Friday, March 28, 2003

Ahhh, frack. I came down with my monthly sore throat/upset stomach illness on Wednesday, which prevented me from uploading parts three and four of Wine Week. Now it’ll be all out-of-sequence. Oh well.


When creating an animation, the series typically goes through several distinct stages: pre-production, production, and post-production. The second stage, production, is the stage in which the actual drawings are drawn and assembled into animations. During the third stage, post-production, the animation is assembled into a complete product — voices, sound effects, and special effects are added, the title sequences are assembled, etc.

Pre-production is probably the most difficult part of the entire animation process, because this is the stage in which all the broad creative decisions are made. As part of this process, artists come up with standard drawings for each of the characters, which defines exactly how each character should look. These standard drawings are known as the “character designs.”

Once I’d decided on the basic cast for Wine, I decided to look for someone who could draw the character designs. I hopped online and spent hours crawling through anime artists’ websites, searching for someone with exactly the right style. Saalon and Brennen helped, too.

[Character design for Sarah]

We finally settled on an artist known as Philo, who beautifully merges the anime style with a style akin to the best of American comic books.

I contacted Philo, and he accepted the job of creating the character designs for Wine. Over the course of many months we traded e-mails and phone calls, nailing down the exact visual look of each of Wine‘s main characters.

But Philo became increasingly distant, slower to return e-mails and draw characters. I asked him why, and he explained that he was under a lot of pressure at home and at school (he was in college at the time). He asked for a break for a few months, to which I readily agreed. He was responsible for the feel of the entire series, so I wanted to keep him happy.

When I e-mailed him again a few months later, his reply surprised me: he wrote that he didn’t want to finish the character designs for Wine. He asked if he could drop the whole thing.

You can imagine the magnitude of this event’s impact on Wine. Only about half of the character design work was done. And since every artist’s style is distinctive, I can’t hire an artist to, for example, draw the final three of six character drawings; the three new drawings wouldn’t look like the three old ones, which would make the design inconsistent. If Philo dropped out, I’d be left with character designs that were practically unusable.

So I replied to Philo that I really wanted him to continue work, pointing out that he promised to draw these designs. And, after all, I was paying him for it. This was work, which he’d agreed to complete.

He agreed to complete the drawings — though grudgingly, it seemed to me — and then…I didn’t hear from him for another month. Complete radio silence.

e-mailed him again, asking politely what was going on, and he replied with an angry e-mail that he didn’t want to do this, he’d said he didn’t want to do this, that I was trying to control his life, and he wanted to pull out again.

I metaphorically threw up my hands at this. I couldn’t force him to draw. I replied, and after trying to clear up his apparent misconceptions, wrote that if he wanted to drop it, he was free to do so. He sent me the drawings he’d completed, and I paid him for the work he’d done.

I ended up with most of the drawings for Sarah (the protagonist), and all of the drawings for Stark and Ryo Masaki. <sigh> I was frustrated.

And this wasn’t the only thing frustrating me. More on that next time.

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