The drawings were made on thin white bond paper, then traced onto cels using black waterproof ink. I find you can see through the paper without using a light box. This means you can literally make drawings anywhere. I’d often sit in an armchair with my drawing board on my lap.
For the more complicated sequences, where it was necessary to see through several layers of paper, I did use a light box. I enjoyed the drawing so much, that I got through them very quickly. Any spare moment would find me working at the drawing board. As I went along, the shooting instructions were noted at the top drawing. For example, “Repeat from cel 58 to 79 twice. B/G 21 (Back-ground number 21),” or “Hold cel 118 for 20 frames B/G 37.”
For me the most interesting part of any film in any medium is making up the characters. In live-action you would have to make Bert Higgins look like a giant, but in animation you start from scratch. Originally the giant was to be pretty gruesome. Then we thought the giant would be the ‘sympathetic’ character, so we decided to make him reasonably handsome. In hindsight, I would have preferred to have made him ugly and nasty. I think we could have still got the sympathy, and it would have been a greater challenge. Nasty characters are more fun. But I think you always want to make changes. I certainly have with all my films so far. You could spend your entire film making career continually revising the same film, and never bringing it to a conclusion.
The club members did a grand job, inking and painting the cels. I had more offers of help than I could use in the end so all my fears were proved groundless.
We decided that there might be some changes in colour tones between the various painters. They were all using poster paint straight from the pot but everyone has a different hand. To overcome this the cels were given out in complete sequences. There was a change of shot, or scene, or camera angle, at the end of each batch. This would effectively camouflage any slight variation in colour tone. In fact there is one mid-shot change in colour tone which slipped through the net. That was my fault in dishing out the cels.
The poster paint worked without any trouble provided it wasn’t put on too thickly. I suppose acrylic would have been better, although more expensive.
The actual filming was the most boring part for me. I found repeat cycles especially painful. Having been used to filming with puppets and models, this came as a bit of a shock. The filming stage with puppets is every bit as interesting as shooting live action. But the monotony of filming endless drawings was far outweighed by the pleasure of making them.
The film was given a final edit to sharpen it up, and. handed over to Bill Glue to make the sound track.
Most of what’s wrong with the film concerns the animation, It needs extra drawings here and there to improve the animation. I made about 900 drawings, perhaps another 100 for the same screen time would improve it considerably. But it is a first attempt, and we’re reasonably pleased with it.
This film has changed my view on cels. I’ve always thought them an expensive item for the amateur, but if you enjoy drawing, and you must do to even consider making a film like this, then the cost spread over the weeks it takes to make the film is very little to pay for the pleasure obtained. I suppose if you work the cost out on a weekly basis it isn’t excessive compared with the cost of other hobbies.
Almost immediately after finishing THE LEGEND OF BOLSTER I had another look at my discarded BEACH BOY film. I decided to make it again using cels. The drawings made for the paper animation were used to trace onto cels. I’ve finished the cels and backgrounds and it looks far better.
In the next issue I will tell you about my plasticine animation film THE
LIFE AND DEATH OF JOE SOAP.
Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 2 (Autumn 1982)