by Francis Glebas
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
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.
AIM FOR CLARITY AND DRAMA
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.
CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
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.
HOW TO RIDE A CARPET AND NOT FALL OFF
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.