‘Fight’ Research

‘Fight’ is a 2D animation about a dystopian future, where people are compelled to fight by a system (government) which keep control of the populace using various means. They use a figurehead to communicate with the masses.

The fighters are remote-controlled by other people using some advanced virtual reality technology.

The idea is that it is like a real life arcade fighting game. I’ve grown up playing these kinds of fighting games, and they have proven to be popular video games. There is often debate about how violent video games are, and whether that has a negative effect on people who play them, but there have been millions and millions of violent video games sold worldwide and the society hasn’t completely collapsed just yet!

I found some stats for sales figures to show how popular they have been:

Tekken – 45 million 

Street fighter – 38 million 

Mortal Kombat – 32.5 million                                                             [1]

Mortal Kombat



  • 2D (The way i want the fight to be presented in my film – although there will be other shots in the film, and I am not ruling out using other shots in the fight completely – that’s just the view the characters who make up the audience in the film get to see)
  • Pixelated! (A lot of these arcade games rose to popularity when technology was far less evolved than today – and i want to capture some kind of retro feel harking back to those days with my animation).
  • The way ‘FIGHT’ grows on the screen, flashes yellow and red, has an exclamation point, a shadow and the announcer says the word as well. (This is found in many fight games – at least some signifier of when the round starts).
  • The characters rock back and forth while waiting for the match to begin.
  • Very colourful – characters stand out. (The easier the character stand out from the background the easier the action is to follow).
  • Very Gory and violent (lots of blood) – which I think is something i don’t want to shy away from with my animation – the more intense and realistic the violence the better.
  • FINISH HIM! (Reminds me of the gladiator games of Rome where the Emperor would decide the fate of the loser of a fight, and decide if they are allowed to live or die – the audience of the fight in my film could have a chance to vote and decide if losers win or die – like a modern day version.)
  • FATALITIES! – There was a chance to kill someone at the end of the game with special moves – maybe in my animation the winner could be given a weapon to finish off their opponent with. Very gruesome and difficult for the character to go through with – but he has no choice if he wants to have a chance at a better life (Which reflects the lengths people can be pushed to by others. Perhaps if you refuse you have to keep fighting and risk your life, or you’re just killer anyway, or you’re so scared you dont know what would happen?! There are lots of possibilities and things to think over…)







  • 3D
  • A really big opponent against a smaller opponent. (A visible difference in the fighters is good to make the action clearer to follow).
  • Very colourful! (Characters don’t stand out as well from the background).
  • Sparks flying from the punches (effects!)
  • Numbers appear showing hit damage amount (Slightly different but it makes me think of the old Adam West Batman tv series where words appeared when he hit bad guys like ‘ZONK!’, ‘WHAM!’, ‘KABLOWEE!’ etc…)

Street Fighter




  • Effects when hits connect
  • Strong poses
  • Background movement (people, objects)
  • Character uses ineffectual moves (As its a game people can make punches which miss and jumps for no reason – and I think thats something i should remember when i choreograph my film).

All these fighting games have health bars, but in real life there is no health bar. Is there a way to incorporate this into my animation?

Perhaps their heart beats are monitored and we see the graphic for that on the audience’s screen?

Scientist Street Fighter


These gif’s are from a parody style fighting game where the player can fight with famous scientists! When the scientist moves with speed there are effects, like his arm blurring – and leaving a blur as he jumps forward.

The Sims

The Sims is a video game where you can build houses and control the characters who live in them – deciding what they do and making sure they stay alive, or not…

This video shows how the walls can peel away so you can see inside the houses as you play the game. I want to incorporate some aspects of video games in my animation, and I really like this aspect of the walls disappearing to allow the godlike player a better view. I don’t think The Sims is the only game to do this, but it is probably the best known for it.

(It’s a rather long video but i couldn’t find a shorter one quickly, and this demonstrates what i mean well enough at the beginning of the footage.)


I really like the contrasty, glowy green style of the ‘pipboy’ in the Fallout video game. The pipboy character is in a very simple style and there is a different ‘pipboy’ for different things. e.g. a stronger pipboy, a quicker pipboy, a smarter/more intelligent pipboy, etc…

The world of fallout is post-apocalyptic, with radiation a common problem and cause of mutation among some member of the population who weren’t protected in the vaults. The green colour reflects the radiation and gross degradation of everything – as things can be sickly green. Green however can also represent nature and health, but i suppose it depends how it is utilised and the different shades and hues used as well.

When used like this the colour green appears to be unnatural and not cold, but not warm either. It sits closer to yellow/green as well, and it’s kind of saturated which helps make it appear unnatural as well.

The colour scheme is also reminiscent of the movie ‘The Matrix’ where the virtual world’s coded with green symbols on a black background – much like old computers which used monochrome screens – as they produced sharper images and text, and so were easier to use then their colour counterparts.

This retro look was something that Fallout utilised to make it’s retro-future vision come to life – and The Matrix drawing subtler links.

Terminal IBM 3278

The Great and Powerful Oz

A scary disembodied floating head – fire and smoke used to make the whole thing more grandiose and intimidating. The wizard wanted to seem all-powerful, and like a magician who wants his audience to believe the illusion the more grandiose and impressive the better. Again green is utilised to make the wizard-head appear unnatural and add to it’s scary and strange nature – and throughout the emerald kingdom.


 Dystopian Worlds


The main character lives in a gloomy dystopian environment, which is dark and dangerous, shadowy and blocky – concrete and steel, cold and hard. It should also be dirty and run-down, with a lot of things broken. I also want it to seem like it’s quite claustrophobic, with walls and fences and things partitioning different areas that we see.

Will there be any trees or nature at all? At this stage i don’t think so, and it could be that there are images of nature – highlighting their absence.

I’m thinking of movies like ‘Bladerunner’, ‘Robocop’ and ‘Judge Dredd’.




In Bladerunner there are lots of neon signs and screens everywhere, for advertisements – by huge dominant corporations – giving the impression of a large consumer population. The newer stuff is built over the crumbling old. The roadworks make me think about how cities are always building – as they are so big someone is always developing something. The city looks like it’s endless, and the highways/transport high above the skyscrapers is reminiscent of the futurism style. The chimneys spewing out smoke in a highly populated area show how industrial the city is and how over-crowded the city has become.

Judge Dredd




The Dredd comic images are sometimes a bit too colourful for the dystopian world i want to create, but they have a great feel to them. There are wires hanging from dripping pipes, where people are out shopping – so they are in disrepair and not a great state. There are roads high overhead and flying cars – with a wide variety of shapes in the structures. It’s another overcrowded future metropolis.




The Dredd movies’ vision of a dystopian future was to have huge megastructures dominating the landscape, like redwood trees among weeds. They are planned structures that have been purposefully placed among the old skyscrapers, which you imagine was to help house a hugely growing population. They are built from concrete and steel, with hard edges and are like big cube blocks, they dont have many soft or round edges at all.

Nivanh Chanthara






Nivanh Chanthara is a freelance concept artist from Canada. His dystopian future scenes are very busy and the scale of them is huge – you think you must be looking at dwellings that thousands upon thousands of people live in. They are similar to shanty towns, but on such a grand scale, and are built out of all kinds of different materials – kind of bolted together rather than planned out in advance. There are lots of asian influences in this work, along with slum dwellings from around the world as well.

 Josan Gonzalez

Gonzalez says that he started out with a style that was more painterly, and only more recently adopted the ligne claire — clear line — style he’s become known for, a look that was pioneered by Belgian artist Hergé on Tintin. [2]

Josan has created this amazing dystopian future world, and his use of colours and space in his illustrations is really inspiring. I like how his characters pop out from the background and his use of different tones to make the characters come alive. He uses little touches of colour to highlight different parts like light and eyes, etc.




Big Brother is watching you!

1984 is a book written by George Orwell (and has been adapted in film) about a dystopian world with perpetual war, public manipulation and omnipresent government surveillance. The people are controlled by a tyrannical government who punish independent thought and outlaw individualism – enforced by violent ‘thought police.’

The people are heavily policed in a world where the government’s control cannot be challenged and people’s behaviour is monitored and manipulated. Big Brother is the party leader who enjoys a cult of personality – although he may or may not actually exist, which reflects past real-life authoritarian government leaders whose images were in every home.

So for my film, which is a grim look at an over-populated world where the population is heavily controlled and things for the lower classes are dire – there could be a revered figurehead (the one who advertises the fights – could be a recurring things – screen around the world with his own repeated mantras?).

Dystopian Real Life



The big imposing face of mussolini on the Palazzo Braschi building in Rome, which was the headquarters of Mussolini’s Fascist Italian party from 1934 looks like something out of a movie. Reminiscent of George Orwells ‘1984’ – Big Brother is watching you!

It feels imposing and intimidating, evoking strength and power – which is something that fascists and totalitarian/authoritarian leaders would find appealing.


Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasised speed, technology, youth and violence – and objects such as cars, planes and the industrial city. There were parallel movements in Russia, England and elsewhere. Futurist practised in every medium of art, from painting and sculpture, to urban design, fashion and even futurist meals. Futurists believed that cooking and eating neede to become subservient to the proper aesthetic experience that futurism favoured. This included, for example, the abolition of the knife and fork, use of perfumes to enhance the tasting experience, food for the eyes and nose but not for eating, food small in size but containing many flavours and sculpted foods. Futurism glorified modernity and aimed to liberate people (Italy) from the ways of its past – and bring it into a better future. [3] [4]

I specifically want to look at some futurist architecture. Characterised by long dynamic lines suggesting speed, motion and urgency. [5] Futurists celebrated the modern city, rejecting historic features and classic building styles and replacing them with new visions aimed to revolutionise life. The emphasis on speed was accommodated in futurist designs by the inclusion of unimpeded transportation systems.

 Architects Mario Chiattone and Antonio Sant’Elia proposed utopian visions for cities of the future in two series of drawings: Buildings for a Modern Metropolis and Città Nuova (both 1914).

Embracing new materials and industrial methods that would alleviate the need for internal load-bearing systems, these designs feature soaring, narrow structures outfitted with thin, lightweight facades. [6]

La Città Nuova by Sant’Elia, 1914.

la citta

Mario Chiattone, Bridge and Study of Volumes (Ponte e studio di volumi), 1914


Tullio Crali, Sea Air Rail Terminal: Marine Center with Mooring Basin (Stazione marittima aerea ferroviaria: Centro marittimo con bacino d’attracco), 1930


William Pereira was an American architect from Chicago who was noted for his futuristic designs.

University of California, Irvine (William Pereira) 1965


Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco (William Pereira), 1972



Geisel Library, San Diego (William Pereira), 1970


Williams use of lines is apparent, and is like an exoskeleton around his buildings – making them come to life. They create these uniformed patterns that are pleasing to the eye and look like they are utilising form over function, but i’m not sure. They are in my opinion, however, visually appealing and create interesting shapes and patterns that draw the eye.

Art Deco

Deco combined modernist styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress. The most famous Art Deco architecture can probably be found in New York.

The Chrysler Building, New York (Van Alen), 1930

Chrysler Building Celebrates 75th Anniversary



These birds are the kinds of architectural flairs that are classic of the Art Deco style.


The Genesee Valley Trust bank building (now The Times Square Building), New York (Ralph Thomas Walker), 1930



The windows are uniformed and symmetrical. The main feature being a metal claw-looking thing at the top front of the building – a feature that reaches for the sky and symbolically represents that futurist speed and art deco flourish. It looks like some wizards tower from lord of the rings, and has an unnatural feel to it – making a fairly everyday building suddenly much more interesting.

The Empire States building, New York (William F.Lamb), 1931



New York landmarks and attractions: Empire State building

Probably the most well-known recognisable building in the world.

Things i like about these types of architecture that I think would work with the dystopian vision i have for my film:

  • Strong clean lines
  • Huge structures
  • Many small windows separated by concrete and steel
  • Art Deco architectural flourishes – e.g. Chrysler birds
  • (Majority) Hard edges and square shapes (With some) rounded edges



There are few natural elements to dystopian worlds – helping to create an unnatural environment for audiences. One of the two dystopian worlds i am building is for a population that represents a lower class, so I want their living conditions to resemble a prison. With high walls and a focus on utilitarianism, with practical features that are necessary – taking cues from futurism and perhaps some small deco touches here and there.

The other world is for the middle classes (with audiences never seeing the higher class living conditions – similar to how it would be in real life for the majority of the world) which is a lot nicer – but is still far from the paradise that the lower class character dreams it is.

The people we see from the lower class are miserable, destroyed and outwardly unemotional – they are merely surviving. They represent the industrial working force, but one that is no longer utilised as robots have probably replaced them all – but for whatever tragic dystopian reason, they are not deemed worthy enough to join the ranks of the middle classes – representing some people’s attitudes today.

The people from the middle class are violent, and greedy. They represent the consumers, who take without thought for how it will affect the world around them or even themselves.




[1] http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Best_selling_game_franchises

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2016/4/2/11345640/josan-gonzalez-the-future-is-now-sci-fi-art

[3] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism

[4] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurist_cooking

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurist_architecture

[6] http://exhibitions.guggenheim.org/futurism/architecture/


‘Fight’ film development

A character who lives in a gloomy dystopian cityscape travels to a place where he can fight against someone else for reward, but he is completely controlled by other people, who treat the fight like a video game.

What do I want it to be about?

  • It’s about how we treat each other
  • It’s about taking risks (when we are desperate we take more risks)
  • It’s about putting our fate into other people’s hands (being desperate enough to do something dangerous)
  • It’s about the gap in rich and poor, home and abroad (from free to basically enslaved)
  • It’s about human nature, and our relationship with violence (how common it is in our entertainment industry and lives in general)
  • How we are socially engineered in various ways
  • It’s about what it’s like to be removed from reality, and how we make decisions when in that situation. (Anonymity, Deindividuation, and a little bit of Social facilitation/ the audience effect)
A man who lives in a dystopian future is compelled to fight for the chance to escape his unfortunate life. ‘Players’ control the actions of the ‘fighters’ like its a game which is broadcast to an audience.
“The illusion of choice.” (Maybe a better working title.)
  • (Inequality, human nature and our relationship with violence.)

Question: Is our society fair?

Answer: No

(Q: Do we really have control of our own lives?

A: Maybe not.)

(Q: Do we glorify violence in entertainment?

A: Yes)

Act 1: Guy travels from home to fight location.

Act 2: Guy fights against another person.

Act 3: Guy was being controlled by another person remotely in paradise.

So Act 1 is the majority of the film, with act 2 and act 3 being much shorter.

What do I want to do?

Animation Direction (How it will move)

Subtle gesture conveys character emotion.

For the fight scene – in the style of classic arcade video games, limited frames.

Art Direction (How it will look)

Video game influences.

Huge concrete dystopian metropolis’ – staged pieces.

Minimalist character design (more detail in closer shots – less detail further away) 

Heavily stylised – Surrealism, futurism.

Semi-realistic cartoon style.

Cinematic Direction (How you will use the camera)

I want lots of shot variety.

  • POV shots (Show eyelids opening and closing.
  • Distanced ‘god’ view (seeing a cross-section of rooms) – also similar to some video games.
  • A classic side-scrolling video game view.
  • Birds-eye view (again some video games have this).
A little bit of camera dynamism – camera follows character as he travels.
Oblique shots, establishing shots, low angle, close ups, etc…


2D Animation. Concept. Story crafting, character design and world building. Character animation. Cinematography and editing.

Additional investigations

2D effects.

Hybrid animation, 2d/3d- toonshader.



Additional ideas:

  • Advertisement (of the fight ‘game’) – Character could watch it at beginning, to set up the film at the beginning
  • When main character gets his ticket he could get a chip inserted (could be just put into his arm, or into his neck – by a robot arm?)
  • Interior bus shots – and then views out the window
  • The players could be introduced earlier, showing them in contrast to the main character – making you think the main character is going to do that kind of fight, rather than be their pawn.

Design ideas and development:

fight design 1

Using empty black space to help focus the audience on the action – and create a sort of claustrophobic environment – as the character is trapped in his situation, I want to represent that in other ways as well.

I really want the main character to stand out from the background…

fight character design

Quick Elevator lights Test:

I made this as a quick test to see how it could look with the lighting flickering on and off. To make this i needed to have a few different layers.

  1. The black background
  2. The Elevator background
  3. The character
  4. The light
  5. The characters light

Notes on this background that i made:

  • I think the repetition of the buildings and windows is effective, and creates a feeling of being very small and insignificant.
  • I think the ‘dirt’ and cracks and general destitution looks good and adds to the feeling that this is not a nice place. (Could it do with more?)
  • The grey colour scheme of concrete works really well
  • I’m not sure about the lighting just yet, whether it looks good or how i’ve got it at the moment.
  • Too few objects? The place should look pretty barren, but maybe there could be more trash around the landscape. (Piles of crud?)

Story Development

  • The film opens with an advert. A big brother face with a sickly smile – exposition about fights. (A glowing robotic face)
  • Meet main character in his ‘block’ – watching the advert on a small screen in his dark room
  • He stares blankly at the screen
  • We see him fidgeting and the tv sounds fade out – zoom into his eye
  • Advert shows and explain chance to win a ‘ticket to paradise!’ – see paradise images.
  • Travels to ‘fight club’
  • Interior shot – people wait in line at a ‘fight booth’ – a game, two people go up and enter separate enclosed booths.
  • Different Interior shot looking at door – main character enters.
  • Inside are lots of doors, with ‘vacant’ or ‘occupied’ on them – he goes to a vacant one and [reluctantly – hesitantly] enters.
  • Character in fight booth has vr helmet on and is putting on other gear. (See a view of what they see?)
  • Main character is scanned and then places hands and feet in areas that are marked out. Robot arms zoom out and clasp onto him. Another robot arm comes out and inject him with something. (He’s scared and it looks painful) – [cut to black]
  • Fade in – he is in a spotlight, everything is dark.
  • Another spotlight with another person is across from him
  • ‘READY?’
  • ‘FIGHT!’
  • Main character fights his opponent (arcade style, one who is good at fighting, the other is terrible and does some odd moves which are totally ineffective).
  • Intercut with VR players at the end showing they are doing the same moves (One of the VR players stops playing as he is being mercilessly beaten – takes off headset and complains that his controls aren’t working)
  • Reveals audience watching this fight on tv screens. Winner is announced – audience gets to vote ‘LIVE’ or ‘DIE’ – they choose die.
  • Main character (Winner) is given a weapon (sword,knife – not gun basically) to kill the loser with, he is horrified and reluctant – but ultimately has no choice.
  • We cut away before he delivers the killing blow – see the audience faces loving it – cheering.
  • Camera travels past them to the outside – see paradise – it doesn’t look as nice as the pictures.

The advert

Some of the only dialogue in the film. What needs to be said (gist):

  • We need fighters
  • You could be a fighter
  • Fighters get rewards (winners get rewards?)
  • Winners are entered in the chance to win a ticket to paradise
  • So come fight now!


Horde is the story of a guy who is riding his motorcycle at night, when he is surrounded and attacked by other ghoulish looking motorcyclists. He tries to get away as they molest him but ultimately they succeed in causing him to fall from his motorcycle, revealing he has died and joined their ranks at the end.

It’s a great short story. We are introduced to the main character, then the scary others riding up on him from behind. The turning point when they attack him culminating in the climax when he falls from his bike, and finally the end where we see him riding with them. It’s a short reveal, but I think it works really well.

The style is amazing! The 3D characters with some parts looking photo-realistic, while some parts of the characters look 2D is, I think, visually stunning. The lighting really ties it together and makes it come alive. The use of lighting in this film is inspired, as there are few light sources, the red, white and yellow lights, and the way they move and light the characters and the road  in contrast with the dark night makes it really atmospheric.

Production Stills:


The Making of:

BRVTVS is a french directors collective created in 2014 by Thibaud Clergue, Aurélien Duhayon, Sébastien Iglesias and Camille Perrin.

(Camille Perrin might have left the group as he is not mentioned on their Facebook page).

The making of shows how they put together the animation, but it doesn’t go into detail on which programs they used, so will require some further investigation to figure out how to replicate the style..

Horde pre-production designs:





Some student animations







‘Paranoia’ is an animated short film made by four students as part of their final year degree project for Thakur-Toonskool Advanced Animation Academy.

Sandeepan Chanda, Sunil Kumar Yadav, Amrita Mukhopadhyay, and Nitesh Mishra.

A film about a man who is travelling on a late night train. Another man gets on the train with a briefcase and the first man becomes increasingly worried he could have a bomb on him. The audience watched the bomb sequence play out – finding out it is ‘only a dream’ sequence.

The story is about terrorism and our fear of it these days when travelling on public transport.

  • Shaky cam – helps to represent the growing shakiness of the character, and situation he is afraid he is in.
  • Really beautiful intricate, painted backgrounds with lots of texture and mood. Contrasted by the characters who are not shaded and have flat colours which makes them stand out, and i think it’s a cool design choice. The animation itself is really smooth and have a sort of hand-drawn sketchy look to it.
  • Claustrophobia is created by the newspaper as the man sort of hides behind it from the ‘bomber’ which makes the tension greater and builds up the suspense and atmosphere of the film more. The heavy breathing and train noises – clacking on the line, etc, also help to build up to the suspenseful climax.







Vancouver Film School student Nata Metlukh ponders the question, “Are fears our friends or do they rob us of our existence?”

We all face fear: fear of heights, fear of losing our jobs, fear of crowded places. The anxiety it gives us results in negative feelings. And in extreme cases, it can be crippling.

But we often forget to remind ourselves, “Why is fear there in the first place?” Fear protects us from harm and reminds us to stay alert of the dangers. It’s a best friend.

  • Main characters are defined and stand out, but background characters are like shadows.
  • The traffic looks like an orange, black and white river – rather than defined cars.
  • Painted style of animation.
  • The way that the shadows are portrayed isnt realistic – they are used on the neck to sort of separate it from the face, same with the arms and legs, rather than as light hits it. Its stylistic and brilliant!
  • Some great angles and shots – like a character walking over the camera.


Pre-production work for Fears.


Source: http://notofagus.tumblr.com/


Mr Madila or The colour of nothing



When Royal College of Art student Rory Waudby-Tolley was struggling to find inspiration for his final film, he stumbled upon the business card of Mr. Madila, a gifted spiritual healer. According to the card, he solves problems concerning “black magic, love voodoo, sexual impotency, business transactions, exams, immigration problems, court cases and gambling.”

Intrigued, Rory called the number and recorded a series of conversations with his newfound friend, exploring the inner mind, the fabric of the universe and the nature of reality itself. “Everything is mostly nothing,” Madila said. “Look closely and you can see all the little bits and pieces, and all the gaps in-between.”

Rory cut the audio and added visuals to create this thought-provoking yet brilliantly funny animation, which he showed to Madila.

  • Mostly 2D animation. Some live-action film and a bit of 3D – this student has created an animation which allows him to utilise different animation styles. Mixed media!
  • It’s very colourful. The characters and background when they meet is black and white and the colour accentuates it!
  • Mr Madila’s head grows bigger sometimes, when he is saying different things – as he is more animated in his voice, so too is the visual animation.
  • Theme song!

I really like this animation. It’s funny, and kind of thought-provoking and has a story to it. The story of meeting a really interesting individual. The animator has found a way to animate different styles in a way that still totally works and flows and stylistically holds together. The animation is simple and the characters are cartoony.




Artists website: http://rorywt.com/


Self Centaured




Short film made at the final year of an animation course at the University of Lincoln in 2010/2011 by John Bowen, Anna Pabian and Alex Whitington

  • The characters don’t always look like they belong in the same animation.
  • The colours don’t always seem to work together.

I think that could be a style choice, but not one that i think looks especially beautiful. It’s like the background was an afterthought sometimes, and the style isn’t consistent throughout – but not in a purposeful way.

The humour is silly and brilliant though, and some of the character animation is really effective.


The Life of a Student Animator


Caitlin Meadley final year character animation about an animator finishing an animation for a deadline.

  • The room is a bit bare, and untextured, which makes it seem a bit odd in contrast to the main character. And the second character looks a lot more crude than the main character – which makes her stand out. (Inconsistent style).
  • The main character looks great though, and the animation looks good, which is the main aim of the animation.

Nada Doctor

Made by BFA1 through BFA4 students in the Character Animation Program at CalArts (School of Film/Video), in 2014. Each student makes his or her own film, individually.

By Matthew Yang

Really cool style. Very colourful and friendly.

I really like the voice acting in this and the script, it’s playful and the actors did a great job bringing them to life.

Cool transition when the giant rips open the hospital.



S l e e p

Made by BFA1 through BFA4 students in the Character Animation Program at CalArts (School of Film/Video), in 2014. Each student makes his or her own film, individually.

By Tony Unser

Very stylish! Some awesome transition. The way they flicker and morph looks awesome. When she gets up from bed and theres a trail of her, reflecting her sleep mood.

The light use, and portrayal of lights is great.

Really cool explosions and effects as well, looks like a tv show.

More Final Thesis Ideas

‘Life Work’

A man is tinkering in his workshop. There are things bubbling away, and smoking and going along pipes and dripping down and fizzing. He scribbles down notes as he watches what is happening. He starts joining all these different elements together – liquids that become solids and solids that become liquids and move and grow and shrink and change colour. The objects become unstable and explodes! When the man is able to see he looks and in the middle of the workshop is a strange glowing object, shimmering and floating in front of him. He prods it and walks around it and then puts him arm in and pulls it out and his arm feels strange and then the object pursues him and he tries to run away but the object follows him and sucks him inside it.

The man represents hard work, experimenting and learning from trying things out. He creates and that fuels his interest and desire to know more. Ultimately he is consumed by his work, and disappears from the world- like we all do eventually.

So what does it mean?

Beginning – The man works to learn things about the world.

Middle – The man experiments with what he has and creates new things from what he has learnt.

The end – The man is ultimately mortal and disappears forever from the world.

  • It is about man’s ability to create wonderful and scary creations
  • Dangerous creations which can kill
  • It also shows a man who is consumed by his work, literally but also figuratively.
  • He works his whole life.


Other things i could add.

When the man wants to take a break he is made to continue working by some unseen power. Maybe he is prodded or electrocuted to motivate him to keep working?

The higher power could clear the room (remove his name and his creation) and bring in a new man at the end – making the whole thing happen again. Taking what the man has created and learnt away. This could be to utilise it or just represent the work being meaningless busywork to keep the man occupied and even though he created something amazing it ended up being ultimately futile.


  • The man is a cog in a machine. Forced to work by a higher power. Raising questions of the audience about their own working life, and how meaningful it is, and whether they reap the benefits of their employers.
  • Once the man is gone, another will take him place and continue his work and his name will be forgotten. (maybe the name could be taken and placed on a shelf, and he does the same at the beginning – as if taking over someone’s office. And we follow the names along and see one down the line get pushed off the end into darkness to represent the passage of time deleting all things eventually.


The man could look into the object and see something amazing and weird and wonderful. Perhaps he is tempted to climb in and becomes lost instead of being pulled in.






Time Traveller

A time traveller appears and the world flocks to learn about what they have to say. Why did they travel in time, how?

They travelled from the future. (Or teleported? Or from another dimension).

  • News anchor and news coverage – of the mysterious person appearing in an impossible way. (Setting up what happened and where the person is now).
  • Follow the character whose job it is to go and interview them to find out how and why they appeared the way they did.
  • The conversation between those two people.

So what is their story? Why and how did they transport from the future or wherever they came from?

That depends how they arrived. So they could have:

  • Caused a lot of damage when they arrived, like a crater or explosion. Which caused the police to arrest them and then the person we follow is the investigator who interviews them.
  • Appeared on live tv, suddenly. And caused an uproar. Like when the reporters are doing a piece to camera. The reporter could go after them, and have a chase sequence, before catching and asking them what’s up.
  • Could be treated like a national emergency, army called, etc.
  • Could be just a normal family encounter them, or some friends.



Prison visit

A character going to visit someone in a super high-security prison – but like super duper high-security. So the walls are super high and loads more than average. Vault doors and then more and more and to a silly extent.

This builds up the suspense of who or what he is going to visit. Walls and fences with spikes and barbed wire, and then super thick walls and bars and more and more – an elevator that takes you down, and a bridge across a deep moat.

Finally coming to the prisoners individual cage, which is suspended in a chasm, and another extending bridge takes you to the cage, which is surrounded by walls that open to let you in.

What is the payoff of this suspense?

  • A super scary monster
  • A completely harmless looking character (frail, old, a baby? A bunny?)
  • Nothing, resulting in them hitting an alarm.
  • The cage being for them, and them being trapped inside with no way out. (A metaphor for something?)
  • Day release. It’s their prison cell, but they are allowed out sometimes, as long as they come back.

What is inside the cell? That would depend on who the cell belongs to.



Captain Nature

A superhero whose power is to talk to plants. He is called upon to help when no one else can. So he turns up to a crime scene when there are no leads and ask the plants to help him. (Like how psychics have been used in tv to help detectives with investigations).

Some people would be skeptical of his powers, seeing him talk to a bush and questioning if he was making it up. (Like those psychics…)

Captain Nature could get distracted by some plants making jokes we can’t hear. Then he could try to come on to a plant and get rejected and become depressed.




A small group of soldiers are travelling along and seem on edge. They are attacked and must jump to cover and defend themselves.

One of the characters is not afraid of being shot, and stands out in the open, scolding the others.

The reveal is they are just playing make believe and there is no real battle. The enemy doesn’t exist except in their imagination and they are friends playing make beleive.

The character who was not afraid is not playing and the others are annoying them with their playing. They are just trying to get stuff done around the house.





Two characters must face off in a battle to the death in front of cameras and audiences around the world tune in to watch. The fighters look scared. They battle to the death and there is a winner.

It turns out that others were controlling them from behind the scenes, using suits that controlled their movement. Like some kind of video game. (It could even be something that people are lined up to play, like an attraction the public takes part in. The winner could actually win nothing more than the satisfaction of beating their opponent.

Like the roman gladiator games of old. Humans are almost addicted to bloodshed, or violence. We have a lot of violent media, and whether you personally like it or not, there is basically murder-porn on every mainstream channel of tv. We like to find out about serial killers, and watch crime shows, to see the worst of humanity for ourselves. We are curious, morbidly so.

What if it was possible to take part with no risk to yourself? What if someone else took the risk for you? What if it wasn’t forced? The fighters could win a prize, so they are ‘happy’ to take the risk. What if it was normalised and an activity that many people just did? There are people in every society who are worth less than others. There are poor people. Criminals. In some countries there are caste systems and basically slaves. This is something that exists in our world today, that we can’t do anything about.

What if those people were taking the risk for a chance to be one of the chosen few who live with riches and enough food and land to live on. Instead of amongst the many who must grind away for even a scrap of food or bit of heat to warm themselves.

A lot of this could be alluded to, and the main content is the fight and the reveal.

  • Guy wakes up (He has pictures of paradise stuck to his wall).
  • Gets out of bed
  • Leaves his tiny apartment (with other people at the same time? Synchronised movement.)
  • Rides the elevator down to the ground
  • Waits for the bus
  • Rides the bus
  • Gets off the bus
  • Goes to a building (where he ‘Works)
  • Gets given a number
  • Waits in a waiting room (screen has numbers on, two come up each time)
  • His number is called he goes through some doors.
  • He’s fitted with a special suit (Or something?)
  • He comes out into a spotlight
  • Another spotlight shows his opponent
  • Ready? Fight! They fight. (Looks like 2D arcade fighting game- text comes up on screen) (No health bar though because they fight to the death).
  • Weapons?
  • Finish him! (He kills the other character).
  • Winner! He celebrates.
  • Pulls back to reveal a screen with people watching it. In a mall, arcade, nice looking place.
  • Then shows people with virtual reality gear on, above one says winner, the other says loser. They take off the gear and the winner teases the loser.
  • There is a line for next fight. The people are in contrast to the ones who fight from the apartment. They are laughing and playing on their phones and eating, etc.
  • The winner and loser leave the mall together and go outside, and its paradise (like the pictures on the fighters wall).

Main Views:

  • The characters pov
  • A distanced god view (looking down over everything)
  • A classic side-scrolling game view (of the fight)
  • Other cinematic shots, general…

Background worldbuilding:

  • Dystopian, dark, shadows, colourless (or muted colours)
  • Fences with barbed wire on top along bus route
  • Industrial looking background and city scape
  • Police perhaps, roadblocks, fires burning in the distance.
  • Lights flicker on and off and don’t work consistently
  • Peoples waiting in line for food
  • People asleep on the roadside
  • Scary looking dog

Main character

Could have quite robotic movements, to represent that he is a cog in the machine? At least some kind of unnerving style to his character, to make things not seem quite right. Some contrast to the final characters that live in paradise doing whatever they want.


Quick rough storyboard:








I could utilise some animations again (walking, etc) as long as i plan out the scenes better – for example, i could have the facility he gets his ticket from face the same way as the apartment and use the walk cycle again.

As the animation seems to already be getting quite long, if necessary the fight can be faded out, and fight noises put on over the top, and then back in to the character injured, face bloody, with announcer shouting “Winner!” and show a dead looking opponent. BUT ideally there should be a fight – in the style of old school 2D fighting games, like mortal combat. The animation could be simpler and have that different feel and look to it and tis motion – like the older style games, which could make the animation easier – as only so many assets and frames would be needed.

The players could be in booths we can’t see in, just has WINNER and LOSER with lights on the outside. Then they come out and have no equipment on, suggesting they took it all off already, and saving on animating that part – getting to the meat of the story and animation.


  • More stuff during paradise scene (Maybe see himself in paradise, flies on a star, etc…) – just a longer dream sequence. (Maybe it goes bad and he ends up in a scary situation, thinks someones watching him in paradise and it turns dark and he runs to try and get away, then falls and falls into darkness – then hears number being called.
  • Robots help the players take their equipment off. (Like robot butlers for the game!)

Inspiration Animation

A Variety of Inspiring Animated Films by Various Incredibly Talented Artists


The Arrow by Emilio Yebra

The story is of a hunting mistake which leads one tribesman to attack another, and the look of it is like a folktale or something. The style reminds me of aboriginal art and uses unusual colours to reality which makes it stand out, and fits with the themes of the film.

  • The objects are always shimmering and moving – like it’s hand-drawn maybe, rough around the edges – like a cave painting or something.
  • The style is very simplistic, consisting of simple shapes.
  • When arrows hit things there’s a physical circle that appears to represent the sound and action of it hitting something with force.
  • There is a great close up as we follow an arrow’s flight through the air and colours in the background help to portray the speed of the arrow.
  • When the character beats the warning drum (which sounds like electric guitar) the frames colours change along to the sounds and almost represent the alarm and feel of danger that the character is in.


Dark Mixer by Hirotoshi Iwasaki

This is a really unnerving little animation which utilises sounds to heighten the strange atmosphere of the film.

  • Black and white painted style
  • Always shimmering but movement is still smooth.
  • Sounds – Breathing, Heartbeat. Thudding. They all have a rhythm and beat to them. The wind, animal sounds and growling, tv static and screaming set an unsettling mood where you’re unsure of what will happen – creating suspense. (all still have a sort of rhythm to them).
  • Unsettling imagery is animated – A mans’ face peels off, a man falls forward and disappears, a headless dog rolls around the floor, a dark figure with just its eyes showing.
  • The images are shown to a beat at the end which seems sped up like it’s heading towards a climactic ending and puts you on the edge of your seat.


Again by Nico Gao

A short animation that explores what could end up happening if you couldn’t die. Looking at life as a series of meaningless routines and busywork that the main character is bored of and looks for an escape, even death.

The message at the end shows the main character get away from it all and come back ready to tackle his mundane series of meaningless routines and work with a refreshed attitude.

  • Simplistic shapes and minimalistic style
  • Square world – round organics
  •  The repetitive electronic music accompanies the repetitive story, from repeated routines to repeated attempts to die (or escape).
  • There are moments of no music and just sounds – like crickets or breathing, which highlight the action.


Last Train home by Gerhard Human

  • Heavily stylised animation.
  • Great use of colours and contrast.
  • Shimmering style again!
  • Painted style.



Doodling between the headlines

  • Moves to the music (animation is smooth then jerks to the music, fire grows to the music)
  • Animations are repeated on screen at increments to create visual interest.
  • Painted style – solid colours used.
  • The frame peels back and reveals other scenes and its just mesmerising and mind-boggling! These sort of crescendo at the end and create a visually stunning ending.


Dame mit hund (walk the dog) by Sonja Rohleder

A really clever animation about a woman walking a dog. We see the imprints, like paw prints and footprints, and hear what’s going on and thats it. It’s set on a black background and the imprints are different colours so we can tell them apart and they stand out from each other.

  • Heavily stylised
  • Unique!


Ivans need by Veronica L. Montaño, Manuela Leuenberger and Lukas Suter. (MATURE CONTENT)

About sexual awakening and discovery, the film follows a teenage boy who has an obsession with kneading dough.

  • Interesting popart bright colour palette – Everything is a different unexpected colour
  • Character grown a big head when he shouts
  • Heavily stylised – cool eyes that shimmer.
  • Caricature/cartoony style


60 Seconds of Darkness

A film about a traumatic event, witnessed by people who wanted to help, but ultimately the man was already lost.

  • Muted colour palette
  • Cool shooting animation (when gun is hot it has a slow explosion)
  • Great movements
  • Emotional content – music accompanies to great effect
  • When he dies it uses a black and white animation to show a difference to highlight the seriousness of the scene
  • Snow falling effect over the scene


Jumpy by Anthony Falleroni

A film about a person playing a game and their character in the game. This is about persistence and not giving up, which is necessary when playing games – you get better and better. But this film asks what if you get stuck in a game and can’t progress, do you give up or keep trying? The game character portrays the emotions the gamer must be having, frustration and sadness, but then determination.

  • Pixelated style game world
  • Real world is darker and muted colours – game world is bright and colourful!
  • Different styles for real world and game world.


My Darlings Shadow by Conor Whelan

A film about an abusive relationship ending in murder. The scenes take us through happier times and show us the bad times as well. The cheery music contrasts the dark theme.

  • Painted style – cubism
  • Line work – really strong style
  • Simplified objects – car is just shape and a couple lines, etc.
  • Like the flintstones or something from that era in style