Saturday, August 05, 2006

How To Create A Wubbzy Song...Step 3: Animation

It just wouldn't be a Wubbzy song without the visual link to an animated piece. How excellent that the show contains these animated "music videos" at the end of a pleasant half-hour of Wubbzy viewing! A cool and cozy way to conclude before signing off.

I'm more on the music end of things but I can somewhat explain the general process that goes from Bob's lyrics to animating.

The final song goes to the storyboard artists who gather around with Bob and they come up with visual ideas to match his lyrics. Bob may very well have written some of his lyrics based on coming up with some visual ideas first.

What kind of images would you come up with if you had to draw pictures for "Pet Party"? What do you think of when you hear the lines, "Lili has a Zorkle! Johnny has a sneet"? Those are, indeed, silly lines but perhaps they might be easier to think up images for than more "plain" ones. For example, what about the lines "Pet Party! Yeah Yeah!...Pet Party! Yeah! Yeah!...If you've got a pet, it's the place to be. Everyone's at the Pet Party." Those are more general lines with less specific description. This is the challenge: To create something effective and fun because it's so wide open to thinking up anything at all. As you can see in the animation for those lines, the Wubbzy creators struck gold! The way the characters move and their timing to the music and lyrics are exquisite....AND FUN!

After they decide on which images they will use as the song plays along, the storyboard artists draw out those images in pencil on panels, one after the other, as they envision it will look.
Here's a couple of storyboard panels from the intro theme song animation at the very beginning of the show:
They erase and draw over continually. They make endless notes. They cut and edit and move things around like a puzzle until it fits. They have to place all the storyboard frames next to each other and make sure they line up with the song from start to finish. It has to be timed correctly to the timing of the song.

The entire cartoon is storyboarded this way but here's how the storyboards look for a song!
When the team is satisfied with the storyboard as it's pinned up on a bulletin board, all the panels are then scanned into the computer and lined up next to each other in an animation program where they'll appear one after the other in a timeline on the screen as the song plays. This "flip book" animation of the storyboards is called the "animatic". The frames are then moved around in the timeline so scenes happen where they are meant to during specific points in the song. Maybe even to match exact beats, notes, sound effects or words (such as "Yeah! Yeah!" in Pet Party).

It becomes clearer how the final will look as the animatic is continually viewed over and over and frames are further edited and timed to the song. Even more edits, cuts and adds are made until it lines up nicely with the song and has a good feel and energy to it.

Once the animatic is locked, the individual frames used will be inked and painted (in this case, in the computer rather than with a pen, paint and sheets of acetate). That really lovely black line around all the characters and the solid colors inside are applied and the beautiful backgrounds are created and placed in too. Here's how it looks when the Wubbzy colorists create a "thumbnail color board" to get a sense of how the final will actually look and feel with color rather than in the previous storyboard pencil (This board is for the song "You're A Star").

Now the song is ready to be animated. This is where I'll jump off because I don't know too much about animating...yet! But using the computer software Flash (which you can learn at home on your own computer to animate your creations, by the way) the talented animators bring these boards to life.

To see, yet another, glorious example of how the storyboard artists, colorists and animators of the Wubbzy crew create such amazing visual marriages to the songs, enjoy "Pet Party" here...YEAH! YEAH!:

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