Creating an animated short… how hard can it be?

Part of the appeal of writing games, apart from the joy of just noodling around with code, is to tell stories. I’ve always had an interest in storytelling and how to present ideas. I’ve considered short story writing in the past, and it’s something that I might attempt properly at some point. But ultimately I’m a visual person, and would love to create my own short film.

Specifically an animated film. I’m not a professional animator, this is purely a hobby project and I’m learning as I go. I’d like to document my progress here (and have it mock me if my progress stalls!).

I’m making a short animated film set in England, in the late 80’s / early 90’s. It’s planned to be a coming-of-age tale, but the kind where no one really learns any life lesson. Except maybe years later, with the benefit of hindsight.

Since my drawing ability never progressed beyond drawing He-Man characters when I was 8 years old, the art style will stick with that.

Vaguely realistically proportioned characters, in a distinctly non-anime style.

I also want to cast, as much as possible, actors with Midlands, or Northern accents. It’s what I grew up with, and I don’t hear it enough in animation.

I’m basically creating something that looks like a Ralph Bakshi-written episode of He-Man… or if Kes was a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon!

As I said above, I’m not an animator, but I’ve played around with different animation software to try and see how they work. The one that I’ve enjoyed using the most is Moho. Ever since way back in the Moho 5 days, when they had a demo version for Linux that I could play around with. Since then it’s changed its name to Anime Studio (rubbish name) and back to Moho again. I picked up an older version (12.5) at a reduced price during a promotion. This version does everything that I need it to, and is intuitive to use.

It allows a character to be rigged with a skeleton and animated like a puppet. However, I find that I’m using that feature less and less. I prefer to draw keyframes and animated in a weird hybrid of frame-by-frame and vector point animation.

It’s kinda janky looking, but that’s exactly the look that I’m aiming for. Avoiding the smoothness of computer animation, and introducing just a hint of ugliness!

A short scene from the introduction is below;

The best thing about making this myself is that there are so many parts to making an animated short, that I can switch roles when I get burnt out on one particular part. I enjoy writing the script, sound mixing, storyboarding, character design, animation, all of it. There are two areas that I do need other people for though. Music and voice actors.

I’m scouring sources online to find punk music for the soundtrack that is either in the public domain or has a CC0 licence. I’ve found some good tracks so far, and they really catch the feel that I’m going for.

I’m also recording the voice of the main character myself since it just makes it easier if I can record his dialogue on the fly.

I do need other characters though, and lots of them. Some for brief scenes, and some for several appearances throughout the story. I’m relying on free voice actors for this which is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve been lucky so far in that the first actor who volunteered his vocal talents for free had the perfect voice for the character that I had in mind. It was for a short scene, and they nailed it.

Now, as I’m getting further along with writing the story, I’m hitting a wee roadblock. If I write a character with lots of dialogue, what if I can’t find someone to voice them? Should I just cut down their screentime, and use several one-shot characters instead?

The dialogue is also a little NSFW, not in an over-the-top way, but it can be out of some people’s comfort zone.

For now, the plan is to finish animating a short scene with dialogue, then I’ll finish writing the script with the idea that I’ll find someone, anyone, to voice it once it’s done. After that, I can show potential voice actors the finished segment, so they know what they’re letting themselves in for.






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