Sorry, wrong context: a grand creative faliure

Here's a little challenge: see if you can follow each character's timeline, then write me a comment and tell me how many time you had to watch it to get it all!

A month of my life. That’s how long it’s taken me to animate this shot (From ‘Asterix and the Vikings’, France/Denmark, 2006). Nine(!) characters are creatively beating up each other in a massive fish-fight, and every character in the shot has its own little ‘storyline’.

Here’s a little challenge: see if you can follow each character’s timeline, then write me a comment and tell me how many time you had to watch it to get it all (or, if you’re not geek enough, a breakdown of the action is available below).

Shot Breakdown

  • Town’s smith Fulliautomatix jumps on top of fishmonger Unhygienix, assumes an ‘airplane’ position and smacks him with a fish. After a few good smacks the Unhygienix manages to throw him off, springs up and returns some smacking. Fullyautomatix manages to get back up tries to strangle Unhygienix.
  • A small villager stand on a big villager, and together with the bard Cacofonix. The bard jumps on the big villager’s stomach, resulting in the smaller guy flying up and landing on Fullyautomatix’s head (who, as we remember, was just thrown off his opponent), continuing to a second small villager. The try not to tumble…
  • Old Geriatrixstands on the shoulders of a heavy villager, beating up the second smaller villager (the I mentioned at the end of the previous line). The smaller guy hit’s the fat guy, pushing him back to bump into a third small villager, who up to this point was busy kicking the fat villager’s behind. The fat guy turns on him, and Geriatrix starts hitting this third small villager.
  • A little hard to see in this poorly scanned pencil test, but on top of all that there’s some animation of fish being tossed up from the fight.

Isn’t this completely MAD? Who in the world would be able to enjoy any of these stories in this mess of tangled details, and what the heck is this good for? Well, you just wait ’cause you ain’t seen nothing yet…

As it turns out, what I had failed to taken into account was the context of the work; and what I mean by ‘context’ is the influence of all the other elements that the shot was made of. Would you like to see what the final shot looks like in the film? Here:

I didn’t animate Asterix and Obelix in this shot, and I never thought to ask the director what his plans were for the smoke effect in the shot. I even suspect – in fact I’m almost sure – that they made the smoke opaque on purpose, because the mess of animation in the background drew too much attention from the real heroes of the shot. A month of hard animation labor that went completely down the tubes, all because of neglecting to consider context.

Folks – don’t try this at home (or at work). Always be careful to consider your context. Remember: it doesn’t matter how well you can shoot if you pick the wrong target!

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