Conducting a character
CG generalist Kendra Phillips on why sound was key in the making of a short animation
Kendra worked on the short film Silent, for Dolby Laboratories. “I was involved in every step of the project, from the client meetings and initial pitching phase at the very beginning, to and character designs, storyboarding, designing the main character and eventually modelling and rigging her to an extent.
Here, it’s everything from asset design to matte paintings.” Now, at Moonbot, he’s already collaborated on a video game, several short films including Chipotle’s The Scarecrow, and books such as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and the upcoming A Bean, A Stalk and A Boy Named Jack, written by William Joyce, Moonbot’s other creative partner.
Working with William [Bill] is far more organic. On Beanstalk, Kenny says that, “The script existed but it wasn’t set in stone and the arrangement of the book was still up in the air. There were even instances where Bill hadn’t decided what was going to be written on the page, but had given us a pitch of what was going to happen in the story. We just started doing sketches, Bill liked a few and wrote to match. That was awesome. That doesn’t usually happen.”
Christina Ellis was hired by Moonbot after her 2010 graduation from Ringling College of Art and Design. “I was lucky because my portfolio wasn’t that impressive, but it was interesting enough to get an interview. They opened my sketchbook and saw how
I almost always get to do preliminary palettes and general lighting
many ideas I had, and how my mind runs at a mile a minute.”
At Moonbot, Christina “floats like a firefighter on different projects, but I almost always get to do preliminary palettes and general lighting.” She left her mark on nearly every phase of William Joyce’s book, The Numberlys.
“Bill will get ideas, put a drawing on your desk and say, ‘play with this’. Sometimes I get to play for a day, sometimes longer. It’s the process of nurturing.” Because he knows his artists well, their skill sets and styles, Bill is usually pleased with the results.
“For two weeks I did visual exploration. We started a dialogue on how many pages the book had, what compositions would be
where and what the story would be like. He’d give me more specific drawings and the book kept getting polished.”
MIXING THINGS UP A LITTLE
Collaboration and fostering relationships is one of Christina’s passions, and she’s happy when the mantle of lead is passed to a coworker. “With Numberlys, I got to be the main illustrator, but Kenny helped me with the illustrations when he had free time. When Beanstalk came around it was his turn to do the art and I was able to help him with compositions or character designs when he needed it. I like relationships that change with the time and needs of the project.”
Now Moonbot may be turning the page to its next adventure. The studio’s acquired the rights to two books: The Extincts and Olivia Kidney. Joe is tackling the character designs and concept art for what Moonbot hopes will be its first feature film. “I’m restless if I don’t get my hands in everything,” he says.
Joe Bluhm designed colour keys for The Scarecrow, which is one of his favourite tasks at Moonbot.
Orchestral setting “The original pitch was an older male composer with wild hair, conducting an off-screen orchestra to show off the sound system. After iterating on that idea for a while, everyone felt we should try different approaches.”
“There’s always a moment you see in your mind that becomes the heart of a project.” Brandon Oldenburg, on his inspiration for The Scarecrow.
Hair today... “We loved that the composer’s hair could be so expressive – almost becoming a character in itself – so we tried other options.”
Kendra Phillips prepares for the director’s afternoon rounds, refining 3D models for the short film, Silent.
While developing The Numberlys, Christina Ellis and Bill Joyce brainstormed all elements of the book.