Envisioning anxieties as physical characters has the coping effect of putting mental, out-of-reach fights into a physical, tangible perspective. It also has the effect of visually illustrating the struggle to those who do not experience similar phenomena. The intent of this film is to use this concept as a source of encouragement and empathy in both types of audiences.
A roughly 4 minute Toon Boom animated motivation film with fantastical elements featuring the personification of emotional struggles and the overcoming of such struggles in highlighted character acting.
An apprehensive wannabe dancer discovers his personal freedom when his anxious limitations disappear with his manipulative shadow.
Lahaina Noon is a film designed to encourage the conquering of anxiety; a mental hang-up that I personally struggled with for many years. I had always found the idea of imagining characters based on my struggles was an easy way to take mental struggles and make them feel more tangible. Thus, I wanted to present that idea to my audience through a lovably apprehensive character.
Early concepting started with the question: "What if a character interacted with his shadow?" Thus, the exploration of the Lāhainā Noon and how that can play into the character's momentary freedom to explore himself.
Trivia! Lāhainā Noon is a bi-annual tropical solar phenomenon (Tropics of Cancer/Capricorn) when the Sun culminates at the zenith at solar noon, or in short, passes directly overhead (Wikipedia). This causes vertical objects such as flag poles to have their shadows seemingly vanish, and any shadows appear directly below any object.
Color Script and Study
Character acting was extremely important for my film, but so was color, given its abilities to imply emotion in a given image. I used a progressive hue shift to emotionally envelope my lead's journey to personal freedom, starting with a lonely blue that is the lead's life in the beginning; then melting into a happy, gratifying yellow of the noon's sun as he dances his stresses away; and finally shifting into a brazen red as he fights for, and eventually rightfully earns, his right to be in control for a change.
Milo is the lead of the film, serving as the empathetic child protagonist with anxious, but passion-driven character choices. He desires to one day dance, but has anxious limitations that are holding him back.
Milo's Shadow is this film's antagonist, serving as the personification of Milo's anxiety. It presents itself as very bossy, jagged, and even downright cruel, all in a misguided effort to keep its kid from embarrassing himself; a metaphorical characterization of what anxiety feels like if it were a person.
Just as important the design were, Milo and his shadow's character interaction took some work. Their stark contrast, both in personality and in expression, as well as just the pure absurdity of a shadow being able to interact with anything physical at all needed to find a balance that was just right. A lot of character writing exercises helped land on the relationship used in the film!
Milo's design and how I was to draw him was very important, especially considering my intentions were to make a very hand-sketched film. It went in a lot of directions until I landed on the big-eyed, Alex Hirsch-style version you saw in the film.
The locations of this film took a lot of bright colors and fun iconography to convey, given its location of Honolulu, Hawaii. The splendid sculpture of Sky Gate Park was used as iconography for people to discover and explore the Lāhainā Noon concept further if they so choose.
In total, there were 35 backgrounds created for this film!
I used Toon Boom Harmony for the very first time in the creation of my animation for this film. Each keyframe was designed off of the storyboards and were then finished with in betweens. After that, I inked each frame and added any little additions my roughs missed.
Creating everything that I did for this film-- from the characters to the backgrounds to the animations to the compositing, so on and so forth-- was a trying challenge. One that I expected and welcomed, given that I set my own bar high from the get-go. The hard work I put into this film resulted in some of my best work that I put my heart and soul into, and although I could always ask for more time to make this even better, I am extremely proud of what I came out with.
I am forever grateful for my advisory committee, Anthony Scalmatto, Lincoln Adams, Steven Rawley, and Jeff Harter for all their help and encouragement, as well as Anthony Liotta for color help and Logan Hayes for the all the audio work that really pushed my film further. And of course, I have to thank my family, Sam, and everyone graduating from CIA's animation class with me, for all the support through the ups and downs and the pushes to go the distance!