For one of my performances I decided I wanted to use an inanimate object and give it a character. While I was brainstorming and thumbnailing potential objects I could use such as a bottle, a chair, a mug, I was drinking a cup of tea, and I decided that a kettle/teapot would be a very good idea. So I began by thumbnailing some character designs. To me, kettles seem like very angry objects as they’re literally boiling and sweating, and traditionally old fashioned ones make loud screams when they’ve boiled. These ideas seemed like a good starting point to base my character and story on.
I created a very simple storyboard and animatic on storyboard pro. The story is made up of two very simple scenes. It begins with the teapot being filled up with water, then hopping over the kitchen counter onto the stove where he gets stuck. The hotter the pot gets, the more he steams and the angrier he gets till he finally explodes.
I tried to apply some of Ed Hooks’ theory to make this story such as starting the scene in the middle, not at the beginning. When we are introduced to the teapot he is already being filled up with water and carrying out a task. His objective is to transport the water to the stove to boil it, his action to get there is by hopping along the counter, until he meets his obstacle and gets stuck on the stove. Now his new objective is getting off the stove before it’s too late, his action to get over this obstacle is to pull and stretch, until finally it’s too late and he overheats and boils failing in his objective.
I knew the hardest part would be to animate the teapot jumping convincingly, so I decided to break it up. I first animated a simple ball bounce to get the timing to how I thought would be right for the teapot. Then once that was done I drew the basic shapes of the teapot on a different layer and keyframed the movements over the bouncing ball. This is where I played with the squash and stretch of the teapot and the rotation. I paid a lot of attention to getting the arcs of its movement right. Since this is a very cartoony story with a living teapot that explodes, I decided I should make the teapot’s movements quite cartoony.
I then used this animation test as a guide for animating the real teapot in the scene. The mistake I made with this animation was animating it on 1s. When I came to animate the rest of the animation I did most of it on 2s, as it looked more cartoony and saved a lot of time. This created a problem when trying to trace this guide later on as some of the nice movements, and squash and stretch was lost, So I had to modify the animation for that.
An important thing I did learn while working on this animation was the importance of flipping drawings like in traditional animation. Working in a traditional animation workflow, I found using the onion skin feature not very reliable especially when animating faces. Sometimes mass would be lost if I drew something working only from the onion skin, so to keep my drawing on model I was constantly smashing the arrow keys to go back and forth through the frames. This is advice I got from a lot of places when watching tutorials on solid drawing and traditional animation.
To make the travelling background, I created a wide canvas in Photoshop and began to illustrate the background on it. I kept it simple as I didn’t want it to be the focus. When I was done I just imported it into Toon Boom and animated it sliding in sync with the teapot’s hops.
I had a lot of trouble when animating the fire and the explosion as I had never done that kind of animation before. So I read chapter 5 of Elemental magic by Joseph Gilland To improve my animation. I learnt that for fires and explosions, a straight ahead animation approach is the best, as these things are unpredictable and can’t easily be planned and inbetweened. So when animating the fire I just let the flames decide which direction they were going in and just followed that. I knew that the fire would always point upwards and bits of flame would break off and fly up, but other than that there wasn’t much structure. The challenging part was making the animation loop, to do that I had to use the onion skin and inbetween. But for the most part, I avoided using the onion skin so that I could make the animation feel natural.