Skip to main content

Ideas for the Animated Short: Finding and Building Stories - Book Review

Ideas for the Animated Short: Finding and Building Stories by Karen Sullivan, Gary Schumer and Kate Alexander is a book I was looking forward to reading but had my expectations take a beating right from chapter one. From then on it became a chore to read. Despite that, I persevered and breathed a big sigh of relief when I finally reached the last page.

Which was disappointing because I took a long time in choosing what animation book to buy on Amazon as part of a two book purchase that included The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams (a book that is considered an essential in any animator's library).

What I was looking for was a lively book on idea development with interesting insights and examples from the various professional animators interviewed. Something that would show a real passion for short story telling, how different creatives approach finding inspiration and how they develop their ideas into a story for short film.

What I got in Chapter 1 was a history lesson in story construction, structure, themes and character types presented in a very dry, text book like fashion that made you want to poke your eye out with a pencil, like  when you had to endure this stuff back in your school days. Not surprising, I guess, since all three co-authors are teachers.

I'm not saying it wasn't great information. In fact the book and accompanying DVD includes a lot of really good information and some excellent short films by both professionals and students. It's just that much of it doesn't live up to the promise of the book's title. This isn't a book about ideas. It's a book about story structure and the building blocks that make up a short, animated story.

Everything is broken down and analyzed... and I'm having a tough time remembering exactly what I read because it was tedious and clinical. It's almost like, at every step of developing a story you should have thought about everything to the 'n'th degree at every step and be able to explain the 'why' of everything present in your story.

Why is that character in the story? Why did that character do or say that? Why did you choose that location? Why did that happen and not this?

The book seems to forget the most important part of story telling is to just get your ideas down first. Get it all out on the page, into your word processor, script writing software etc. It feels like that's the chapter that is missing. At the heart of story telling, even stories for short films, is the fun of telling a story.

All of the other stuff this book covers is information that will help you in telling a story - especially when it comes to revising subsequent drafts but a lot of it is not anything you want to think about at the idea stage. If you did you'd squash many potential ideas before they got off the ground and the rest would get lost under a huge magnifying glass of over analysis.

What might have saved this book for me is the interviews with various professional artists and other industry experts at the end of each chapter. Unfortunately the questions asked weren't really what I wanted to know - or I was just so thankful to have finished another chapter I struggled to absorb anything I read in the interviews.

Even worse, the industry interviews on the DVD ask the same set of generic questions to seven different professionals that is non-specific to their own work. Making them tedious to read (yes read - not video interviews or even audio only - read. Could have just put them in the book).

The DVD does contain a video series of acting examples presented by co author, Kate Alexander (which she covers in more detail the book). These lessons are useful to some degree in creating more realistic emotions for your characters. Though when you look at a lot of comedy, animated shorts they rely heavily on cliche and over the top emotion simply because there isn't the time to be more realistic.

Possibly the best part of the book and DVD is the Student animations. There are 16 of these and most include behind the scenes sketches, storyboards, modelling and animatics.

According to the Preface this book is intended for beginners, covers the basics and is meant to be easy to read (it's definitely not easy to read). If you are completely new to story telling for short, animated films then it is a fairly solid grounding in everything you need to know. It may even prove useful to more intermediate level short film makers looking for more direction in story analysis.

For me, the title is misleading and doesn't really explore ideas at all. It's more focused on considerations derived from common story structures, theory, themes and other building blocks than actual ideas.

It's very much a text book that I imagine might be on many animation courses reading lists. After reading through it, I can't say I feel energized and enthusiastic to create short animations. I'm just glad to see the back of it.

Comments

  1. I'm shocked that you gave such a traitorous review . The information is on point ,well structured and easy to follow .. It sounds that you expected a book with a list of stories you could tell ,without having to thing of a story for you self .But this review is out dated aswell ,but any ways don't be lazy .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We may have to agree to disagree because I feel the book was only on point if it was titled 'How to write short stories for animation' with a subtitle of 'A guide to story development and construction'.

      Very little of it discussed idea development, it was not in any way easy to follow and turned what should be a fun exercise into a very clinical and tedious task.

      I've read other books on writing and developing stories that present their information in such a way that they inspire you to explore ideas and possibilities and apply them to your own work. This particular book just felt like a chore to read and didn't inspire anything.

      I definitely wasn't looking for a list of stories to tell. Why would I buy a book like that if all I wanted to do was rip off someone else's story idea? Cheaper to just pick a story I like and write my own version.

      Delete

Post a Comment

This blog is monitored by a real human. Generic or unrelated spam comments with links to sites of dubious relativity may be DELETED.

I welcome, read, and respond to genuine comments relating to each post. If your comment isn't that save me some time by not posting it.

Popular posts from this blog

Inochi2D - Free Open Source 2D VTuber Avatar Rigging and Puppeteering Software (Part 1)

Inochi2D Creator - Free Open Source VTuber Software. If you've been looking for a way to live perform as a 2D cartoon avatar on camera, whether it be for a live stream or for pre-recorded content like educational videos, then VTuber software is a low cost (or even no cost) option worth looking into. In my previous post, How to Become a VTuber - 2D and 3D Software for Creating and Controlling Your Avatar , I took a brief look at the relatively new but completely free and open source Inochi2D  which I thought showed great potential for my own needs of creating a live performance character rig for my own TET Avatar that I use for all my promotional materials. While it is possible to live perform my character using Cartoon Animator itself, Reallusion's MotionLive2D capture system isn't great - with lip sync in particular. More importantly though, I can't exactly teach people how to use Cartoon Animator if I'm using Cartoon Animator to control my Avatar. What is Inochi2D

Moho 14 Released - Still the Best 2D Animation Software for Indy Animators on a Budget

Moho 14 Released. Regular readers know I am a Reallusion, Cartoon Animator advocate through and through. Hands down I would recommend Cartoon Animator 5 first over Lost Marble's Moho 14 to anyone who is just starting in 2D animation, is a team of one, or just needs to animate as quickly as possible. However, feature for feature, Moho is, arguably, the best 2D animation software for the rest of us who can't justify a Toon Boom Harmony , or Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (and even with their applications Moho is very competitive on features). You can get started with Moho Debut for just USD$59.99 which is a cut down version of Moho Pro but it still has the most essential features needed for 2D animation. While Moho Pro is a whopping USD$399.99 (Cartoon Animator, which only has one version, is just USD$149.00) upgrades to new version numbers come down to a quarter of the price at USD$99.00. Even though Reallusion just released features like Motion Pilot Puppet Animation and

Wonder Unit Storyboarder - Free Storyboarding Software for People Who Can (or Can't) Draw

Wonder Unit Storyboarder.  As an independent and solo animator I'm always tempted to try and skip storyboarding my animated shorts because they're usually only single scene sketch comedy type jokes. As a result I have many unfinished projects that kind of petered out due to having no clear finishing line. Storyboarding your productions, no matter how small, gives you a step by step guide of every shot that needs to be completed (no planning shots as you animate). It also allows you to create an animatic that gives you a rough preview of the finished production. In short, you shouldn't skip storyboards as they, generally, increase the chance of the project being completed. Disclaimer - I'm Not a Fan of Storyboarder Upfront, Wonder Unit's Storyboarder  is not my preferred storyboarding software. However it's completely free, has a number of very compelling featu

Can You Learn Reallusion's Cartoon Animator 5 for Free Using Their 137 Official YouTube Video Tutorials Sorted Into a Logical Learning Order?

Or you could just buy The Lazy Animator Beginner's Guide to Cartoon Animator . While Reallusion's Cartoon Animator is one of the easiest 2D animation studios to get up and running with quickly, learning it from all of the official, free, video tutorials can be more overwhelming than helpful. With more than 137 videos totaling more than 28 and a half hours of tutorials, spread across three generations of the software (Cartoon Animator 3 through 5) it's hard to know if what you're learning is a current or legacy feature that you either need to know or can be skipped. Many of the official tutorials only teach specific features of the software and don't relate at all to previous or later tutorials. As a result there are many features either not mentioned or are hard to find. To make your learning easier, on this page, I've collected together all of the essential, official, free video tutorials and sorted them into a learning order that makes sense. Simply start at

2D Animation Side Hustle - How to Find a Niche Market Selling Digital Characters, Props, and Background Art in the Reallusion 2D Marketplace

C ontinuing my series on your 2D Animation Side Hustle, Selling in the Reallusion 2D Marketplace , in this article I'm going to take a look at niches and why they're important to becoming a successful seller. I'll also look at some indicators, specific to the Reallusion Marketplace, that can help point you in the right direction of finding niches that are in demand. What is a Niche and Why Are They Important? In marketing terms a niche is kind of like a sub category or a section of a subject that you want to focus on. It's not the big idea with wide appeal that everybody loves, it's a smaller, more specific section of the idea that fewer people really connect with. For example, in the Reallusion 2D Marketplace, Characters are the biggest sellers. Everybody loves and wants to buy characters. They're great! That's all you need to know, characters sell the best, go make some! There are currently 4413 characters for sale in the marketplace. How will people find

Start Your 2D Animation Side Hustle - Sell Your Cartoon Animator Characters, Props, Scenes, and Motion Files in the Reallusion 2D/3D Marketplace

Have you thought about starting a side hustle selling your original Cartoon Animator assets in the Reallusion 2D/3D Marketplace ? In this article, the first in a series on selling in the marketplace, I'll give you an overview of what's involved, why you should give it some thought, and whether you can earn enough to quit your day job (or at least have a worthwhile side hustle). If you're an artist with any kind of drawing skills, and you're creating your own original characters, props, scenes, and even motion files for your Cartoon Animator projects, then setting up your own store in the Reallusion Marketplace should be a no brainer. You're making content already, it doesn't cost you anything to set up, and Reallusion only takes a 30% commission from each item sold. (If you think that's a lot, I'll address that further down). Don't be put off if you think your art skills aren't up to professional standards. There are plenty of artists with naïve

Artbreeder - Using AI created Character and Background Content in your Animations

A selection of User/AI generated images from Artbreeder. If you're looking for an endless supply of 2D character and background images for your animations then Artbreeder , an online Artificial Intelligence (AI) that generates image mash-ups you can tweak as much as you like, could be the ultimate content library. What is Artbreeder? Artbreeder is free to use though there are various paid plans, that give you additional features, such as higher resolution download images or more settings to play with. All images created on the site are Public Domain (CC0 License) and can be used in commercial projects. Using Artbreeder's online app you can generate head shot portraits, full body characters, landscapes, and other scenes simply by choosing two or more existing images to mash together then, using a series of sliders, to select which traits from each image you wish to lean toward in the final image. Photo Comparison - Top is my original uploaded photo. Bottom is Artbreeder's ap