We made a slightly different animation for MyCashflow online store service. Unlike many features-in-your-face productions, this one was more about story, funky characters and even Ren & Stimpy –style money shot moments. In this blog post I’ll tell you how we designed and executed the entire show.
Blank check situation
The main character’s dog Bucks is not the brightest dog around. Or is he?
Our client gave us complete freedom in scriptwriting and designing the animation. We immediately opted for a story and character centered approach, keeping the amount of information in balance with storytelling elements. We also looked at traditional (features+benefits) product presentations and thought most of them were quite boring. We wanted to do something much more entertaining and tongue-in-cheeck, without losing the product, but making it a part of the story.
Character concepts for our main character ”Brenda”.
I had three concrete references for the style of the animation. John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy showwas definately one of them. Not so much the off-color humor, but the juicy close-up images or ”money shots” was something that I thought were brilliant. We used close-ups to highlight certain elements in the story.
An early sketch and final version of the liverwurst moneyshot.
Another important reference was LucasArts’ Day of The Tentacle, an adventure game. It utilizes clever, exaggerated perspective to support the mood, characters and sense of space in the story. The concept image below with our main character’s desk is a good example of this style, with a fish-eye lens like appearance, making every straight line curved.
Our mood-setting anti character was changed from a worker to a supernerd. Bernard is also the name of the main character in Day of The Tentacle.
Fish-eye lens like distortions for bendy lines.
The finnish cartoonist and children’s book author Mauri Kunnas is also one of my favorites in this genre. Above all his detailed environments and watercolor textures were something we wanted to incorporate in our animation. In Kunnas’ 1984 childrens book ”Yökirja” (nightbook), there is a scene where a worker is eating a very juicy sausage for a night snack. In our animation, the main character and her dog have a craving for salty (and juicy) liverwurst, by ”Markun Herkku”, named loosely after Mauri Kunnas’ memorable juicy sausage.
Initial sketches for the main character’s dog ”Bucks”.
Good references aside, all the credit for executing this fusion of styles goes to our super talented illustrator Valtteri Heinonen.
After finishing the script, we moved to the storyboard phase, followed by simple colorboard.
We wanted the story, character and information elements to be well balanced, and make the product features a seamless part of the story. It was also important to try and link as many actions as possible to introduce humor, character features and little details. Every action needed to have a purpose.
The supernerd character Bernard in the beginning acted as a tone setter (tongue-in-cheeck) right from the start, to let the audience know that strange things might occur in this animation – like Bernard transforming into Brenda. The supernerd character was also ”discarded” in the beginning to emphasize that you don’t have to be a hard-core programmer dude to use MyCashflow. Notice also in the end, that we see Bernard in the background, checking for some nice shoes to replace his old sandals!
Brenda’s dog Bucks is also an interesting character. At first he might seem to be slightly on the slow side, just craving for regular doses of salty liverwurst, not even noticing flies going in and out his head. But this is a misconception! If you look closely who’s actually operating the computer... Bucks is actually quite a smart doggy!
The final animation was done using a combination of traditional frame-by-frame and 2D animation. Frame-by-frame animations have that lovely hand made look and feel, like in the old Warner Brothers animations from the 50’s, but even today they are extremely laborous to do, despite the digital tools we have today.
(By the way if you’re into old cartoons, you should definately check out the Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons exhibition in Espoo Museum of Modern Art)
While waiting for possible sequel, check out the final animation below!