May28
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

Tell the story in a “ sequence of juxtaposed images. ” 5 The most important thing to remember when storyboarding is to make sure your sequence of images is telling the same story that you think you are telling. It is all too easy to assume that they are doing so, but you need to pitch the story to people and then see if they got the same story and the message you intended.

Three Little Pigs has a simple repetitive structure that even children learn how to tell easily. It begins, “ Once upon a time, there were three little pigs… ”

Our picture says, “ Here are three pigs. ” Already we have a small problem. These pigs could be little or gigantic. We don’t have a frame of reference.

Compared to the tree we can see that we have three “little” pigs. Size is always a comparison between things.

Here we have the wolf and the three pigs. But we have introduced a new problem. There is nothing happening. How do we show the pigs are afraid of the wolf?

This image says, “A wolf is chasing three scared pigs.” But since this happens later in the story, we don’t want to show the wolf yet. How do we show the pigs afraid of the wolf without showing the wolf?

Here is one idea. Here the drawing shows the pigs are looking at a picture of the wolf. However, since we can’t see their faces, we don’t know they are afraid. In this drawing their body language doesn’t suggest fear, maybe more curiosity.

Here is an alternate approach. You can’t literally show what is in a character’s mind. This is a comic strip device. It is kind of a cheat. Search until you find just the right image that conveys the story.

At this point we don’t even know that the tracks come from the wolf. It could be any large animal, but it shows the pigs are scared by what they see. We know that the Three Little Pigs story contains a wolf and not other large animals. So the context suggests that the prints were made by the wolf. Context indirectly conveys a lot of information.

Here is a totally different approach. This says that the pigs are mourning someone. They seem sad rather than scared. This time, the context suggests that they are mourning another pig—maybe a family member. We might have gone too far afield with this approach.

If this image was shown at the end of the story, we could assume it was the wolf’s grave. Their smiles contextually reinforce the idea that it is the wolf’s grave. Maybe a small statue of the wolf on top of the tombstone would reinforce the idea that it is the wolf’s grave.

Keep searching till you find the right image for your particular story needs.

Drawings are interesting when they ask questions embedded within the image. In other words, when you look at them you want to know more. This is the essence of storyboarding—images that raise questions and leave you wanting to know more. You want to know what made the tracks or who the pigs are mourning.


Since she can no longer keep the pigs, their mother sends them out into the world to make their fortunes and warns them about the craftiness of the wolf. This is the theme of the story: Act wisely and carefully. This image is exactly what we don’t want to do—show a “talking head.” We want to demonstrate the theme by the action of the story, not having someone tell it to us.

Showing the mother teaching the pigs is about as interesting as going to school. If we have to show it in a way something like this image, we need to find ways to make it interesting.

How do we make it interesting? One way to do this is to give the pigs personalities. We could have two of the pigs act like class clowns, and they make fun of the third pig playing the part of the teacher’s pet. Watching their antics makes the image interesting while the mother conveys her thematic information. There are many ways to tell your story.

Little details such as body language, gestures, and props suggest their character traits. Maybe they play different musical instruments. Perhaps the teacher’s pet pig dances ballet. It is all up to your imagination. Be aware that their personalities have to fi t in the context of the story. Maybe the ballet dancing pig is a little too out there for this story.

Let’s move our story along. The three pigs leave home to go out into the world. We will follow their journey. But we better make sure that something happens or our audience will lose interest. Let’s begin.

Okay, they are leaving home. Wait, how do we know that? They could just be going for a hike. We have to show their home. That is better, but this could be any house. How do we show it is the pig’s house?

Yes, this is the pig’s house. But, we want to show it with images, not rely on words. We could show their mother waving good-bye.

Okay, now we have our opening shot. This is a storytelling image that clearly shows three little pigs leaving home, and who are afraid of a wolf. Will the three little pigs be able to survive the wolf?

But that is a mouthful. When we speak we can only say one word at a time. Our image says four things at once: There are three little pigs, they are leaving home, they are afraid, and there are scary animal tracks.

The way we tell a story with pictures is to break it down into a series of images that each show one thing at a time, just like when we speak in sentences. One idea comes after another.

Excerpt from Directing the Story by Francis Glebas © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group All Rights Reserved.

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