By: admin                Categories: AnimationGeneralInspiration

by Judy Kriger

Animated documentaries are an emerging trend in animation, as more filmmakers are turning to the craft to share real stories about actual events. The term “animated documentary” may seem contradictory, but there are advantages to choosing to animate over shooting film. For example, subjects who are nervous around cameras may look uncomfortable on film, or even worse, begin “performing,” distracting the viewer from the story being told. With no in-your-face equipment to interfere with the relationship between subject, director, and viewer, a stronger story emerges.

Here are 5 top examples of stories that have been enhanced by animated realism:

1. Waltz with Bashir: This Oscar-nominated example of animated realism uses an edgy, unique, 2D Flash-animated technique to convey a soldier’s struggle to understand his emotional battle scars and come to terms with what happened during his tour of duty. The intentional, natural imperfection of the hand-drawn animated line coupled with the voiceover pulls the audience into the filmmaker’s story in an intimate and powerful way.

2. Still Life with Animated Dogs:The Peabody award-winning animated documentary by husband and wife team Paul and Sandra Fierlinger uses hand-drawn animation and narration to describe their memories of different dogs they’ve owned and the life-lessons they’ve learned as a result. This piece is a thoughtful and personal look at the importance of being keen observers of nature. The honest beauty of their drawings, created using TVPaint software, gives this moving and vulnerable set of stories depth and grace while remaining accessible.

3. The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation: John Canemaker’s Oscar-winning animated film about his relationship with his late father is poignant and painfully humorous. Combining sequences of hand-drawn animation with photos and actual newspaper headlines about his father, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation tells the story of an imaginary, though intensely desired, conversation Canemaker has with his father, who died in 1995.

4. The Man Who Planted Trees: Technically, this piece is not a documentary, though the tone and subject matter of the narrative feels as if it is. Animated with pastel and pencil on frosted cels, Frederic Back created this beautiful Oscar-winning film in 1987. An animated Impressionist painting of sorts, the film contains thousands of lushly illustrated landscapes and studies of human motion which describe how to make the world a better place.

5. Persepolis: Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, this Oscar-nominated animated feature is an intense yet humorous take on her experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Created entirely in black and white, its style perfectly mimics the extreme, stark political world Satrapi grew up in.

Animation is the only art form that combines all forms of creative expression. The most successful animators have the timing of a dancer, the eye of a cinematographer, and the storytelling abilities of a gifted raconteur. Whether utilizing CG and visual effects or a more traditional hand drawn style, animation is all about mixing compelling stories with inventive visual techniques. Animated documentaries are the latest in a rich history of entertaining outcomes.


Judy Kriger is a Los Angeles, CA-based independent filmmaker and animator. She has worked professionally in the entertainment industry for over eighteen years on various projects for film, broadcast, video games, and the web. Ms. Kriger’s credits include Cats and Dogs”, Antz, A Simple Wish, and many others. She is an alumna of the Rhode Island School of Design and the California Institute of the Arts and is an Assistant Professor of Film and Television at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University. Ms. Kriger teaches introductory and advanced courses in 3D animation production and is supervising the creation of the Digital Arts Senior films.

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By: admin                Categories: Inspiration

by Francis Glebas


A story is like a giant knot that we have to unravel and show the audience how all the pieces connect in a linear way and then tie it all back up for them at the end. It’s not about creating the drawings as much as deciding which images should be shown and when.


Often, beginner’s work can be boring and confusing. It helps to remember the old acronym, KISS–Keep It Simple, Stupid! Fight confusion with learning how to be clear.


Disney’s Aladdin is the story of the beggar, Aladdin, who, with the help of a genie, pretends to be a prince in order to meet a princess who’s pretending to be a commoner. The “Whole New World” sequence was one of the first storyboard projects I worked on that involved the dramatic irony of information being withheld from the characters. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows more than the characters do and this causes a tension in the viewer as they wish for the character to do the right thing. This made the sequence more fun to storyboard.

Aladdin takes Princess Jasmine on a magic carpet ride. The ride concludes with them watching Chinese fireworks from the rooftop of a Chinese pagoda. Aladdin and Princess Jasmine talk about living in a palace. The dramatic irony comes from us knowing that he’s dreaming and she actually lives there. He knows that she is a princess and so does the audience.

Aladdin pretends to be the great “Prince Ali” in order to impress Princess Jasmine. The tension mounts because “Prince Ali” is afraid that he will be found out to be merely the beggar, Aladdin. The audience knows that Jasmine is unimpressed with Prince Ali. In fact, Jasmine only agreed to go with Prince Ali because she suspects that Ali is really Aladdin, whom she has fallen for.

Jasmine throws out openings allowing the opportunity for Aladdin to come clean. She guesses, “You are the boy from the market.”

Aladdin’s in the hot seat; he believes that she won’t like him if she knows the truth. Instead of telling her the truth, he digs himself deeper into the deception saying that he, like her, sometimes pretends to be a commoner to escape the pressures of palace life. Because she has done this herself, she buys his story.

We know that if he tells the truth, she will still love him. Little does the audience know, however, that if Aladdin tells the truth then the story tension is over.

What’s interesting about the scene is how the carpet and the genie, who also know the truth, react to Aladdin’s deception. They’re stand-ins for the audience reacting as we do. They know Aladdin blew it.

The situation gets worse: before Aladdin can tell her the truth, the tables are turned when Jafar, the villain, gets his hands on the magic lamp. This time Jafar knows the truth, but not Aladdin or Jasmine. Whoever has knowledge also has power. These discrepancies of knowledge keep dramatic interests high.

To learn more about dramatic irony watch, “Stranger than Fiction”. This film is like a whole course in it.


Learn how to ride the wild carpet by putting your heart and soul into your work and then letting it go. All writing is rewriting and all storyboarding is re-storyboarding. Learn that it takes time for a story to find itself. Keep searching. I’ve often said it’s the storyboard artist’s job to show the director what they don’t want. In this way, they can find the treasure they’re after.

I’m off to try to be better than my last film…


Francis Glebas, Phd. in Fantasy, is the author of Directing the Story: Professional Storyboarding and Storytelling Techniques for Live Action and Animation, an award-winning director, and an artist, teacher, and the world’s worst magician. He has directed Fantasia 2000‘s Donald Duck sequence, Piglet’s BIG Movie, and Gnomon’s VES tribute to John Lasseter and storyboarded on many iconic Disney features, including Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas. Francis is currently storyboarding for Blue Sky Studios and hard at work on a new animation book for Focal Press.

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By: admin                Categories: General

Hello from your friends at Focal Press! We’ve lined up content from many of our authors and authors-to-be for our new animation-focused blog, and we’ll be posting every week or so to start out with. We hope you like what you see! Also, please feel free to get in touch if you have a topic you’d like to see a blog about or if you want to write a guest post. Email me, Anais Wheeler, at or follow me/get in touch on Twitter @FocalAnais. Thanks for reading!

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

By Francis Glebas

Art schools can teach you how to draw, about color, how to animate, and how to use 3D computer software, but nobody prepares you for the emotional journey of the film business. It’s a roller coaster ride wilder than a magic carpet. There’s the searching for a job and, then, when you’ve got one, there’s the constant need to excel and be entertaining with your work.

My first job in animation was painting cells on a night crew on Tubby the Tuba done at N.Y. I. T.’s Computer Graphics Lab. I hated being on a night crew, but I was paying my dues and I was in the door. I worked my way up over the years to become lead animator. After the release of The Little Mermaid, Disney was actively recruiting and I got a job in story and visual development. We would design settings, characters, and gags for the film. My first film was Aladdin.

A Whole new cast of characters…


My first professional experience of storyboarding was on Disney’s Aladdin. I had storyboarded before, but this was different–this was the big time. I was given the scene where Aladdin is supposed to distract a merchant while his accomplice, Abu, his monkey, steals some food. I had the script, paper, and pencils. I was all set–so I thought, until I realized that storyboarding is really the first pass at directing! My reaction? Total panic! I had tons of questions and no place to get answers. How many drawings do I use? What are story beats? How much detail do I put in? Where do I put the camera? Why? When do I cut? What will make it creative? What are they looking for? What’s my goal…?

What did I do? What could I do? Well, other storyboard artists made lots of drawings, so I just started making lots of drawings.

Then came time to pitch the sequence. It was a giant mess. You didn’t know where the characters were. The pacing was all off. Worst of all it wasn’t “entertaining.” In fact, it was boring and confusing. Then came even worse news: the director, John Musker, suggested that maybe I couldn’t storyboard. “NOOO!” I screamed. (The scream was in my head, of course.)

John and co-director Ron Clements had liked my visual development ideas and character designs so they took me off storyboarding and put me back in visual development. I was given a new task of developing the magic carpet ride. I had to prove myself…but how?

Once again, I had the script, paper, and pencils and I started drawing. No, it’s probably more correct to say that this time I started creating images. I found the key beats of the scene. I started to see a connection between images and began putting them in sequential order. I added drawings to connect ideas and make it flow.

I pitched the new sequence as continuity. This was the beginning of A Whole New World, and it became a whole new world for me. They put me back in storyboarding and the sequence went on to win the academy award for best song.

…check back for the rest of the story!


Francis Glebas, Phd. in Fantasy, is the author of Directing the Story: Professional Storyboarding and Storytelling Techniques for Live Action and Animation, an award-winning director, and an artist, teacher, and the world’s worst magician. He has directed Fantasia 2000‘s Donald Duck sequence, Piglet’s BIG Movie, and Gnomon’s VES tribute to John Lasseter and storyboarded on many iconic Disney features, including Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas. Francis is currently storyboarding for Blue Sky Studios and hard at work on a new animation book for Focal Press.

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