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Changing Tack: storytelling through stop-motion animation

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: Cambridge School of Art
Course: BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation
Category: Art and design

27 January 2020

In my third and final year of studying Illustration and Animation I wanted to create a fun and amusing animation that all ages could enjoy. The idea behind my animation Changing Tack came about from typical student procrastination!

Discovering a stocking filler I once received as a child, I realised it could prove useful in developing an idea for my final animation.

The toy, an illustrative portrait encompassed in a circular container, had a metal link nose which was moveable. Spending hours and hours shaking the container to make the drawn character have different malleable noses made me think: what if I we had wiggly noses?!  I needed to work out how best to tell a story using a character with a wiggly nose.

After working through several thoughts and sketches I finally reached the proposal of expressing a wobbly nose using a moving character such as a jockey. The movement provided by a jockey sitting on a horse would, I thought, provide a comical wiggly nose.

Now I had my character, by designing character turnarounds and researching jockey mannerisms I could develop a narrative for the animation. Selecting the locations and specific movements helped narrow my ideas into a concise story, which will grip the audience with a fun twist.

Colour illustration of a jockey riding a horse
A jockey is seen from different angles in eight colour illustrations by Jenna Borley
Portrait of a man, with a metal chain which is shaped to form the person's profile

The story will show a small jockey, N. Eddie, getting ready for his race with other jockeys in the tack room. N. Eddie will then be called to the race where we will see the effects of the race on his nose and also the change in tack he has when the race is underway. Having more than one location in my story will help to provide direction and create a sense of place, but I decided to limit them to two, because my animation process is lengthy.

Creating a storyboard of events allowed me to visualise my ideas and see what camera shots/angles would improve the storytelling. Once happy with the finalised storyboard, I added the camera shots and marked where sound will be added. Titles, credits and other elements will help to tell the story too.

To make sure that my storytelling is convincing, I turned the storyboard into an animatic (a moving version of itself). This helped me to see if the length of the story worked well and also allowed me to test also how the camera pans and movements would help to further explain the story.

When I begin the animating process I will first animate by hand, then take the frames, laser cut them and re-film them in a set. The process therefore includes both hand drawn and stop motion animation.  I only have a small window to make the sets and the animation, so keeping the story concise helps to restrict my ambition.

I am about to start the animating process and have recently acquired a horse racing commentator to bring the race atmosphere to life and help tell the story, which is very exciting.

By Jenna Borley, BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation
Published to mark National Storytelling Week 2020

See more of Jenna's work at https://jennamay.myportfolio.com


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