.

Although there were a couple of problems such as my Hippo run cycle was two frames too slow and there were a few issues with Danielle's hands, Matthew said they were all really good and I working quite professionally on one of them by switching between animating on twos and ones! I was quite taken aback but very pleased! :3

So with my feedback in mind, I have spent this week animating the next task which is having one of my characters jumping from one area to another. I decided to use my hippo character, Fred,so that I could have some fun with stretching and squashing. :)

Fred the Hippo Fails at Jumping

And that's all for now! Next week we are animating our human characters taking our animals for a walk before being unexpectedly pulled by the lead! We have taken some pretty funny video reference for this so I'm looking forward to having fun with that! :)

Bye for now! :3
Gemma xxx

PONYO Review

After a long delay between October and February, Ponyo has finally been released in the UK! And I highly recommend that any fans of animated films, Studio Ghibli or just films in general should definitely go see it.

When I originally heard about this film, I read that it was going to be a Miyazaki film aimed at young children, and while this is still true, it is still highly entertaining for any age. And I think this is what separates his films from that of Disney. While Princess and the Frog was a great piece, at times it may lose the attention of older audiences by including slapstick and immature characters and sidekicks to supposedly comedic effect.

Miyazaki however, does not rely on cheap comedy to appeal to youngsters. Instead, he delivers a totally heartwarming film with believable characters and the usual stunning visuals and music that is appropriate for the kiddies and certainly a joy to watch myself.


Sadly I missed the first few minutes (due to traffic in Cardiff) but I shall try to summarise the beginning. Ponyo is the story of a young boy, Sosuke, who stumbles across a tiny mermaid near his seaside home. He rescues her from her glass bottle prison and keeps 'Ponyo' in a green bucket. Slowly the girl's magic powers allow her to communicate with Sosuke and they form a friendship.

When Ponyo is captured back by her father (dubbed by the amazing Liam Neeson) she expresses the desire to become human and uses her magic to sprout legs and arms. She flees her father's underwater home now as a little girl on a wave of huge fish formed by her sisters to find Sosuke again.

The story takes a turn when their town is flooded by a huge storm and Sosuke and Ponyo leave to search for Sosuke's mother and keep Ponyo from turning into sea foam along the way! I love this little boat by the way!

The animation in Ponyo is typical Studio Ghibli class, consistently high quality the whole way through. But what particularly stands out in this film in the rendering of the water, which is practically a whole character by itself. That is how important water is here. It's the barrier between the water folk and humans, it is their livelihood and it physically separates the characters half way through the film. There is also a lot of it.

The water is animated in such a fluid and nearly tangible way. And everything in the shots move! Whether it's a foreground or background element. Sometimes even backdrops are animated. In an early short Sosuke in on a hill by his home and the pencil background has animated grass in the same pencil medium, which looks a lot more impressive than animating basic cell grass on top of the background.

There's so much going on in each shot, whether it's all of Ponyo's sisters, water effects, bubbles, swimming fish or tiny details in the background, so much has been painstakingly drawn to create hundreds of perfectly cinematic shots. Some of the shot composition causes you to wonder how it was even accomplished it can be so complicated. It's a very impressive sight that will probably leave your mouth wide open in awe if you are an animator like me!

Generally I find it difficult to fault Ghibli films anyway, but after Tales of Earthsea it is a relief to see one as good as Howl's Moving Castle. The dub was also very good standard. I would like to try the Japanese audio when the DVD comes out, but Liam Neeson was so good as Ponyo's father Fujimoto it will be difficult to switch the audio over!

All in all, a truly fantastic film that is worth watching at the cinema if you've never seen a Ghibli film on the big screen before! A deserving 9/10!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Narrative Strategies: Week 3

This week was an interesting one, we started by watching a 70 minute French animation called Kirikou (1998) that is set in Africa. It had quite a unique style and an enjoyable story, though it was quite strange at times! It followed the story of a new born baby called Kirikou who is able to talk and walk from the day he was born and is very inquisitive in nature.


It was a really lovely film and it's great to see such quality from less mainstream movies. The style was really fresh and the backgrounds were full of texture and colour. It was very peculiar at times and also rather funny! It's nice that films like this may start to get more recognition, such as Persepolis (2007) another French film which was in every DVD shop when it came out.

After the film, we had a quick discussion about the film. Leonie explained that the future of UK animation would be more successful if it were to collaborate with European partners and do something unique, rather than try to be mainstream American animation. Then we went through our new handbooks for the session which explained what we would be doing and where.

It appears that this module will also include a 30 sec to 2 minute Narrative, Documentary or Abstract style animation for us to complete by the end of it. I hope that it does not collide with Matthew's character animation work!

When we had to move out of our lecture theatre, we met up again in E4 to discuss our folk tales that we had collected. Some of us read our folk tales out and then received feedback on the meaning behind the story, i.e. the moral and purpose.

I wanted to find a Welsh story, as I had heard some good ones in the past, and found one I had not heard of before, it was quite entertaining! I originally found it here:

The Dragon of Denbigh

A Dragon once terrorized the town of Denbigh, Clwyd. It had taken over the ruined castle and was in the habit of darting out to attack and devour cattle and people.

The inhabitants of the town recruited the help of a local man called Sion Bodiau (Sir John of the Thumbs). This strange fellow had two thumbs on each hand, and so in the estimation of ordinary five
fingered folk he surely possessed the power to rid them of the dragon. Sir John was urged to approach the castle and tempt the dragon out.

He had little choice as he rode out towards it in full armour, lance at the ready. Behind him was a population that would have murdered him had he refused. Ahead was a fire-breathing dragon. Looking back at the faces of the women from the town he decided to take his chances with the dragon. This obliged by charging out of the castle and loomed down on Sion Bodiau.

But then the dragon halted short and stared down at the trembling hands, puzzling over the number of digits on display. The grateful knight saw his opportunity and plunged his lance into the dragon's
heart. He then drew his sword and chopped of the dragon's head. Sion was a hero, the people running through the town shouting `Dim Bych, Dim Bych` in celebration.

And to this day even though the town is called Denbigh in English, that name is a corruption of the Welsh Dinbych, pronounced `Dim bych locally (`no more dragon`).


Again, I didn't get an opportunity to tell my story, but the others had very interesting folk tales. We were then given our next assignment. We are to take our folk tale and skim through a newspaper, picking out relevant pictures for our story. Leonie demonstrated this with Little Red Riding Hood, by finding pictures of little school girls in red jumpers, red berries, and the skeleton of a crocodile to represent the wolf, all in the same paper.

The purpose is to be a little far-fetched and not to find pictures that perfectly describe your story (from say, the Internet) so that we can abstract our ideas a little. I shall be looking forward to next week, now all I need is a newspaper! :)

Narrative Strategies: Week 2

On Tuesday 9th, our second lecture with Leonie covered creation myths. First some of us presented the myths that we had researched throughout the week. There were myths from Africa, North America (Iroquois), Asia and more! I had collected some myths that I enjoyed.

This myth from Japan (accessed here: was one that I had looked at but was presented by another student during the lecture.

Japanese Creation Myth

Long ago all the elements were mixed together with one germ of life. This germ began to mix things around and around until the heavier part sank and the lighter part rose. A muddy sea that covered the entire earth was created. From this ocean grew a green shoot. It grew and grew until it reached the clouds and there it was transformed into a god. Soon this god grew lonely and it began to create other gods. The last two gods it made, Izanagi anf Izanami, were the most remarkable.

One day as they were walking along they looked down on the ocean and wondered what was beneath it. Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up some clumps of mud fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.
The two descended to these islands and began to explore, each going in different directions. They created all kinds of plants. When they met again they decided to marry and have children to inhabit the land.

The first child Izanami bore was a girl of radiant beauty. The gods decided she was too beautiful to live in Japan, so they put her up in the sky and she became the sun. Their second daughter, Tsuki-yami, became the moon and their third and unruly son, Sosano-wo, was sentenced to the sea, where he creates storms.

Later, their first child, Amaterasu, bore a son who became the emperor of Japan and all the emperors since then have claimed descent from him.

 From my notes, here is some information on creation myths...

Creation Myths were created by early human cultures to explain unknown phenomenons of the Universe. Despite great distances between civilisations at the time, most myths share similarities:
  • They begin with Birth and Reproduction.
  • A supreme being is present in nearly all myths.
  • Some cultures believe that life began above or below the Earth, in others, humans and animals once lived in harmony but were separated by the sin of humans.
  • Innocence may be taken by a God.
  • Symbolism is often present through eggs or water (birth)
After this, we watched The Story of Little John Bailey by Paul Driessen (1970) which demonstrated a typical fairytale story structure as well as abstract imagery that was understood as real things through a Narrator. I liked the blunt nature of the voice over, even though it said much more than was really needed, it was quite comedic in a way.

We also saw 3 Misses by the same animator (1998) which you can watch here: ( it was a wonderful little parody of a modern tale, a Western story and a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs fairytale. It's full of quirky humour and funny (if a bit grim) violence. This also showed a fairytale structure (three sections being a big factor, except in this case the story is split up and shown in little parts) and how it can be used in a new new a different way.

Our next task is to find a folk tale that we enjoy to use in activities for future sessions, so we have to make sure it's a good one! :)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Character Development

After a long week of designing, I have come up with my human character and animal character to begin animating this week! Here are my final model sheets for both, followed by my rough sketchbook designs to see the process and development! :)


Danielle is a 26-year-old mother to 3-year-old Justin and is married to a musician named Mark. She is quirky, fun-loving, off the wall and considerate of others, but she is also quite clumsy and can be prone to jealousy and laziness! Her passion is writing, whether it is novels or scripts and she enjoys listening to Kate Bush.

This is my Hippo character. As of yet, his or her's gender is ambiguous (partly because I haven't decided yet!) but he/she is rather effeminate. I'm interested in playing with contrasts between the Hippo and Danielle, perhaps making him/her extremely energetic and trying to be a graceful dancer which proves difficult because of their sheer weight! I rather like the 3/4 pose here.


Here are my first sketchbook drawings of Danielle and my Hippo, enjoy! =]


So far, I am quite happy with my design, but I'm going back to the drawing board a bit with Danielle. After speaking with Matthew,  he found my woman to have almost too perfect proportions, which will either make animating very difficult or very boring. The problem is also coming up with an original style, which has already become necessary! So I'm trying to make her have more of a droopy 'sack-like' body like I tend to do in my life drawings to see if that's more interesting to animate. I may also try new mediums--we shall see!

The next week I will be spending doing a walk and run cycle for Danielle and a walk and run cycle of my Hippo! Wish me luck! =]

Gemma xxx

Narrative Strategies: Week 1

As a part of my course, I am doing Narrative Strategies with our lecturer Leonie which will involve posting up my progress every week as homework. This is my report from week one! (2/2/2010)

This week we had a really interested unorthodox lecture about Creation Myths--the stories that early cultures invented to explain the unknown phenomenon's of the Universe (how did we get here? What is our purpose? etc...) through observation.

We were split into four groups, each one becoming four unique "worlds". My group, consisting of Bryony, Claire, Jess, Vikki and Zara chose the red world. This turned out to be a desert world where it was burning hot in the day and freezing in the night. Meteors rained down every generation, wiping out any people on the surface, but later crystallises the sand into glittering crystals. Lizards provided food and the crystals created an underground lake to provide water.

Our people were "beamed" down onto this planet with no knowledge of anything else and it was our task to figure out how to survive, come up with a belief system, why we were there and finally to write a short paragraph on a person within our world that overcame a great difficulty and was proclaimed a 'hero/heroine'.

Between us we came up with this...

Our world is called Crand, we live in an underground lake the provides us with shelter and water. Lizards on the surface are hunted by our warriors during the day for food by using sharpened crystals. We believe that the great rocks that rain down on us from the stars in the sky are judgment from the "Sun God" that rid us of evil people. Those of us left behind are blessed with crystals from the "Moon Goddess".

We breed lizards to carry sleighs (husky lizards!) and to be ridden by warriors. Their iridescent skins are used for clothing and protection from the sun.

We use crystals for everything, weapons, tools, carving on the walls of our home, and later instruments and jewelry. But there is one crystal that is of particular importance and that is our sacred crystal carved into the shape of a snowflake. This signifies a moment of clarity from our heroine, Briane. A long time ago, a great grey blanket covered the sky, the meteors stopped falling, our supply of crystals declined and our lake dried up. The Sun God and the Moon Goddess were hidden from us. Our people were worried about staying underground where there was no water or food or traveling the surface where it was too hot by day and too cold at night.

After many days, white flakes fell from the grey sky and our people panicked, surely it was further judgment from the Gods! The white flakes were very strange to us and our people decided they must leave. But one of us, young Briane, saw that the flakes would melt into water and convinced the people that this "snow" was a good thing. Sure enough, it all melted, replenishing the lake and allowing the lizards to return. Thus, our people could continue living in Crand, thanks to Briane. She carved a snowflake out of a crystal to commemorate the moment.


After discussing our stories and ideas, we were permitted to 'explore' the other worlds. Claire (our scribe) was to stay behind to tell our story to any passers by. My fellow Crand people and I, traveled to the Blue planet where a hero named Dave with long golden locks saved a island from a volcano by riding a flying fish using his hair as a bridle. We traded husky lizards for miracle water and fish; a Purple planet where they live in a strange poisonous jungle and eat hallucinogenic pears (we traded husky lizards and crystals for some, as well as centipede armor to protect us from the sun); and the Red planet where a man with a large nose harnessed the warmth of fire by bringing it back to their frozen hometown where none and managed before.

During this time, the Red planet declared war on us to steal our sacred items and the Blue planet by playing rock, scissors and paper. We both lost and they took our sacred snowflake and the Blue's loc of golden hair! Bryone fought back to regain our artifact, but she lost also.

Beaten, we used the hallucinogenic pears to get over our loss and rebuild our home anew!

All in all, a very fun session that definitely taught us how easy it can be to write an interesting story from just an outline of a world, or basic idea and make it richer by bouncing ideas off of one another. I found it very enjoyable and hope to have more sessions like it! :)

 - Gemma

Friday, 5 February 2010

Catching Up!

Ok, so it's been a long time since my last blog and I don't have a lot of time to keep it up to date, so I'm gonna have to speed through what I've been up to, hold on tight!

1. Back at Uni now! Had a chilled week with friends watching movies, playing games, etc, etc. Finally getting back into the swing of things but I'm already spending too much money! Cinema trips are just so expensive!

2. Watched Sherlock Holmes with my sister at the cinema. Awesome movie and although it's got lots of action and pretty dark plot, I've been told it's actually very accurate to the book, which makes me want to read it... But the film had great acting especially the interaction between Holmes and Watson, the English accents were pretty good, the story was interesting and surprisingly intelligent and it was overall entertaining and laugh out loud hilarious.

3. Completed Assassin's Creed II!!! All I can say is that this game is epic. Ezio starts a bit of a loser but then everything changes when his family is victim to a rather nasty conspiracy and your character grows into one hot badass! Ok, so I'm a little biased, but it was a great game with many improvements from the first (I completed this one 100% which I'm quite proud of! =] ) and I absolutely cannot wait until the next game! The ending (without spoiling it) was immense! I've heard they will be making it a trilogy, which I will be happy with, but they can do A LOT more with the storyline and I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold. I'd love to see a female assassin for the next game! :D

4. Received the project for my next animation brief and it is so much more exciting then my last one! I have to design an original character and a four-legged animal to use to animate a series of exercises over the next 12 weeks. I'm really enjoying creating my character at the moment, (her name is Danielle) and there will be development artwork coming soon for her and her "pet"! ^__^
We have to use the same character for every exercise so everyone is working hard on creating somebody that we will want to animate and love to draw. More on this on the weekend!

Only issue is the tight deadlines; we are gonna be worked to the bone this semester, but it will be so worth it!

5. Princess and the Frog!!! Finally saw this film today after months of waiting and was blown away! The art and animation was top-notch and was accompanied by a lovely story and excellent music. This is worth seeing at the cinema if just for the sound, which was incredible. The power of the songs was spine-tingling--well done again Randy Newman! I was a little disappointed with the design of Princess Tiana as a frog, it was pretty weak in comparison to Prince Naveen's frog design, and similarities to the Swan Princess was somewhat distracting at times.
Nevertheless, this is a superb film and will hopefully mark the return of 2D animation in feature films, which was sorely missed on my part. The production quality was excellent throughout, I believe that it proves itself at least as equal as 3D counterparts! With luck, other animation studios will think likewise!

6. Had an awesome time last night at a Comedy Central night in my Uni. I wasn't expecting anything hugely fantastic, but was pretty entertained by the first comedian who presented everyone. The second was good, but a bit of a Noel Fielding knock-off and had a tendency to lose audiences on long and rambling jokes. But the last... WOW! We had the absolutely fabulous Mitch Benn who came on with a little guitar and Thin Lizzy shirt and brought us all to tears with laughter. He interacted with (read as; make fun of) the crowd, made Star Wars sound effects, sang songs about killing James Blunt and a love song translation of men's dirty habits.
He was so good, Rob, Paul, Dale, Alex and I chipped in to buy one of his CDs afterwards. I have yet to listen to it yet, but will be burning it tomorrow! :D

7. Almost forgot! Got my grades and assessment back with good marks! I basically got the equivalent of an A minus for everything that I did last semester. Yay! ^__^
I had one of the best lectures ever the other morning too, I'll update with what happened another day as it will be a part of my homework to update my progress from the lessons!

So, yes! Having a great time, but don't expect to be hearing from me very often! This animation work is going to be occupying a lot of my time, but I'll post up my progress every now and then. =]
I also got FFIV for the DS to play at last, I've heard good things about it so looking forward to playing it!

Ta-Ta for now!
Love Gemma xxx