Monday, July 28, 2008

some storyboard and layout images from our commercials

You can see how rough our boards are. Their purpose is mainly to tell the story, not be finished cleaned up layouts.
I draw my boards at EAT on Magnolia during breakfast, while I don't have to think about anything else and no one bothers me. I scribble them out as fast as I can, just trying to get the gags, continuity and story to flow.I use crappy cheap lined writing pads and BIC medium ballpoint pens, so I don't worry about wasting good paper. I want to draw fast, not worry about construction too much and not worry about clean lines at all.

This below is a pencil storyboard sketch on fancy paper and is less lively than my crappier scribbly ball point pen sketches on wood pulp.

Here's a couple of Jim's setup idea sketches...
Jim has his own theories and techniques and they make his style unique and fun.
More of my continuity scribbles...(not in continuity though)

If you don't have to draw perfectly clean and on-model while you do storyboards, then you can access the part of your brain that thinks about STORY, rather than clean up.

A lot of studios today have a department that's called "storyboard" but they don't use storyboards in the same way that they were originally intended. They use them instead as mini-layouts, that are supposed to be blown up larger and used as keys for the Asian animators.

"Storyboarders" don't usually get to do story anymore which is a shame and an irony. Writing with pictures is a blast and brings so much more to your stories, than merely trying to describe everything with words.

It's also hard to draw good detailed layout drawings small, so the end result of storyboarding from scripts, is both bad storytelling and bad layouts. The poor storyboarders don't get to have much fun in this system. I'm sure somewhere there are a couple exceptions.

A lot of lucky accidents happen while doing rough storyboards, and the trick is to preserve them in the layouts. When taking the idea sketches and blowing them up to animation size, tightening them up and flipping them from pose to pose, there is a great tendency to tone everything down and lose the humor and spontaneity.

In fact, every step of the animation process has a dangerous tendency to lose some of the life of the previous step. I have been working on a science to combat that for my whole 30 years in the business.

Finding good layout people who can draw with life is a blessing from above!

A side note:

Many times in a cartoon, I have tried to get funny layout drawings inspired by the storyboard to flip right and lost the humor in the process. In those cases, I would just use the funny poses, even if they didn't animate right. Lucky for me and the rest of the industry, Bob Jaques and Kelly Armstrong developed techniques to smooth the connection between 2 not very well connected poses. This technique (in simplified form) amazingly has become the standard for most Flash animation today. Carbunkle's animation used a wide assortment of techniques and they customized many scenes, but a couple of their tricks (without the custom tailored thought) became the standard style for whole studios down to today.

That's why you see so much "snapping" from pose to pose today, where you antic and go past the next pose and settle back into it. (You are in effect, avoiding the inbetweens) It's one good technique that's useful in some cases, but it gives me a headache when I see whole features use it to connect every single pose. No variety in timing or emotion. Every emotion using the same timing trick - or handful of tricks.

If you watch an old 40s Warner Bros. cartoon, you will find all kinds of custom timing and posing that is designed to fit the story and emotions. They didn't use a handful of tricks. They really thought about every scene and its context. Of course we can't afford to do that with today's TV and internet budgets, but they could easily afford it in today's animated features, if people in charge had the will to do it.


Joseph said...

Maybe you can have Jimmy the Idiot Boy buying a GM that only gets 9 miles per the gallon!

He could always live in it when his house gets foreclosed on!

wascallywabbit said...

Hey John! I did a mockup commercial Idea on my blog using your principles. Let me no what you think!

Taco Wiz said...

I was worried that you were forgetting to advertise Pontiac with all your new stories, such as the Evil-Ootion one we saw awhile ago, Slab and Ernie eating from unmarked cans, and George crying over Mabel. It's a good thing that you didn't forget the product. If you didn't mention it, then nobody would buy it.

akira said...

yay! Donald Bastard is back!!!! i love how you show the car's trunk space and Sody's trunk space at the same time! man your animals are so awesome, i know people are harder and i should drool over those drawings, but i guess i'm just an animal lover? thanks for sharing i can't wait to see these suckers!!!

Kris said...

Man, the Pontiac Vibe is really the ultimate DAD car (no really, my dad drives one).

Paul B said...



Im doing a few George constructions following your lessons and I have learned a LOT!





Gabriele_Gabba said...

Oh man that layout of George in the tree is nuts!

Ryan G. said...

Heres a few inks John.

click here

jack raffin said...


dig that tree on "bigfatworld7.jpg"!

you've probably been asked before on the blog, but the george liquor show is official? it's happening, or is this prep for a pitch?

Vincent Waller said...

Very nice.

Whit said...

You will go down in history as the last animation house to do an ad for GM before it gives up its ghost.

Mitch K said...

These are hilarious and fun!

NateBear said...

wow these look so good. you woke me up!


Hey - Isn't that guy with the cigar the waiter from that Milt Gross Patsy Pancake story?

JohnK said...

I was definitely thinking of Milt Gross when I drew that guy.

Ryan G. said...

Another ink John.

click here

Ryan G. said...

Hey John. I have 3 left, but two of them are only Jimmy's head, so Ill try and have them done tonight. Tomorrow at the latest.

PCUnfunny said...

Alright ! The triumphant return of Donald Bastard !

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Those are awesome, funny drawings. George in the tree is a work of art. If I were running a standard animation studio and I saw pictures like this on the net, I'd have a crisis meeting the next day with the theme of, "Why aren't you bums giving me drawings like this!?"

What you said about storyboards is right on. Studios try to save money by having their layouts done on the storyboard. What a colossally dumb idea! It results, as you said, in inferior storyboards and inferior layouts.

david gemmill said...

nothing beats hand drawn inbetweens though. even flashy tricks that try to do subtle inbetweens look really lame. i'd rather have smooth fun rough animation as opposed to clean tight drawings that are flashy animated together all weird. i think nicely inked drawings are okay in comics but would take too much time to do to clean up nicely for full animation. Unless its something like the early popeyes.

JohnK said...

Nothing beats having a budget to do hand drawn inbetweens and full animation.

Except maybe living in 1940 and having a pile of cartoon animators who could actually do it well and a schedule that allowed it.

Unfortunately none of that is reality, so we do what we can with what is actually possible.

The best we can do is have more good key poses than anyone else.

Chris Sauve said...

When we were working on Ren & Stimpy at Carbunkle, there wasn’t any worry about the type or amount of inbetweens we could use, smooth or not, it was whatever was appropriate. Bob (Jaques) directed the animation so that it looked right with the style of the show. The character, the emotion, the gag, and the pacing were all thoughtfully considered in the animation, even more so than some of the big budget features I later animated on. This was not “limited” animation; we would use full animation where it was needed. I prefer to call it “full cartoony”. I animated scenes on R&S that had only 1 inbetween between keys and it looked too slow, so we pulled it out and instead “popped” to an overshoot for 1 frame and then back to the held pose, and it worked. There were other scenes I animated where we had 20 inbetweens and the action still looked too fast so we added more to make it work.
Animating that stuff well is HARD! This was some of the toughest animation I’ve ever done. Bob developed a style of movement that allowed some pretty insane poses to work together. Much of the inspired weirdness in the animation was a result of our attempts to keep the flavor and energy of the storyboards and layouts alive. I like to think that we succeeded, and that we added more to something that was already great. Bob is an immense talent, and a friend and mentor of mine. I’ve been lucky enough to work on some great projects, and R&S at Carbunkle was one of those times where you knew you were doing something new and groundbreaking. John, you created a great show. It was damn hard work, but it was a great show.