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    Woo hoo! I've made one of my dreams come true - presenting, for your enjoyment and edification, the first animated Cosmos cartoon ever: The Cosmo… Read More
    Woo hoo! I've made one of my dreams come true - presenting, for your enjoyment and edification, the first animated Cosmos cartoon ever: The Cosmos Monster Movie Survival Guide! There's the film, there's vector art, behind the scenes info.... the whole nine yards! Read Less
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I made a cartoon!
 
The last couple of months of my life have been dominated by one thing, and one thing only: creating a quote-unquote 'motion graphics piece' for my end of year Yoobee Design school assignment. When I first started, that could have meant pretty much anything, of any length, on any subject.... But then I realised that fate (and the multiverse) would accept only one solution - an animated version of my comic strip 'Cosmos'. And what better subject matter than one of the Cosmos cast's favourite things..... cheesy sci-fi / horror / monster movies! The story would take the form of one of those old public service films of the 1950's and 60's, whereby the cheery narrator - one Robbie Ellis, voice-over guy extraordinaire - would talk the cast through everything they needed to know should they be trapped in a B-grade monster rampage situation.... whether those classic movie tropes made any logical sense or not.
 
I knew the project would be big, and time-consuming, and labour-intensive; but did I anticipate how much OCD would be required to get it done?
 
No. No I did not. 
1) First off, the project required a mammoth pile of vector artwork, to be used for full animation, more limted motion graphics, and still-image infographics - shown above are just a selection of the squillions of characters, props, environmental accoutrements and other doodads I had to first draw by hand, and then scan in and vectorise on Adobe Illustrator. For some of these characters, this would be the first time they had been rendered in vector - woo hoo!
2) There were also things like this - in-joke loaded diagrams that would occupy the entire screen or form part of a particular shot. You might not see all the gags the first time around.... or the second..... or even the third.... but this kind of detail helps inject a little bit of 'there's an entire world beyond the confines of the screen' vibe!
3) And then there was the actual animation. Not only were the main cast of Cosmos (Artie, Gene, Ax, Macy and Jenny) going to be charging around like maniacs - and believe you me, making that happen was a feeling like none other - but I also had to bring to life various creeps, freaks and monstrous undesirables to torment them during the film's 3.5 minute running time. Some characters, such as Mothra and the wolfman, were quick and simple to motion-ise (Mothra in particular just flew across the screen); while others, such as the Ro-Man from 'Robot Monster', required a fair bit of choreography to get their limbs / heads moving in a vaguely-believable fashion..... And then there were guys like Ray Harryhausen's Rhedosaurus from 'Beast from 20,000 Fathoms'. He required a fully detailed, modular and multi-layered puppet that I could articulate and manipulate piece-by-piece in Adobe AfterEffects - much like Harryhausen himself did, except with a virtual rather than real model....   
4) Remember what I was saying about OCD? This is an example of where it came in handy: creating animatable 'puppets' in Illustrator meant I could have separate layers for interchangable limbs, hands, feet, eyes, pupils, mouths, expressions amd even entire bodies all in the one document, and then quickly swap back and forth between different layers (via frame-to-frame opacity changes, usually) in AfterEffects to make it look as if that characters were reacting, looking around, blinking and everything else they needed to do. Of course, this meant there were often several different puppets (or parts of puppets) in one document, with an absolute stack of layers compromising each, and..... Yikes. 
5) Good news: since I was doing an animated film, I didn't have to worry about location scouting, filming, or carting around props, camera equipment, costumes and a film crew! Bad news: I had to physically create my own virtual film sets and environments, with all the stuff that went with them! Well, alright, hardly bad news - I love world and prop building - but it still had to be done on top of everything else. Above are final set-ups for a selection of scenes from the film, showing the sorts of indoor and outdoor locations I needed to create as layered 1280 X 720 (or sometimes a lot wider or taller) Illustrator documents; into which all the characters and props and whatnot could be placed in AfterEffects.
6) Final order of business was - since it was a crazy monster movie - to create a classically-styled poster for my film! I deliberately kept my design simple and my colour palette limited to emulate the mass-produced, cheap n' cheerful feel of various old-school horror / sci-fi movie posters of the 50's, 60's and 70's. And I think it works: it tells you what you need to know, and doesn't give to much away about what you're going to see (aside from the obvious, of course). Incidentally, the design was originally landscape format, but I realised that in portrait orientation, the black areas representing the monster's jaws would A) be much taller, and spaced farther apart, and B) serve as perfect places to put all the key info about the film, in the best spot for you to see them.