Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From Thumbnails to Pencils

As the Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit project has progressed, one of the most exciting aspects (at least for me as the writer) has been watching the words from the story become real on the page. After Leandro Panganiban and I settled on character designs, the next step was thumbnail sketches. I was surprised by how much fun it was to review even rough thumbnails.

Leandro put a lot of effort into the thumbnails in terms of trying out "camera angles" and positioning, and even placing empty, placeholder word balloons so we could get a sense of if there was enough space for the dialogue in the script. We bounced ideas back and forth extensively via email, with Leandro doing two versions of at least some panels on four of the five pages. You can see the thumbnail for a partial panel at the top of the picture at left. (Click the image for a larger view.)

The script, in describing this part of the panel, read:
Something that looks like a cross between a panda and a dog pisses on the tire of the truck.
Although, as I described last post, we extensively discussed the Panda Dog during character design, we didn't discuss this particular Panda Dog much at the thumbnail stage. But when Leandro later provided the first pencils on the panel -- shown in the second portion of the picture above -- he asked for my opinion on the Panda Dog's size. With all the detail we'd discussed, we had never said how tall or heavy the thing was!

As much as I liked the cute face, I did picture it being much larger, at least as big as a large pit bull. Since I had provided photo reference for the specific ACO truck in the frame, this gave us something to work with. I wrote back:
On your question regarding Panda Dog size, the Animal Control truck that we used for most of the pictures is a Ford F250. The height of the tires on those things (although tire size can vary a lot) is around 28 inches high. (I looked around a bit at truck/tire specifications and tire height today.)

A Panda Dog is at the very upper end of the size for a Chow Chow -- a very big Chow Chow -- so around 80 pounds, with a height of about 22-24 inches. So, bottom line, the Panda Dog in Panel 5 is too small. Basically, its back would be only a few inches lower than the top of the tire before it lifted its leg.

I also wonder if you'll need to back it off the truck just a little more, and maybe even pool the piss down and around the tire, to emphasize that it's pissing? I know dogs get real close when they piss (as shown in some of the silly pics I've attached), but this may be a case where you have to exaggerate the distance just a few more inches to make it clear what it's doing?
And, yes, I admit, I sent along photo reference of dogs peeing. I even found several photos of dogs actually peeing on tires. It's amazing what you can find on Google Images.

Leandro decided to make sure people caught that the Panda Dog was pissing by changing up the angle. And as you can see in the bottom panel of the picture above, we have a much bigger Panda Dog!

We've changed some panels more than others -- sometimes Leandro decides he wants to tweak the angle of a panel or emphasize something to improve the storytelling. Other times, I might make a suggestion or simply point out my reaction to something. But the end result seems to be something we're both very satisfied with.

We're now near the end of the penciling stage. I'm waiting patiently for the final tweaked pencils on the last couple pages, and I can't wait to see the inks. Leandro says I'll love them -- and I believe him!

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