Brief 1 (Part 2) – Character Design (Process & Practise)

I had never used flash before but I knew from watching Youtube videos that it was or had been a popular program of choice for beginning animators at least. So naturally I began by watching Youtube tutorials and jumping straight into bringing to life Gary. I knew the best way to learn the program was if I immediately applied it to a project instead of just taking notes.

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I started off by drawing the shell. I was originally going to use a Wacomm tablet but there was no need because Flash smooths lines and drawings really well so I just used a mouse. I used an image of a cartoon tortoise I found online to get the right colours.

I then proceeded to cut out neck holes and feet holes. Then realising that I would have to fill in the spaces with black to make it look 3D however the front feet would be in front of the black leg holes but underneath the shell; and the black feet would be on the back layer. This meant that I had to make the black holes on a different layer so I could make the feet come out of the shell when animating later.

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I then made the head using a similar colour pallet. I wanted both eyes to be there because it looked better in my sketches but it also allowed me to animate both of them; allowing more complicated facial expressions.

Afterwards I then proceeded to draw the eyeballs, mouth and all four legs; making all of them separate Symbols on separate layers as recommend by the Youtube video I watched. At the time I didn’t know but this would make the animating a whole lot easier later on.

Once I had Gary all drawn out and looking good I jumped straight into the title scene. To make the writing more visually interesting I wrote it multiple times in different frames so that when played it would hopefully look like the writing had a bit of energy instead of just looking static. The first time I played it it looked terrible and I could barely read it. to solve the problem I extend each frame so the writing was visible for a fraction of a second later; which resolved the problem and slightly resembled what I had in my head.

I wanted to have Gary creep in from the bottom corner and give the audience a little wave, which was my first animating hurdle. To took me a long time to work out how to animate the symbols using Motion Tweens and the original title scene I was happy with at the start I had to revisit later in the project when my abilities had increased. I realised later that the subtle little wobbles in all the body parts where necessary to stop making Gary look like a programmed robot and more like a real Tortoise. In addition I kept forgetting to select the eyes and mouth every time I moved the head which made ‘The Adventures of Gary the Tortoise’ look more like a horror cartoon then a cute web series.

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I took the adorable ‘Hello’ voice from a video on the internet which revealed my second animating hurdle mouth syncing. It looked incredibly difficult at first but after slowing down similar cartoons mouth movements I realised that it wasn’t too bad. Especially for the simple word ‘Hello’. I knew however that it would be the last time Gary talks because it would ruin the video if I did some amateur mouth syncing. Plus I wanted to develop my animating skills as much as possible and if the character didn’t talk, like Wall-e, it would teach me how to express what the character is trying to say without even saying it.

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I couldn’t resist giving him a cheesy grin at the end of the title screen as he continued to wave. It also adds a little something to the characters personality and would contrast later on with his hungover state; accentuating how bad he’s feeling as well as adding a bit of depth to his character.

After I had the title screen all wrapped up I then proceeded to imagine and draw the background and the room Gary would wake up in. Old Garfield comics were kind of my inspiration but I worked mostly with my head to stop distractions. I started by drawing the pizza box and the wine bottles as different symbols. Then the red cups and puddles which  I just copied and resized. The last thing I did was draw the room itself. I started with the long horizontal line where the floor and the wall met and spent a while finding the perfect height for it to go; because obviously it would change the perspective of the size of Gary compared to the room he was in. I then proceeded to draw artistic random grey lines to make the room more visually interesting and make it look like it’s been trashed after a messy night.

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After I had all the components to make up the background drawn out I then proceeded to combine all of them in the bottom layer with Gary’s bowl placed in the layer above it in case I needed to move it later on.

The hardest part after that was drawing Gary again but this time looking extremely ill. It shouldn’t have been too difficult but what I didn’t realise at the time was that duplicating a symbol doesn’t make it a new symbol. So when I edited Gary’s original normal head to make him look ill it changed Gary’s head on the title scene as well. Re drawing it didn’t take long but it was hugely frustrating at the time.

The purple eye lids I knew would be perfect for denoting what most bad hangovers feel like and I knew that it would open up some more opportunities later on for quirky facial expressions.

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Once I had finished the entire animation on Flash I rendered all the frames as individual JPEG images in HD. This meant that I could upload all the images into Premiere Pro where I could add sound and music to make it more professional. As Gary doesn’t do much talking it didn’t take me long to find the right songs for the video on Youtube.

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