Too much walking

Morris Lakin reports on the progress of his first cartoon film and he makes an interesting discovery about walk cycles.

I had got as far as scene two in my first cel production. In scene one the boy and girl characters had been established meeting and walking along the road. I wanted give the impression that they had walked some distance between the last shot and the start of scene two. To keep the pace up (and to cut out a lot of repetitive animating) I decided to combine this sense of having come some distance with the introduction of a new character, the egg. It is a very big egg alone in a nest, in the branches of a tree, so I decided to play around with the perspective a little to get it all in one shot.

Fig. 1. Tree with nest and egg.

The figures come out of the distance and the tree with the nest and egg are in the foreground. (Fig. I) This arrangement was arrived at fairly spontaneously and did not take a great deal of thought. The images were drawn out of my imagination with little reference to real life although sometimes I wonder if it would be better to draw on some real reference to help. But this is how I decided to proceed with most of this film, drawing on the spontaneous images coming straight out of my mind on to the paper as far as the pictorial nature of the country scenes is concerned, just to see if this approach works.

I painted the background for this scene on a cel, completely covering the cel as if it were a piece of paper. I tried this for two reasons. First, I had found that animation paper tends to wrinkle when using water based paint. Second, if I used card, I would still have to register it with the rest of the drawings. So I decided to try painting on a cel. If you cover the whole cel with a base colour when it is dry it is no problem to paint on it.

The tree holding the egg along with the nearby hedge was painted on a cel to go over the background. (Fig. 2) The figures will go in between the background and this foreground cel.

The figures will walk out of the distance. The boy is skipping around while the girl walks straight ahead. As the boy comes skipping past the tree he notices the egg and motions to the girl to stop and look as she comes below the tree.

Because of the hedge the lower half of the figures are concealed for most of the scene. So at first I thought I would be able to just draw the top half of the figures. But try as I might I just could not get to grips with the speed the figures should be going! To try and get the motion right I decided to draw the legs to guide me as to what speed the figures should be going as they come out of the distance. Even so I ran into a problem. For the start the figures in the distance were so small that I could not draw the leg action properly! So what has happened is that for the first few moments the figures are moving faster than they ought for walking pace. But having seen the line test projected on a big screen at the Anima festival the first few moments are so tiny as to be hardly seen! So perhaps it does not matter.

Fig. 4.

To bring the figures forward in perspective I drew a sort of tunnel on a separate piece of animation paper with the final position of the figures, standing still, drawn in. (Fig. 3)

The tunnel lays out the progress of the girl, since her progress is straight forward, and referring to the tunnel, help me to see how the boy should be drawn as the two figures do not move together.

This method helped me to keep a check on the perspective in the drawing since it is possible to surround the figure in a box based on the lines of the tunnel to give a guide. You can imagine the box without actually drawing it. (Fig.4)

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