When we were approached by Node Fest – Australia’s Premiere Motion Design & Animation event – to create a film that opened the festival, we were a little nervous. After all, this event is a chance to represent and introduce our industry! Those nerves quickly faded however, and were replaced by the creative possibilities that lay ahead of us.
The only criteria for the brief was to ensure we clearly show the 14 different speakers names. We set out with clear initial goals:
It was obvious to us from the get go that we wanted to focus heavily on character and story (not commonly featured in conference titles) to showcase our specialist skills. This gave us a chance to combine a wild mix of different techniques ensuring they merge together into a cohesive, rich world.
And so, a faux 90’s family sitcom was born, featuring a bunch of misfits complete with its own catchy theme song!
After some extensive rewatching of classic 80’s and 90’s sitcoms such as Full House, Perfect Strangers and Home Improvement, we were well entrenched in the various tropes and formulas of the era. Not to mention, ahem, some of us lived through those eras ourselves so the nostalgia kick was a nice trip down memory lane. While the overall goal was to entertain with a colourful cast of hilarious misfits and stereotypes, we wanted to ensure there was a backbone to it all.
Our team brainstorming sessions ranged from whimsical to wild and while we had some great comedic jumping off points, it all felt a little empty without a further justification behind the choices. After toying with different themes, we decided to base each character design on a common animation tool or technique – we were presenting to the animation industry after all!
Mom & Child were quite literally representing ‘Parent & Child relationships’ with a nod to the After Effects Pickwhip tool seen as Mom’s earrings and the child’s hair curl. Grandpa was a big ol’ ball of fur with gas emitting from his rear – our take on 3D particles and simulations.
3D sculpted characters, 2D character rigs, frame by frame cel animation, and even a hand knitted puppet were created for the project, giving us plenty of freedom to explore new techniques and express creative choices.
Once our eclectic cast was established, it was time to workshop narrative ideas that allowed for mini story-arcs and connections.
For example, our Troublesome Teenager – who gets caught in her bedroom with a sneaky smoking habit – throws her cigarette out of the window resulting in our Handyman’s foot catching fire, later traipsing flames through the house which can be seen in our final couch group shot freeze frame.
Mid way through – as if accidentally taped over – we splice to our fictional cooking show ‘GET IT IN YA’, an ode to Peter Russel Clarkes ‘COME & GET IT’. This was a vehicle for us to introduce Node Fest’s charismatic host ‘Captain Jimmy’ who is a character in his own right – voiced by Aunty Donna’s Broden Kelly.
Continuing to lean into the nostalgia and VHS vibes, we crafted a visual treatment that included bad tracking, visual degradation, interlacing & audio glitches which switched between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios – all bookended by fake production logos and video warnings.
We even filmed our behind the scenes footage on Super 8 film, splicing snippets into the credits montage as we wanted to keep everything feeling authentic from start to finish.
Bringing it all together, our very own multi-talented senior animator, Jon Asquith, wrote an original composition with lyrics, paying homage to classic shows from the era.
Once we shared our ideas with the team at Node, they were so excited with the concept that we were asked to help design a custom t-shirt to be sold at the conference and online. A piece of memorabilia that also served as a fund-raising tool to help secure the future of this important industry event.
Directed by: Dirty Puppet
Animation Director: Cameron Gough
Character Design/Illustration: James Boorman
3D Design Lead: Edwina Joel
Art Direction: Annika Fleur
3D Modelling & Animation: Cameron Gough
2D Character Lead: Jon Asquith
2D / Cel Lead: Taryn Borgford
2D Animation: Jasmine Croser
Puppet Designer: Charlie Blackman
Puppeteer: Taryn Borgford
3D Modelling (Twins): Courtney Hopkinson
3D Pyro & Technical: Simon Bronson
Storyboards & Illustration: Taryn Borgford
Storyboards: Sacha Bryning
Compositing & Edit: Cameron Gough
Sound Design & Mix: Nick van Cuylenburg
Original Music & Lyrics: Jon Asquith
Voice Over: Broden Kelly