An animated/live mixed mini-short about a strange device that processes emotions in the name of science
We are really pleased to be featured in the latest March issue of Computer Arts detailing the work that went into creating the children’s interactive storybook, Galdo’s Gift.
Here’s a snippet of the content with a link at the end to where the complete article and magazine can be found. As well as a fantastic five page article on us :-) and the latest on the world of digital creators, there is invaluable information for anyone considering starting their own creative business.
From Computer Arts (March Issue 2019):
Genesis of Galdo
Eleanor Long and Trevor Young
Galdo’s Gift: The Boovie was the culmination of a style of illustration and animation we had been developing for a while. We had a story that originated from a short poem and it seemed the perfect vehicle to demonstrate and consolidate the skill sets of our new studio. As the story evolved we tested it with children aged five through to 11. This gave us invaluable feedback on the age of our readers, how they understood the story, what they found funny, their favourite bits and so on.
With regards to the story, it’s the tale of a frog, King Galdo, who sends four robust little heroes out to the far corners of Galdovia to bring back a very special gift for the reader. Only, he’s not quite ready for what they return with.
We were intrigued by the idea of a book that comes alive and talks directly to the reader, and keen to play with the possibilities of the digital storybook format. We knew it would work well with our playful style of animation.
Creating the characters and sets
Our personal interests and strengths often form the basis of what each of us does. Trevor has drawn figures throughout his life, so he drew and developed the characters, monsters and creatures. My interest has always been in landscapes and the environment, so I worked on the landscapes, seascapes and interior shots…
The cover image below takes you to a site where you can purchase your own copy of Computer Arts in either digital or print form…
When we’ve showed off Galdo’s Gift at book fairs and the like we often get the comment ‘it must have been a lot of work’. Our most common response is ‘absolutely… actually, probably too much work’.
Galdo’s Gift, for those of you who are new here, is a Boovie. The fact that you have probably never heard of a Boovie demonstrates just how much work we put into a project such as this. I shall explain…
A ‘Boovie’ is our term for what Galdo’s Gift is. Neither a book or a movie, it is a unique blend of the two. A lovingly constructed hybrid that needed it’s own name to describe how much it is not an ebook. Well, ok, it is an ebook, although it pains me to say it. I’m sorry, ebook, you’re just a bit… well… boring. There, I’ve said it. You’re grey … mostly. Sure, there are times when you break out into colour, but mostly you are happy being grey.
So Galdo’s Gift is a Boovie®; a glorious technicoloured extravanganza of eccentric animation and wordplay in storybook form.
As animators, we wanted to play with the idea of an old tome magically springing to life. A welcoming book that talks directly to the child.
Our ethos was ‘no child left behind’; creating over 250 fun pop up definitions that are explained simply in the context of the story itself. A child can add their name in the ‘this book belongs to…’ label at the beginning to see it become part of the story. They can tap on King Galdo himself (voiced by veteran actor Brian Murphy) to hear him read the verse as the words highlight. They can find the numbers hidden within the animated movie illustrations to unlock a secret page.
And all this whilst listening to a beautiful soundtack too! Yep, it was a lot of work .. possibly too much work.
If you would like to find out more about how we created Galdo’s Gift and find out how you can get it for yourself or gift to another, join us over on galdosgift.com
So, our first of regular weekly "Paper & Pixels" videos taking you through all aspects of animation and animated story production.
They will become more polished as we progress, so please except this is a little rough and ready to start!
Tapocketa Studio is a new indie UK animation studio who were recently commissioned by Faber Music to work with them and Keaton Henson, a musician, visual artist and poet. The brief was to create a single webpage animating Keaton’s artwork in the lead up to the release of 'The Tallowmere Annual', a collection of his works. Here, Trevor Young, co-founder and animator at Tapocketa Studio details the process and reflects on how Welcome to Tallowmere shows how not all landing pages are, or should be, created equal.
A Long Way From Galdovia
Starting work on 'Welcome to Tallowmere' took quite a mental leap from our previous project, a children’s interactive book. In a brief period of time we’d gone from the colour and pomp of the land of Galdovia in Galdo’s Gift to the dark and haunting town of Tallowmere. The two places linked only by a tree swaying in the wind that caught the interpretative eye of Jack Halsey at Faber Music. He saw it as something that would work, albeit with very different styling, for the motion they wanted to bring to the artwork of Keaton Henson, a musician and talented artist whose ink wash images echo the dark melancholy of his music. One of these paintings would be animated to create an online page that would build curiosity for the release of a book of Keaton’s artworks, writings and music (the reader can plug their headphones into the book to hear a specially composed track that accompanies the words and imagery).
Where to begin
The tree animation was the starting point. As time went on, we added animation to various other elements. Heavy clouds began to roll across the sky, telegraph cables swayed in the wind, birds darted across distant skies. Elements of the painting could be orchestrated into action at various intervals in the lead up to the book’s release. The image could evolve and that was an exciting prospect.
A single cryptic social post from Keaton opened the doors to his many fans who curiously mulled over what they found, exchanging excited queries over what it all meant and puzzling over what was about to arrive.
Another post from Keaton and his followers would find something strange had happened to the windows in the image. Intermittently a window would light up and become a bright cutout (alluding to images in the book that also contain objects in the image that have been ‘cut out’ to leave blank shapes). Then after a short time the window would return to it’s original state. Something had changed. Clicking on one of these windows slowly reveals a panel with an image of a long abandoned object; a hint to a story yet to be told.
All this set against the eerie soundscape of Tallowmere; distant howling, the bleak wind through the abandoned streets. Stay a while and you’ll hear Keaton’s soulful piano music begin to play, a dark serenade to accompany your visit to Tallowmere.
Here, a single online page could evolve and adapt over time to build a pathway to the final reveal of the book. A page that showed itself to be organic; changing and growing, hinting and enticing, adaptive and responsive.
Although an unfolding precursor to the main event, it showed that something that was in essence a landing page could become something of an artwork in it’s own right…
Extra info: Early stages of 'Welcome to Tallowmere' allowed visitors to register to receive notification of the final reveal. When revealed to be a book, visitors could click through to be taken to a pre-order page or, as it is now, purchase The Tallowmere annual.
Ok, first things first, what's a Boovie?
It's our word for something that's not a book and is not a movie, it's a hybrid of both. Every page has an animated illustration, a short looping movie that brings rich and colourful images to life (basically a very enhanced ebook -but we are not keen on the word 'ebook').
We've developed various inventive techniques for creating an animating these illustrations and were asked recently about the process and how it could help children learn when producing our first Boovie, Galdo's Gift.
So we decided to make a short video to explain ourselves. It's one of our first, so please be kind.
The stuff of our nightmares are rarely under the bed or in the wardrobe (unless you are a fashion stylist perusing inside my wardrobe), they are out there in our everyday world. As a child these demons surfaced in the form of the school bully, a vindictive teacher or the embodiment of all evil, Brussels sprouts. Sorry Brussels sprout lovers.
It's something to bear in mind when breathing life into monsters for children's books. Do you want them to represent these fears? Oftentimes humans can quite happily fulfill this role anyway. Additionally, fear of creatures other than ourselves isn't really the noblest of objectives when comes to wonderful world of children's literature.
We also need to avoid creating actual nightmares for our more sensitive readership. A bad actor in an laughably unconvincing rubber creature costume on Doctor Who could scare the proverbials out of me when I was five years old. We certainly don't want to cause sleepless nights.
Thankfully, our technique of constructing our creatures out of constituent parts has allowed us to mix and match to find the perfect look for everything from enormous rabid blood-sucking bats to giant screaming snakes.
Sweet dreams, everyone.
For a while now we here a Tapocketa have been wondering what we can offer to our subscribers whilst we are still busy building and promoting Galdo's Gift. The book is going to take a while before it is finished and we are grateful for the following that we are accruing, we want to give something back in the meantime.
We've been looking at putting messages into our scenes, something that people would love to share with friends on social media. So we are building a selection of great quotes that not only have strong associations with our scenes but that would work well when placed out of context on a timeline on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.
We will soon put out a link to a page of these messages that can be shared for free. We have also been thinking about putting out personalised versions on request if there is interest in doing so.
For now here is one of the first (share by clicking on the paper plane symbol that appears in the top right corner (desktop/laptop: it sometimes only appears when you hover the pointer over the video, mobile: try rotating your phone, as it only seems to appear if the video is of a larger scale on your device)...
What a noble specimen of heroics. What a dashing, noble knight. No wonder they have chosen to immortalise him with such dynamic realism. Wait a minute, did he just move? No...maybe not.
As I was saying, he seems just the sort of unflinching, bold hero we need for our tale. What a fitting tribute to him this very realistic painting is... no wait, he moved again. Did nobody see it this time? I'm not sure whether my mind is playing tricks on me.
Anyway, to get back to what I was saying... no there it is again. Hang on, this is no painting. No wonder it is so lifelike; Sir Strompliff is that you? I'm not sure the hero we need is the sort that has to be his own portrait in his spare time.
Although heroes are pretty rare these days, so you might just have to do.
Mesmerising isn't it? There's something so relaxing about watching a squirrel chomping away over and over again, forever.
This is just one of the many critters that inhabits Galdovia and many of them lead very repetitive lives, but they don't mind. They find something comforting in the familiar, even if it is familiar frequently as in the case of old 'scoff chops' here.
If he reminds you of an old Christmas nutcracker toy soldier, then top marks to you. For those of you dribbling and scratching your head in bemusement, a diagram is in order....
Essentially a wooden toy for cracking walnuts shells and releasing the tasteless walnutty goodness within.
As good a starting inspiration as any, no?
Well, now I'm all at sea. Things are not all they seem when you look at them from a different angle. What was once so substantial now seems wafer-thin.
But that works both ways; small and thin, inconsequential elements can be put together to build something quite substantial. Unremarkable individual pieces can be constructed to create something to capture the imagination.
Now something that once seemed an unremarkable collection of parts can become a wonderful window into a weird world...
So the heroine of our story, Brendara, is not looking herself.
Not sure why, she just seems distant, aloof, not her old self. Is it the hair? I don't think so. Maybe the clothes, a new hat, perhaps? No, she's always had that hat, she's always had those clothes.
Maybe the chin? Hmmm, Brendara thinks so, so we are going to try some other chins. Let's see...
So tricky, some make her look too sinister, some make her look too stupid (sorry, Brendara).
Ladies and gentleman, after all the votes have been counted and verified, we have a winner.
No that's more like it.
"So no point being a bat if you can't flap around in caves, fly around folks' heads and generally cause a nuisance.
Hmmm...but there's some else missing. Yeah, how am I going scare people if I can't make a scary noise? I need to find something that makes a noise I like and make a noise like that.
Ahhh...I remember the old days when evil master Vosperlich used to play ball with me through the caves. He would throw the ball as far as he could down through the caves and I would chase after it as fast as my little green wings could flap. Oh happy days! Other bats would say he was just trying to get rid of me for a bit so he could carry on with his evil experiments, but they were just jealous he wanted to play with me.
Oh, how I remember the ball's squeaks would echo through the cave as it bounced off the walls. I loved that squeaky ball. That's it! That's the sound I shall make, how wonderful! I shall squeak as loud as I can and maybe one day my master will hear the squeaks and come back and play!"
'Away inside a distant cliff face, our brave heroine bravely battles away again a colony of fearsome foes...'
What? What do you mean she's not there? Your kidding, right? Don't tell me the fearsome foes are late as well. What kind of show is this? They were supposed to be here days ago. Don't tell me they're stuck in traffic; I won't believe you. There is no traffic around here.
I suppose all we can do is admire the view until they arrive.
As you can see the cave here is made up of many layers to create a picture book/pop up book feel or perhaps like a stage play set. Like a stage play, the set is all important in setting the scene. We need to consider where our actors will be placed, how they will be lit and how their surroundings will compliment this.
Cramming our set with too much detail may detract from the main action on the characters. Colours need to be carefully considered so that they work alongside the colour of the characters and the lighting. We are using a lot of fairly saturated colour lighting and this can alter the perceived colour of the set.
'So I killed a bit of time there to give them time to show up. Still not here? Oh my, maybe tomorrow then.'
Now the stage is set for one of our first scenes. Awaiting the arrival of our brave knight on his shimmering steed. Oh, and lets not forget the serpents. What's the point of having a brave knight if he just roams the countryside admiring the view and then just trundles home in time for tea with no combat involved?
Might pop a few snails in there for good measure.
This is one of our first virtual sets by Eleanor Long and will be one of the first scenes to be completed for our children's poetry book.
'Chomp, slurp, crunch, what you looking at? What a guy can't eat his lettuce in peace now?'
Oh, I'm sorry, I apologise for my 'friend's' rudeness here, it's very difficult to find snails with the manners required for our book. Most of them just leave slime everywhere and munch on leaves all day. As time is short I guess he will have to do.