Planning & Storyboarding
Working in stop animation is rather different from shooting film but one thing both of these approaches to movie making heavily rely on is planning and storyboarding. We all know good planning is the key to any successful project and when shooting stop animation, careful planning ensures that ideas are clearly communicated and done just right. All the way down the chain of command- from brainstorming and sketching all the way to editing and post production.
Before the camera is even turned on, Director Tsuneo Goda starts sketching out ideas for characters along with a few hints of a story line. Taking anywhere from minutes to weeks to months of brainstorming, this series of sketches become what is known as the storyboard. Just about every film, and definitely every animated film, relies on the storyboard to relate the story as it unfolds. With a paper, pencil and stopwatch, to determine the desired length of any particular scene, storyboarding seems like an artform itself as the director is able to edit and arrange the story into frames before shooting. So through an evolving storyboard, the direction of the entire production is more or less decided as Goda starts to share his vision for his characters and plot line in the first series of meetings.
All departments participate in the meetings to discuss how the character puppets will look, what they’ll be made of as well as finer details like color codes for body parts and how the characters will actually move. The team also discuss what kind of sets need to be built as well as how many of them and figure out how many scenes will actually take place on each particular set. The Director of Photography, Kan Sugiki, is present as well as Hirokazu Minegishi, the main animator, in addition to the Puppetmakers Satoshi Yoshida and Yoshiko Abiko along with other staff.
From department to department, Goda and Producer Noriko Matsumoto consider an array of options until agreed upon. With good planning, the transition from an abstract idea into one more visual and communicable is all the smoother. For an average episode of Domo-kun for example two to three pages would translate into about 30 seconds footage.
While planning may seem like a step-by-step process, once the storyboard is shared, departments essentially work at the same time and hold meetings throughout the week. As the characters begin to take visual form, their personalities and the world they’ll inhabit are refined too. throughout production, the storyboard isn’t really ever written in stone but one thing is for sure- the director has the final say!
For Plug’s Story, a whole new set of eight characters were sketched out with a storyline, planned as six episodes and one longer movie in an about 33 page storyboard. Goda planned a story set after the widespread implementation of Zero Emission cars, except there are no people or cars in the story. Rather the characters are to be seen as cars which rely on their bodies to charge energy. Through the days of their lives,the characters demonstrate how the interrelation between nature and cars can be less dependent. Working together with Nissan on this project, the essence of the story was aimed at connecting a new generation of drivers while inspiring the current one.