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Shot #149 in storyboard form.

Storyboard & Animatic

One of the unique challenges of making shot #149 (and the rest of ARTICLES OF WAR) is how many major creative decisions I made at the beginning of the production. Because of the time and expense involved in creating animation, I only animated what I storyboarded, limiting my ability to “find” the movie in post-production (while plenty of storyboarded sequences hit the cutting room floor, there are exactly zero animated shots for me to include in the DVD’s “Deleted Scenes” section).

The creative choices I made in preproduction were decisions I just couldn’t afford to change once animation started, which really added to the pressure of creating an animatic with storyboard artist Rob Vargas and editor Jeff Yorkes. Thankfully, I found two artists who really understand animation – and since I’m pretty sure Rob and Jeff read the same issues of Cinefex that I did when I was a kid, we speak the same language.

Essentially an edited version of the film using storyboards in place of animation, the animatic for ARTICLES OF WAR served as an audio and visual bible of the entire production. In addition to visualizing my screenplay, Rob contributed many original ideas for staging the action, and Jeff wasn’t afraid to offer alternate choices when something wound up not working as planned.

Reference photo of the cobblestone
streets outside my studio.

Just like the script, the animatic went through several drafts. After holding a few ‘test screenings,’ I wound up adding a prologue and epilogue, giving the film a completely different ending than originally conceived.  Shot #149 was based on a scene that I added during this revision process. It was missing from the script Rob used to storyboard the film, but at the last minute I decided to go back to my first draft and rescue it from the cutting room floor. By this time, Rob had already wrapped his work on the film, so I drew the storyboards used to make shot #149 (examples of Rob’s incredible work is available in the storyboard gallery).

Drawn Animation & Background Paintings

Animated films generate a tremendous amount of artwork, and ARTICLES OF WAR is no exception. Warren O’Neill, a talented artist who’s worked for everyone from DreamWorks to the legendary Chuck Jones, designed and drew the characters. He brought his own unique style to the project, and embraced the limitations of the production (because I couldn’t afford full-blown, 24 frames-per-second animation, Warren was forced to convey physical action in as few drawings as possible). Telling an animator to actually draw less is never an ideal situation, but Warren always created strong poses that were a joy to animate.

Drawn animation by Warren O'Neill &
digital design by Daniel M. Kanemoto.

I was a painter long before I was an animator, and since it’s a muscle I rarely get to flex these days, I made the decision to paint all the backgrounds myself. In the past, I always trusted my old fashioned Windsor & Newton paintbrushes, but because of the schedule and the volume of work, I decided it was time to make the leap to using digital tools. I traded in my watercolors and drafting table for a Wacom tablet and Corel Painter, a software program that allows artists to paint in the computer using a pressure-sensitive computer pen. It all sounds like something out of TRON, and working in this new medium took some getting used to, but as soon as I discovered the “undo” command, I was hooked.

Background painting
by Daniel M. Kanemoto.

The primary artwork for shot #149 is a character designed and drawn by Warren composited into one of my background paintings. I painted the background first, imagining a shattered wasteland.

For inspiration, I just had to go for a walk (I don’t live anywhere near a shattered wasteland, but the look of the uneven cobblestone streets of my Greenwich Village neighborhood were just what I wanted for this scene). Warren tailored his pose of the dead German soldier to my painting, drawing a battered corpse slumped in a puddle of water.

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