Friday, July 9, 2010
CHICKIEPOO & FLUFF _ The Evolution of CUTE
Presented for the first time, I would like to take you through the evolution of the character designs for the Nick Jr. animated short and series Pilot, Chickiepoo & Fluff: Barnyard Detectives. Solely based on my recollection, but, hopefully, this will give a sense of the time, work, talent, and many hands that went into their creation. It takes a lot of effort to look this cute!
CONCEPT (Spring 2005)
When creators Amy and Liza Steinberg first asked for me to take a shot at visualizing their concept, I remembered a chickie doodle I had done for a friend with cel paint at the old Jumbo Studios.
My idea was to communicate that sense of "puffballs with life" by using a spontaneous fingerpaint technique. It really helped me capture the spirit of the characters and, of the designs, the baby brother Fuzzworth remained largely unchanged all the way through production.
It wasn't exactly what Amy and Liza were looking for, but enough to go forward and develop further.
PITCH (Spring 2005)
As I mentioned in earlier posts, I appreciated that the Steinbergs had complimentary tastes. Amy had brought pastoral, magic hour, baby animal reference while Liza preferred flat, Eastern, "children's book" art. More than that, they are connoisseurs of cute and had a shared vision for their chicks.
At this point, I started to use a digital collage technique similar to one we employed on Blues Clues. My friend and co-worker Scott Dodson coined it "2d-3d." With scanned textures from those pipe cleaner chick and actual swatches of fabric, the chicks started to get dressed and take shape. This is the way they were presented in the pitch book and the way they existed for some time. Although they seem a little raw to me now, they have a spazzy energy that I adore.
DEVELOPMENT (Summer 2006)
After the concept was picked up for Pilot production, we had meetings throughout the summer to start to refine the story and designs. I can't do justice to all of the variables and iterations that were brought to the table. In design only, some include: wardrobe, beak shape, eye type (scelera or not), footwear, proportions. The production team, including Jennifer Twomey, Elly Kramer, Irene Sherman, and Jason Patton, helped shepherd the chickies to the point you see them below. Fluff became less bookish and Chickiepoo covered up a little. In general, they became more realized than the pitch designs, less abstract and hopefully more relatable as little kids.
PRODUCTION (Fall - Winter 2006)
The greatest impact on the evolution of the design came as a result of Animation Director Elanna Allen's storyboards. While I was primarily a Photoshop designer at the time, she's a natural animator whose pencil drawings already communicated a buoyancy and movement that the designs were lacking. Plus, based on the demands of the story and their actions, the chicks needed to be tweaked for symmetry and with altered proportions that were more animation-friendly.
We employed a pretty new process, at the time, in which the guys at Peach Nova Productions would first animate key actions by hand in Flash and artists, like Hilda Karadsheh, would use actions to add the texture and shading in Photoshop. Then, After Effects animators, like Dayna Gonzalez and Keelmy Carlo, would also employ the Photoshop pieces for puppeted animation.
I'm sure I'm leaving a lot out but you're all welcome to add to the story in the comments below. This all happened to go down during a particularly rough spell in my life, but, then and now, I'm so grateful to have helped bring these little fluffs into the world and for the opportunity to work with the team that made it a reality.