Monthly Archives: October 2015

Abstract: Colour & Light as Effective Tools for Storytelling in Animation

My purposed work for Masters involves not only the development of technical and visual art skills but also the ability to tell a compelling story through the medium of animation. I intend to implement and develop these skills intensively in my class assignments and during the production of my final animation project; tentatively titled ‘Little Guardian’. The  animation will tell the story of the rivalry between a young animistic guardian spirit and a spoiled house cat.

The spirit in Little Guardian is a young entity that is ‘born’ when a animal statue is brought into a home and tasked with the responsibility to protect the home and its residents. This narrative concept of the film is the based on the spiritual perspective of animism. Animism is a term for a belief system that all beings including plants, animals and inanimate objects possesses a spiritual essence (Stringer, 1999).

For the visual style of Little Guardian, I am mainly inspired by “The Dam Keeper” (2014); an animated short film directed by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi. The film has a strong visual style with limited animation and made to resemble a children’s illustrated storybook come to life (Kondo and Tsutsumi, 2014). Another film that I take reference from is Disney’s animated short “Feast” (2014) which is told from the perspective of the dog. This concept is translated in the film through the use of low angle camera shots that presents the dog’s limited visual perception of the world around it to the viewer. As Little Guardian will be told from the perspectives of the cat and the spirit I hope to employ the same method. It is also for this reason that I am choosing to limit -or omit entirely- the use of dialogue and vocal narration in the short film and focus on telling the story visually.

Having a passion for painting, I am very keen to understand and practice a traditional realist approach to rendering an animated short film. My strengths lie in digital painting and I enjoy the flexibility of the medium. However, I find that I lack a deeper understanding and practice of basic artistic concepts like perspective, tone, form, value as well as colour and light theory. These skills play a pivotal role in the process of creating an animated film from story and world building through concept art, to story boarding, modelling, shading, effects and lighting for animation and rendering . Colour and light in particular are essential tools in storytelling as both add dramatic depth and complexity to the atmosphere of each scene (Rangaswamy, 2000). My goal has always been to be able to convey a story effectively and for this digital animation project I intend to focus on colour and light to visually illustrate the narrative.

In order to achieve this directive I intend to approach this animation project as an intensive learning process. Through regular tutorials, practice and tutor feedback, I will study and understand the fundamentals of understanding perspective, form, value, and the observation of light and colour throughout production. The animation of the film will be in 2-dimensions and slightly limited, but I will not neglect to study and practice animation principles. I feel that at the end of this project I will have gained not only knowledge and experience on the different aspects of animation production but also a greater confidence of my own capabilities.



  1. Stringer, Martin D. ‘Rethinking Animism: Thoughts From The Infancy Of Our Discipline’. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5.4 (1999): 541. Web.
  2. The Dam Keeper. Tonko House, United States of America: Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, 2014. film.
  3. Kondo, Robert, and Dice Tsutsumi. ‘Lightbox – ‘The Dam Keeper’ Directors Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi (Pixar/Tonko House)’. YouTube. N.p., 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
  4. Feast. Disney: Patrick Osborne, 2014. film.
  5. Rangaswamy, Sudeep. ‘Visual Storytelling Through Lighting’. N.p., 2000. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Robin Goodfellow

Robin Goodfellow

Robin Goodfellow (Mudbox Head)


We were introduced to Mudbox in 3D class over a week ago and touched on the basics of the sculpting  and painting software. I really enjoy using Mudbox but I think I should focus on Maya and Z-Brush as both programs require a lot of time and commitment. Just by opening the program and taking a look at the user interface anyone can tell that it is a lot less complicated and overwhelming than Z-Brush. We were given a model of a generic human male head and after playing around with the different sculpt and paint tools I ended up with a faun or satyr looking character who I named Robin Goodfellow.

Dragon Quest: The Dragon Protection League


Dragon Quest: Dragon Protection League Comic

Over the summer I had the opportunity to do a booklet for Dragon Quest: An Outdoor Theatrical Event that is taking place in Dundee’s Monikie Park until November 1 2015. After I was given a rough draft of the manuscript I decided to turn it into a comic. I’m not very comfortable painting within the confines of line art so this test is a venture out of my comfort zone.

I think it was a good decision in the end as I had more fun than I expected. Especially when it came to picking colours. I hope I will have more opportunities to do more work in this style. It’s different from what I’m used to but I really like how it turned out.

I spent some time developing the look of the dragons and the look of the main character Kuuan, a female troll who is a formidable dragon hunter as well. She evolved from a fairy/mermaid character to a bearded viking and then to a steampunk hunter troll. I also illustrated a simple wanted poster of Kuuan for Dragon Quest.





Dragon Protection League Concept/Development Work


Kuuan the Dragon Hunter Concept Art & Illustration Test


Kuuan The Dragon Hunter Wanted Poster

How Disney’s Frozen is Regarded and Disregarded As a Progressive Modern Animated Feature

In 2013 Disney released its 53rd animated feature entitled Frozen, a film inspired by Hans Andersen’s “Snow Queen” (1844). The original text was given a Disney makeover, with some characters and story plots getting replaced or rearranged to suit Disney’s vision of an ideal animated feature that will please audiences from all demographics. As Frozen became the most successful Disney animated film to date with worldwide earnings of well over a billion dollars it is obvious that Disney is well skilled in their knowledge and execution in producing films that engage and entertain their audiences. Frozen is considered to be a progressive and modern story set within a fantastical fairy tale universe and it is adored and abhorred by viewers and critics alike.

This essay intends to analyse the visual language and story execution of the film and how it created varying responses and different interpretations from its viewers.

The fantastic visual style of the film is inspired by Scandinavian culture. (Solomon, C. 2013) It borrows heavily from Norway’s natural landscape, architecture, decor and costumes that also make up the design aesthetic for the film in terms of light, colour and atmosphere. The filmmakers used advanced technological innovation to animated the realistic yet also stylized snow, ice and other effects of the film including facial expressions and hair and cloth simulation. Background and characters are conceptualised and modelled after Disney’s best hand-drawn classics as well as it’s previous successful fairy tale release Tangled (2010). As the film is a musical it employs appealing and catchy music sung by recognisable performers to support and further illustrated its story. The film’s most popular song “Let It Go” has been translated and recorded into 41 different languages (Keegan, R. 2014) and it is considered to be the film’s lead promotional asset within the international market.

While Frozen is undeniably a Disney film, it does stand apart from its predecessors through certain aspects of its story execution. Many have praised its decision to feature two main female protagonists whilst also turning one into a reluctant antagonist at the same time. There is also further personalisation of the main protagonists; Princess Anna and Queen Elsa as opposite characters in terms of strength both physical and emotional, independence, capability and attitude. These storytelling choices have been regarded as a positive representation of the nuance and complexity of the female psyche. Even secondary characters are fleshed out and engaging, they work together to drive the story and none are entirely redundant. However it is the film’s treatment of the concept of ‘true love’ and its emphasis on unconditional love between siblings that audiences hail as a milestone in Disney storytelling (Evenson, C. 2014). The overall themes of accepting and loving oneself for who you are, self control, self sacrifice and morality reassures parents of impressionable children that Frozen would be a film they can learn valuable lessons from. All of these factors coupled with its stunning visual style and engaging music is perhaps one formula for a financially successful animated film.

Yet despite the many positive responses the film has received much criticism has been garnered for it as well. The philosopher Stefan Molyneux (2014) in particular has much criticism regarding storytelling and characterisation of its main protagonists. Not particularly impressed with the theme of unconditional familial love, Molyneux compares this trope to emotional abuse for despite years of rejection from her sister Anna willingly sacrifices her life to save Elsa’s. Citing this apparent lack of realistic psychological damage as a delusion and insult to victims of real childhood trauma, he continues by addressing the rampant sexism he had observed to be presented in the film. He begins with the opening sequence of the film where a group of men are seen toiling and cutting ice for consumption with much effort. What he infers from this scene is the comparison of how the ice is a metaphorical currency and men have to work hard for that currency whereas the female protagonist controls and produces ice with the wave of her fingers; a metaphor of how women are able to gain and control resources by the merit of their beauty and charm.

“So – why is the grueling pursuit of excellence such a common theme in men’s movies, but not in women’s?” 

(The Truth About Frozen, 2014)

This is a reoccurring theme in the film. As an example Molyneux cites Elsa’s ability to master her repressed abilities to the extent of building an entire castle in less than a minute, abilities that by every means she should have difficulties to control regardless of her emotional state. He also dislikes Anna’s ability to survive the blistering cold and her physical skill and dexterity that enables her to save Kristoff twice; a man with a lifetime experience of surviving outdoors. She knows how to expertly tie a knot and drive a carriage. Unlike the film Tangled (2010) and Brave (2012) whose protagonists are seen practicing their skills in montages, in Frozen’s context Anna has only be seen dancing through the empty halls of her castle and is not portrayed as having any physical or mental pursuits. Neither sisters in fact are seen being taught the ways of ruling a country yet are still embraced as rightful rulers.

There is much evidence that discuss and conclude that while Frozen is perhaps a small step in the right direction towards progression and feminism, the film itself is suffers from problems in storytelling and is not as gender equal or progressive as it makes out to be. However, it is a positive sign that any film that garners this much debate at all amongst viewers proves that people care about what they watch and have the desire for intellectual discussion.


    1. Frozen. (2013) Animated Film. Directed by Chris Buck, Jenifer Lee. [DVD] UK:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment;
    2. Solomon, Charles. The Art Of Frozen. Print.
    3. Tangled. Disney: Nathan Greno & Byron Howard, 2010. film.
    4. Rebecca, Keegan. ”Frozen’: Finding A Diva In 41 Languages’. latimes. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
    5. Candice, Evenson. ‘How Frozen’S Treatment Of True Love Transcends Our Expectations | The Artifice’. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
    6. Stefan Molyneux. 2014. The Truth about Frozen. [Online]. [Accessed 10 June 2014]. Available from: ;


  1. Andersen, Hans Christian (1983). The Snow Queen. The Complete Fairy Talesand Stories. trans. Erik Christian Haugaard. United States of America: Anchor Books;
  2. Block, Bruce A. The Visual Story. Amsterdam: Focal Press/Elsevier, 2008. Print.
    1. Joseph Campbell And The Power Of Myth – The Hero’s Adventure (1988) TvMini-Series. Directed by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers,[DVD] UK: Acorn;

KEY WORDS: Allegory. Cinematography. Characterisation. Sexism. Critical. Familial relationships.