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2.13.04 Reinventing Lucy

Original Lucy drawing

One thing that helped with the transition between career woman and second-career woman was a project Maria and I took on for a group in Allegany County. The idea was to promote a new collaborative way of doing business. Maybe because we were sick of real people and their release forms, we decided to make the movie an animation. Fools rush in...

The movie would star Lucy, our favorite actress -- because she is me with my voice altered to sound like a thoughtful teenage girl. Lucy had provided voiceover for a couple productions. In this one, she would be on screen playing a teenage mother in a heap of trouble.

We wrote the script and, before Christmas, got a group together to do the voices. We'd been poking along with this project for a while, but our customers finally said they needed it done by a meeting they were having on January 16.

During Christmas in St. Louis it loomed over me. It became "that damn video" in my journal. I was dreading the task of drawing and animating.

Last summer I did my first "animation." It was a spur of the moment thing: quick drawings, a little eye movement and head nodding. The project was a success. I felt like a genius.

Link to AmazonSo then I go read books on animation. It is very inspiring to see the whole craft of moving figures laid out in lush detail. But I get stuck, then, thinking I need to have the figures in this little project look like vintage Walt Disney.

It was an interesting feeling to come back from St. Louis and realize that I didn't have to squeeze this project into evenings and weekends. Liberating. Of course, I could always succumb to my favorite distraction: organizing. I also had new distractions, like the sudden urge to dust.

Making all the original drawings was the killer. Drawing by hand is easier than trying to do it on the computer, but still... it requires facing the limitations of your talent and recognizing the gap between what's in your head and what shows up on paper.

But I pressed on. Customer waiting. Money to be earned. Glory to be snatched from the jaws of insecurity. No way out but through.

There are a thousand steps to producing an animation. Hand-drawing, scanning, converting from bitmap to vector drawing, breaking out the moving parts, then actually making them move. When you are a one-woman studio you are also the director -- you have to make your darn little figures ACT.

I had no illusions about producing a polished up-to-modern standards cartoon. But it had to be credible. My last step was giving their mouths some movement that makes you think you are actually seeing them speak.

Fiddling with music at the end is always fun. Months ago I walked outside in the rain with my minidisc recorder, so I had another interesting sound effect to use to improve the credibility of the illusion.

I learned so much during this project that I am putting together a checklist-tutorial of all the steps involved. But that's a low priority project.

 For a few seconds of the final product, watch this clip.

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