Old Friends: A Contemplation On Past Projects

I found an old friend--  An animation, to be exact.  Among other things.  And it took me on a trip down all sorts of old roads and memories that have been marinating in old emotional mind goop.  Eventually, it got to a point where I just spent an entire seven hours just digging through ages of old stuff I used to like, YouTube series I followed, and music I used to listen to.  In the process, I got to ruminate on all these things I created in the past, from animations and comics to short stories and full-blown attempted novels.

"Ultimate" (2012)

          I was rummaging around on an old flash drive looking for a thing when I found a folder with a bunch of clips for an animation project from way back in middle school.  If I have my chronology correct (my memory is not the most reliable source for when exactly stuff happens), I worked on this project in 8th grade, which was about 2012-ish, within a couple of months after I finished that Tell-Tale Heart project that got so popular with my peers. This project below, which I named "Ultimate," was created mostly in Photoshop, with only a couple of Painter shots (specifically the ones with the yellow creature).  I guess I was maybe 14 or 13 when I made it.  This was the first time I really dumped using Corel Painter to create animation frames; most of the frames and art for Tell-Tale were created in Painter, but I started using Photoshop Elements as I figured out how to work the software better and discovered its capabilities.  Beware, this project is OLD, and is better viewed as a benchmark on the road to where I am now and where I will be in the future than as any representation of my current abilities.  It's OLD, very old.

          It doesn't have sound for a reason; I can vaguely remember wanting to add sound and music to it as I was making it, but I've since forgotten what I wanted to put in it, and I figure that it's better to let it be in its current condition, with the focus being the visuals and animationeyness.  It's funny that I gave it an upbeat-ish name like Ultimate, considering whatever discernible plot there is seems to tell a rather depressing story of a feline creature's prey slipping through its fingers (or claws, rather).  The barren-looking land doesn't add much optimism.  What is most interesting to me, though, is the way I edited it and the animation techniques I used.  Often, when I'm animating something complex in a dark environment, I'll just work in silhouette to make the process faster and create a certain artistic emphasis on the subject.  In one of my more recent projects, Stormforest, I employed this several times, admittedly.  However, I've recently been trying to quit using that as a shortcut so I can face the demons of animated coloring and shading head-on.

          So, yes, this is quite an old friend of mine.

          But you know what's even older...?

"Soap Opera of the Sea" (probably 2008 or something)

          I've been animating stuff for a long time, you see.

          Yes, I made this when I was in elementary school.  It was 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, I think, and I was making it for a project.  I was in Target, an accelerated education program for kids who got a certain score or higher on some assessment test and went to an advanced class for the whole day every Thursday for enriched learning to suit our minds, and we had a unit on marine habitats (or sharks, was it?  I know we had a unit on sharks, because we dissected them at some point, which was madly cool).  The assignment was pretty open-ended, with lots of options, so I wrote a script, created characters, animated stuff in Anime Studio, and edited all this together on my own in Windows Moviemaker, complete with titles to show what the characters were saying since I didn't have any voiceacting for them.  I can remember sitting at a pale grey desktop monitor figuring out where I wanted to move what and when.  I'm surprised at how sophisticated the story is and how I used some subtle-but-not-so-subtle elements of satire, coming back to this after all these years.  It's genuinely filling me with fuzzy warm feelings of adorableyness. 

"Envious" (2013) and "Famiglia" (2014)

         Now, let's step back forward in time to when I went to film camp.  For two years, I went to a week long film camp in Atlanta called Camp Flix, where a team of about 5 to 11 kids and one counselor make a 5-minute long film in about 7 days.  I would have gone another year, but I was busy having the time of my life last summer at my state's prestigious and unfathomably awesome month-long summer enrichment program, GHP (Georgia Governor's Honor Program), and you can't go any more once you turn 18, which I'm less than a month away from doing.  So, at Camp Flix, I made two short films with two different teams, and I co-directed on both.  It was a pretty interesting experience for me.  The first one was "Envious," a horror ghost story slash teen drama, and the second was "Famiglia," a parodical comedy that re-imagines the basic gist of the famous Godfather series in a high school setting....  with an Italian Club That Cannot Be Refused.

I animated that opening title sequence in Famiglia, by the way.....

          Dang, let's just take a moment to appreciate that kick-butt frothy mouth moment.  I brought foaming candy to camp one day and made that happen, and I'm so proud of that.  I also did lots of the ghostly, bloody makeup.

DANG, what a fine shot.

          Anyways, this camp was one of the highlights of my life both years.  It was actually pretty brave of me to decide to do camp in the first place.  I felt really awkward on set during "Envious"; I came there wanting to direct, but I often felt drowned out by other people, since they spoke up more and had more outer confidence than me most of the time. It was challenging and riddled with times when I was uncomfortable in my own skin.  My social skills hadn't really gotten to where they are now, and I wasn't nearly as assertive as I am today.  There was even one whole day where I felt like a weakling.  But the key was to refuse to crumble and collapse.  I got my voice in and made valuable contributions to the project.  I even made friends, which was honestly kind of rare for me.  It was a wonderful learning experience, and definitely not just in filmmaking...  When I worked on "Famiglia" I still wasn't really social, but I was much more assertive, and I got to get my voice in even more.  My second year counselor, Keyes, said I had a good eye for performance and that I worked with blocking and directing actors really well.  Being really familiar with editing, I also either edited a lot of stuff myself or worked really closely with the editor(s) on both projects.

          I came in my second year, my "Famiglia" year, with a storyboard for an original concept of mine already sketched out, and I worked really hard pitching it to my teammates and my counselor, but the rest of the team wanted to do the fun Famiglia concept instead, which is one thing I guess I regret a little bit, but Famiglia was so much fun (and wholesome hard work) to make, and it doesn't bother me too much.  It was just interesting to help realize stories I wouldn't normally write (I'm not really into writing high school drama or the like, especially if proms and teen romance are involved), and it was especially interesting how Samantha's story evolved from a stone cold serious mafia story with adult characters to a cute comedy about a high school girl skipping Italian Club to see her boyfriend and facing the wrath of her clubmates.  THING TO NOTE:  The concept was devised by an Italian, so no offense meant to Italian people.

Refugees, the Webcomic (around 2013)

          The conception of this one is quite interesting to discuss.... 

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         This story, "Refugees," is actually a project I'd like to work on again; maybe not in exactly the same way, but again nonetheless.  If I were ever to start work on it again, it would probably be as a series of short stories and comics.   It's a pretty dark webcomic about bizarrity, brutality, and mystery; it follows Pepper, a young aerid of the planet Ocwoeno who must embark on an uncomfortable journey after he finally snaps and murders his tormenter.  I made it with the super-pixelly Flipnote Studio for the most part and occasionally threw in an animated video.  Hardly anyone read it, so I was pretty much just making it for me.   It began, interestingly enough, as someone else's story at its very roots.  That might sound terrible at first, but let me explain it a bit.  Refugees is kind of a product of the many repeats and reincarnations of a simple Warrior Cats fanseries that was born on Flipnote Hatena.  That probably sounds even more terrible, but it's really much more complex than that little description implies. 

          Now, many young artists of my generation and culture have found themselves in the Warriors fandom at some point:  Me, for example.  As a naive little 6th grader, I discovered Flipnote Hatena, a (now dead) website where users of Flipnote Studio, a simple pixelly art and animation software built in to pretty much every Nintendo DSi, could post their work, leave comments, and even edit and spin-off unlocked flipnotes they downloaded.  I found a little Warriors fanseries, "The Tale of LostClan," that was made by a user called Supahfrog, and I latched onto it eagerly.  I followed it for a while.  I was deeply saddened when Supahfrog wrote in her profile bio that her DSi had gotten some crippling injuries and she wouldn't be able to continue her series.  However, a new beginning surfaced with her simple open ended cessation of her series to her fans: "feel free to continue it yourself if you want," she said.  It ignited something deep and creative inside me, and thus my original rendition of the series began. 

          Starting from the very beginning of the story, I made several little minute-long snippets of animation that told my interpretation of the plot and characters.  I pretty much went to the moon with it.  I stopped around episode 21, though, because I felt I was getting too absorbed in it to the point where it was interfering with other stuff I wanted to do, and it was passed off to my friend who began yet another retelling of it.  I had come up with a lot of things that transgressed Warriors canon, and she kept a balance between my LostClan and Supahfrog's LostClan, adding her own twists here and there.  My version never really stopped breathing, though.  A couple years passed.  One day, after watching my friend's LostClan, I decided I wanted to do my own again.  I tried directly remaking it at first, but a couple key technical difficulties and techy blunders got me really frustrated with it, and I found myself enjoying this random flipnote comic I was making on the side much more.  On a huge whim, I totally threw the warriors universe out the window and made my own universe, totally changed everything, and took the rough concept of LostClan and planted it somewhere totally new....  Thus creating pretty much a new thing with only echoes of the old LostClan.  I even found Supahfrog on deviantART later and asked her about it, and she gave me the A-okay "This is totally not my story anymore, keep doing what you're doing" thumbs up.

          So....  Do you see what I mean...?

          Yay........

"Dracolias:  Sleeping Flame" (2011)

          I found this around the same time I found "Ultimate," on a flash drive I was looking through for some thing I cannot recall.  Let me say, I was filled with joy and relief when I found it, because for a long time I thought I had lost it, digitally misplaced it, or accidentally deleted it away forever.  So, without further ado, my 6th grade self brings you "Dracolias: Sleeping Flame," a story about dragonlike creatures who live on a giant artificial biome on a ginormous space shuttle floating in the depths of space and can actually fly outside in space without dying. 

Chapter illustrationey things....

          I guess I'll just have to show you an excerpt and wrap this whole thing up:

In Jiola’s head, there was a blur of shapes and outlines.  She couldn’t tell the ground from the sky.  She looked down at her paws—they were blurry, fading into the background.  Where was she?  Jiola’s head was spinning. It felt like she recognized something in the spinning landscape, but she couldn’t put her claw on it.  She took a quick glance behind her.  There was a dark, cavelike opening only a few feet away. Desperately, Jiola ran through it. She was eager to escape the madness around her. For a moment, she could hear her pawsteps, her talons clinking against hard stone. Then, everything was dark.  It was suffocating. Jiola could hear the howling of a distant wind, but there was nothing in view.  Just blackness.  Her gaze darted around quickly, looking for any sign of light. Then, something sprang up in front of her, only inches from her face.  It was horrifying, but dazzlingly interesting.  It snapped the three parts of its jaw together, and opened them again, showing the pinkish-red inside of its mouth.  Fierce teeth gleamed at Jiola, long and sharp.  Snap.  The mouth closed again.  The creature’s outer skin was a murderous shade of cobalt blue.  Jiola wasn’t afraid.  She wanted to see what it would do next, as it drew ever closer.  The whispering of the wind was silence now, apart from the loud snap of the creature’s jaws.  The thing had no eyes, and it stood nearly incomplete on a spindly blue body, gnashing its three way jaws over and over again.  The body didn’t matter.  Jiola’s dream consciousness hadn’t completed it.  All the focus was on the head, the teeth, the throatless mouth…  She was amazed, exhilarated.  Even though it seemed to be in full detail, it was somehow out of focus at the same time.  Then the beautifully monstrous mouth closed for the last time.
Jiola woke with a start. “Flusty?”  She couldn’t feel his warmth against her side.  He was gone.  The sun was beginning to go down, and she could feel wind chilling her skin.  He must have gotten up for some reason.  She extended a forepaw out sideways to feel the spot where Fluster had once been.  It was completely cold. He’d been gone a long time. Where could he have run off to?  Jiola sat up and dug her talons into the ground.  She twisted her neck around and looked at the village.  The dragons were crowded into little groups, mumbling and rumbling.  She got up and pranced over into the center of the village.  Her parents crossed her mind again.  Where were they?! She wanted to know so badly that it hurt.  Neesa was safe, but where were her parents?  They could be dying, or dead…
And I’m not doing anything! That mean voice in the back of her head made its presence known.  It sneered again, And I’m not doing anything! Not for Fluster, not for anyone, not for my parents!  Jiola let it rage on and on, and the more it spoke, the more guilty and anxious she felt.  It broke her.  She walked slowly, being careful not to step on anyone’s tail.  The rest of the dragons paid little attention to her as she stepped past, sweeping their tails, even tripping Jiola a couple times.  She didn’t bother to listen to their conversations at first, as they rarely talked about anything worth listening, but then she caught a whiff of a conversation between an orange dragoness and a rose and yellow dragonling.
“So, that dude went missing?”
“more like ran away.  He’s probably dead by now.”
“wait, whu—“
“His espharyx’s infected.  If the infection didn’t kill him, a Skalodon did.”
“Yeah… plenty of those around here, the big dopes…”
Jiola’s heart raced.  Was it Fluster that they were talking about? A black dragon intruded on the conversation. “Hey, Morga?” The orange dragoness turned her head. “Yes, Egor?”
“Come with me,” said Egor.  He looked serious.
Morga replied brusquely.  “I’m speaking to Kwindt right now. Can you wait a sec?” She didn’t look the least bit concerned for what Egor had to say.  “Fine.  But you’d better hear this.” Then Morga locked her gaze with Egor’s.  She had a hungry look in her eyes, like there was a big, juicy piece of information that she could sink her ears into.  “What is it?”
“Come on, and I’ll tell you…”
Morga stood up and stepped toward Egor. “Sorry Kwin, I need to hear this.  See ya’ later.”  Kwindt had remorse in his eyes. “Okay. Later.”  He got to his paws and scuttled away.  Morga finally noticed Jiola standing nearby, and she turned towards her and clicked her jaws.  “Don’t eavesdrop on me, girl,” She spoke in a condescending tone, glowering down on Jiola. Jiola’s heart was beating faster and faster.  Morga then began to turn away, but something stopped her.  “Why were you listenining to my conversation?  You look frightened.” She looked Jiola right in her eyes.  Hmm… the dragoness contemplated.  What pretty blue eyes… such a pretty color… such a pretty young dragonling…
Egor was hasty.  “Come.  Don’t waste your time on her.”  Morga stayed still, waiting for Jiola’s answer.  Jiola didn’t know what to say, so she said the loudest thought in her head.  “That dragon you were talking about… do you know his name?”
Morga snorted, “Don’t know, don’t care.  He’s dead.  They’ll find his body tomorrow.” She swung her head around and stepped after Egor without another word.  But Jiola could tell… there was something resting on the tip of her tongue.  “Wait!! I need to know!!”
“Get your tail out of here.  It could get caught in all sorts of unwanted things.”  Egor replied.  Jiola burned with suspicion.  She let her fangs show a bit from under her lip.  Something was definitely up.  If that dragoness was talking about Fluster…
Morga let her fangs show in return.  She flexed her talons fervently, letting her displeasure show.  Jiola backed away, tail whipping through the air behind her, and let out a low growl.  Egor stepped forward and bent forward to glare into Jiola’s eyes and spoke.  “You heard what I said, didn’t you?”  Jiola stood defiantly for a second. His rusty tinged orange eyes were saturated with a cold fire that kept her on the tips of her talons.  She shivered.  What would HE want with Fluster?  What would Morga want with Fluster?  She and Egor seemed to have all that they wanted.  Why would they need to get rid of Fluster?  Jiola was trembling violently now.  Egor and Morga turned and walked away.  Morga looked into Egor’s eyes, and whispered, “Come, brother.  What do you have to say to me?”
Jiola was standing in an awkward silence, trying to keep calm.  It’s okay… It’s okay…  You’re just being paranoid… Paranoid…  There isn’t anything wrong…  Fluster’s fine…  She reassured herself.  Her legs wobbled insecurely.  Without a word, and still shaking, Jiola collapsed onto the ground where she stood and immediately fell asleep.

Not terrible for a twelve-year-old, I guess!

This should be all for now.

It would probably be a good idea to wrap this up.

Thanks for reading this aimless wandering!