Animatics, Character Design


AKA: Cat gushes about Epic: The Ocean Saga for a whole page

Alright everyone, buckle up your seatbelts, ’cause you’re in for a storm! A storm set circa 1200BC off the coast of Ithaca, to be precise.

As those of you familiar with the work of Jorge Rivera-Herrans (Jay) will no doubt know, the newest concept album of Epic: The Musical was released a few days ago, and it’s already rocking the charts. It reportedly hit #1 album on iTunes just a few days after its release, and for good reason. The musical tells the age-old story of the Odyssey in a riveting musical format, whisking us along with Odysseus and his men as they begin the journey from Troy back to their homeland Ithaca. In the latest album their homeland has finally come into view, only for the fleet to whipped away by a vicious storm and back into the perils of the deep ocean. It ends with a menacing portrayal of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, who does not favour our dear friend Odysseus in the slightest.

Now you may be thinking to yourself; okay, this sounds cool, but why are you advertising a musical that you have no part in? Well, first of all, good music is worth sharing, right? But perhaps more importantly, I’m sharing this because good music is inspiring.

And oh boy does this album have me inspired.

A lot of my artistic process is centred around music. I have whole playlists for my original characters that I can listen to while writing. The majority of my animatics were made because I listened to a song and was inspired, or had a particular vision for that song (rather than the more traditional technique of having an idea and finding a song to match it). So finding a good song is the CatBolt-equivalent of having a new draft for a whole animatic, or at least like, a solid 87% of it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to draw all of these ideas. I’d like to say that the decision of which ones get drawn and which ones don’t is one I make rationally, based on smart things like time investment, audience and complexity, but that probably wouldn’t be true. In reality, the decision is largely tied to how intensely I can hyperfixate on a song, and how much inspiration I can rack up to break through the motivation threshold that lies between “dancing around my room with my headphones on, probably severely impacting my hearing” and “y’know, actually drawing the thing”.

I reckon that at this point, you’re starting to see the connection between “Cat really likes this musical” and “Cat did something”– so now that the dots are connecting, let’s get into the process, shall we?

The object of my hyperfixation for this particular project was the song Ruthlessness, the final song in the Ocean Saga album. It functions to introduce Poseidon and frame his motives, before concluding with Odyseuss’s daring escape. Now as it happens, I have a character named Poseidon in Rust & Revolutionaries (the book I’m currently writing; more on that here) that is very similar to Poseidon as he is portrayed in Jay’s Epic. So naturally, this was a perfect two-birds kind of scenario: I could animate my characters and the song I was hyperfixating on at the same time!

I started off by figuring out my design for Poseidon. I wanted to stray away from the kind of “surfer dude” vibe that some portrayals of Poseidon use, instead aiming for something else that belongs on the wide seas: pirates. I especially wanted to capture the untamed and dangerous aspects of his character, which I did by giving tattoos and scars, supplemented with a toned physique and a menacing scowl. The longer hair started off as a joke in my early sketches, but as with many silly gags I got attached to it and ultimately kept it in. I briefly considered an eyepatch, but that felt like a bit much, given as how he’s not actually a pirate. And so with all that figured out, I moved on to phase two: animating.

Because yes, as you may have guessed, I animated a part of the song. Well, “animated” is a strong word– it implies fluid movements and rendered products, whereas this lies closer to an animatic (greyscale and not fully animated). But I use the word anyway because I was challenged by a dear friend to animate one of Poseidon’s lines from the song, and I did indeed focus on figuring out the movement for the line in question.

And so I did! The whole process– character design to final animatic– was completed in the span of roughly 33 hours. That’s one way to spend your vacation, I guess XD. But hey, I had fun– and ultimately, that’s what vacation is all about.

The final result is shown below; it’s only about eight seconds long, but I’m incredibly pleased with how it turned out. Do let me know what you think, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the musical! Until next time, take care!

Animatic of an audio segment from “Ruthlessness” by Jorge Rivera-Herrans

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