2D Or Not 2D? Is That The Question?

Melon Shorts: Save The Leg

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Do print comics make good candidates for the animation treatment? Many comic books and comic strips already read like production quality storyboards, so why not convert them into animated shorts or series?

There are a few ways static illustrated comics can have a bit of life breathed into them. For comic books, a “motion” comic can be created that takes existing artwork and reveals or animates certain parts to draw you through the story. An even simpler solution is a “pan and scan” version where the individual panels are features on a page and tapping moves you from panel to panel.

For many comic strips, especially the traditional four-panel setups, you have all the ingredients for a wonderfully animated gag. The premise, the setup, a pregnant pause, and the punchline. Each day’s comic strip an animated micro-short, ready for the spark of life.

But what about a single panel gag cartoon? The single mage is there to be taken in all at once, with an optional gag or tagline below. How do you pull an animated short out of a single image?

With story.

A good single panel gag has a crucial element necessary for it to be an animated short. That “ah-ha” moment. Whether the ah-ha moment is given visually after a few seconds contemplation, or if the text accompanying the image puts the illustration in a new light. Being able to lead a viewer through that transition though animation is a magical thing.

Let’s look at Mike Shiell’s “Leg” gag.

Mike Shiell: Saved Leg

We have an image of a man with a leg for a body. A funny drawing, but the payoff is in the gag. A play on the old physician adage of “The good news is we were able to save the ____.”

No slow burn. No pregnant pause. Just an image and associated text. How could it be animated?

Well, in the most basic sense you could just focus on the frame and pan down to the gag, or just do a voiceover while the character’s mouth moves. But that’s just not enough. In this case, Mike hooked up with Todd Warring, an L.A. based actor/writer to help him punch up a few ideas. It was decided that the focus would start on the doctor delivering his line, then pull back to reveal the “Leg Man”. HUMOR ACCOMPLISHED!

But Mike and Todd pushed it even further by adding a few details and comedic beats like the man’s satisfaction with his situation … at least until the phone rings. And if you take a moment you might notice the (now) extraneous bunny slipper in the trash. By working together they turned a one-joke gag into a small nugget of animated comedy gold. After that, using Todd’s voice work, animator Everett Newell brought the characters to life using 2D animation tool Harmony from Toon Boom Studios.

Allowing creators to connect, work from remote locations, and create together is why Nimble Collective is building their platform and learning from creators like Mike helps us build a better tool. And that helps Mike build kick-ass animation!

Barry T. Smith
Barry T. Smith
As Nimble Collective's Content Marketing Ninja, Barry is responsible for bringing Nimble news and goodness to all the animating boy and girls of the world. And he does it through the power of the Internet, and not a rickety 'ol sleigh and tiny reindeer.

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