1. Marten

    Marten New Member

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    Story feedback and ideas for animated short film required!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Marten, Jul 17, 2021.

    Hi there,
    I dont know if this is the right place to ask for help, but since this platform is about writing stories, I think I can‘t be too wrong.

    Currently I am studying animation and next semester I will work on my final animation project. For this project I want to make a short 3d animated film. But my problem is I am very bad when it comes to story telling or even think about a nice story.

    what I got so far is my protagonist who drives down a vacant country road when suddenly he has to brake. A sheep is standing in the middle of the road preventing him from driving any further. The protagonist trys to get the sheep from the road by driving very close in the sheeps direction,, honking, and so on. the protagonist finally realizes he will have no success moving the sheep with his soft methods so he decides to go to the back of the car to get his pump gun. While the protagonist is standing at the back of the car, the engine starts an the car starts to drive away. The final image is the protagonist standing on the road next to a caution sign saying „wild sheeps“.

    while writing the outline of my little story, I notice the story might sound a little weird but you have to picture the story in a cartoonish way.

    For now I am far from happy with the story, because I would like to have more gags in it. I hope you storytelling pros have some feedback for me or even some ideas to bring this story to the next level.

    So dont be shy and let your creative juices flow, I am open for any kind of criticism :)

    thanks in advance!
     
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  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    So far the only problem I see here is that I don't understand why the car started and drove away. Did a sheep do it?

    A short film of this type is basically a joke in visual terms. So you need a good setup and then a good punch line. The setup seems good, but I don't get the punch line.

    I don't want to tell you what punch line to use, but just as an example, I could see from your setup the man getting into an ongoing contest with one particular sheep that keeps blocking him somehow every time he tries to get past it. Then finally he gets an idea, goes and gets a shotgun out of the trunk, and the car drives away. Then we see that the sheep is driving it.

    It's just the first thing that occurred to me, I'm not saying it's great or anything, but at least it works, because it uses an element that was already there in the story (the sheep) in an unexpected way. The sheep obviously is smarter than we expect normal sheep to be, because it's a cartoon, but we don't expect it to be able to start and drive a car. Especially if so far it's been shown standing only on all 4 legs and not behaving like a person.

    You might try looking up the connection between short stories and jokes online. Here's a search for it: Structure for short stories and jokes

    I see the second entry mentions the three-act structure, which is the basic form of most stories and I suppose of many jokes too. I highly recommend doing a web search for the three-act structure as well.

    Maybe just look up the structure for gag cartoons.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2021
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  3. Marten

    Marten New Member

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    @Xoic thanks so much for your feedback! You are right, I did not mention that the sheep is the one that is driving the car away, but its actually what I had in my mind. Anyway in terms of punchline, I don‘t think it is strobg enough and I am looking for something different that could make up the third act, when talking about the three-act structure (thanks for the hint, it was very helpful!)

    when I divide my story into the three-act structure I can imagine my protagonist driving down the countryroad sitting in his car listening to some radio and singing along to make up the first so called introduction act. the establisher shot could show the countryroad from far away with the music already playing in the background.

    act two, the confrontation would be the part where the protagonist has to brake for the sheep and the sheep keeps resisting against the attempts of the protagonist to get the sheep from the road. This part is also one where I can imagine to build in some sort of gags depending on how the protagonist might tries to get the sheep out of the way.

    As mentioned act three is when the protagonist goes to the trunk and the sheep is overtaking the car and driving away.

    when packing and telling the story in form of the three act structure I think its the third act/ punchline I am not happy with yet. But I find it quiet hard to think of an alternative punchline. Maybe you have some more ideas on that?

    thank you very much so far!
     
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    One image that did occur to me is after the sheep drives away, maybe making gestures out the window at him, then the camera cuts back to the man and a couple of other sheep step in, beat him up, and steal the gun.

    This would be a post-climax coda, a little after-the-fact joke just to add to the punch line. It still uses elements already presented, and is built on the same idea that the sheep are more human than you thought and also very mean-spirited, acting like sheep thugs.

    It's always important to tie up the loose ends. Anything that was presented should be used in some way, and there was a gun that didn't actually get used, so I used it in an unexpected way and humiliated the man even farther.
     
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  5. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Here's a little thing I did some years ago that works on gag structure:



    It was just a practice piece done with an existing puppet and set. Really my main point was to practice the mime thing about pulling on a rope. I had learned that actions initiated by a character start from the chest—the chest moves first—but an action initiated from outside the character is a pull on some other part of the body and the chest moves last, with all the limbs flailing or reacting in a wavelike manner to the force.

    Part of what makes it a (weak) gag is that you expect it to be a silent scene until all of a sudden there's sound when he hits the floor.

    But after finishing it (and moving the camera away, so I'd never be able to get it back precisely where it had been) it occurred to me I should have had a little coda after the closing credits where his head pops up and looks around silently. It would show his embarrassment, checking to see if anybody witnessed his fall. I wish I had thought of it in time, but alas...

    This is when I learned the power of a coda to add some extra oomph to a joke.

    In studying acting through the body alone I learned a lot from a few books about stage acting:

    • Tricks of the Trade by Dario Fo
    • The Mime Book by Claude Kipniss (where I learned the chest trick)
    • Mask Characterization: An Acting Process by Libby Appel (my favorite)
    I also looked deeply into Commedia Dell'Arte and watched a lot of videos of it. This kind of stuff is essential for an animator.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2021
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    The gag sounds fine to me. A sheep driving--stealing, in fact--a car is classic and funny in any context. I wouldn't overthink it too much.
     
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  7. Storysmith

    Storysmith Senior Member

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    I would have the man notice the "wild sheep" sign at the beginning as he starts dealing with the sheep. That way the audience can realise that he (and they) have misunderstood the meaning of "wild" when he looks at it again. Maybe he can even uproot the sign and try to use it to drive the sheep away.

    To make it clear just what has happened, I'd recommend a scene showing the sheep driving the car away. In keeping with the "wild" wording, perhaps it could turn the radio on, belting out some heavy metal or something similar.
     
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  8. Marten

    Marten New Member

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    @Xoic thank you very much for your detailed input, it is very helpful and starts giving me the feeling that the overall idea can work out. I like your idea of other sheeps coming up to give the human the rest and steal the gun so he is actually left with nothing. You are totally right, it adds to the punchline and underlines the fact that he underestimated the "wild sheep" warning. In terms of coda what about having the protagonist looking at another "wild sheep" sign, realizing that he underestimated the warning? Or maybe he is walking down the country road crossing another walking sign, this time it says "wild snakes" or any other kind of animal leaving the protagonist in fear? What do you think?

    Also nice little animation!

    @Homer Potvin thank you very much for your input, this is also giving me a good feeling and makes me stick to the idea!

    @Storysmith Thank you so much for your input! To be honest I was also thinking about when to show the sign to have the best impact. I was also thinking about putting the sign right next to the sheep when the protagonist first meets the sheep. So the moment of ignoring the signs is clear. But I am not sure yet. Another option might be to show the sign in the establishing shot where the human drives over a static camera looking down the street.

    Also I am in love with the idea of having a shot showing the sheep driving the car away and turning on some wild heavy metal. This makes it so much clearer of course. When thinking about the sheep driving away I can also imagine the sheep making a "donut" or burnout" with the car before actually driving away to show the sheep has some bad ass driving skills.

    Thank you so much for all your input so far, you guys are really helping me out! When talking about the protagonist, what kind of guy are you imagining? This probably belongs to the character development section, but I am just curious how you guys picture the human and I don't want to open up another thread for this.
     
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  9. Storysmith

    Storysmith Senior Member

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    I don't think the human particularly needs a lot of character. Young/old, male/female, etc doesn't matter. It's just someone trying to get past the sheep. I guess somebody who's not too laid back, but also someone who isn't going to get angry very quickly. So they can gradually get more and more annoyed having tried reasonable approaches to begin with.
     
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  10. Marten

    Marten New Member

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    @Storysmith I totally agree with you, but at least it must be someone how would have a pump gun in his trunk. That‘s why I keep on thinking about a clichee redneck, but I am not sure. It might be a little too much.
     
  11. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I'm trying to think of a way he could be walking in town at the end, and see a sign on a night club or something saying "Come in and experience the wild night life". And maybe he has an idea balloon that appears over his head with people acting like the wild sheep did earlier. The only part that's hard to think of is how the sign would be worded.

    It could be a second coda.

    If you do make him a redneck, it would fit because he's just beginning to see that people in the city can be just as wild as the sheep (it's unexpected to see them acting wild and dangerous).
     
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  12. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    As others have said, I definitely think you have the makings of a good short

    In my mind's eye, rather than driving and honking, I see the man edging one way and then the other with the sheep "innocently" moving to block his progress with a bit of wile e.coyote piano style music playing whichever way he goes, rising arpeggio one way, falling the other - this could be the central "action", then a close-up of the man looking comically evil as he pumps the shotgun, the car driving off to reveal the "wild sheep" sign, then an interior shot of the sheep pushing the stereo on and playing Steppenwolf's born to be wild (not sure what the copyright implications are for a graduate work, you might want to check that with your tutor)
     
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  13. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I could see a few foreshadowing events to set it up where he passed a flock of domesticated sheep and beeps his horn to get them off the road, then on to a free-range flock where he honks madly to get them to move. Now he comes upon the wild sheep and the honking doesn't work, and so on....
     
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  14. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    I instantly visualise Elmer Fudd.
     
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  15. Marten

    Marten New Member

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    @Xoic I really like your second coda draft, but since I am kind of limited in time and human resources for the project I want to stick to a single set/environment as well as I want to go with only two characters. These restrictions actually led me to the idea of the human against the sheep conflict in the first place.

    @Hammer Also a very nice idea. I think one can play with how the sheep stops the human and how the human tries to get past the sheep in very different and funny ways. I might have to explore a little more variations and see what works best, like what is easy to produce and has the funniest impact on the people who will watch the animation.

    @Thundair I love the idea of establishing a flock of "domesticated" sheeps at the start for introdutcion pruposes, but like I mentioned earlier regarding @Xoic 's idea: Because of time I have to stick to a maximum of two characters only.5

    @Naomasa298 yeah he is a pretty good match I think. Only difference here is that elmer's main mission is to get the bunny while the human in my story only wants to get past the god damn sheep and doesn't really care about the sheep as much as elmer might care about bugs bunny. But the stereotype of a generic huntsman should still work fairly well.

    Any ideas on the environment where the story is taking place? I thought about a "monument valley"-ish kind of environment. Mainly dry and reminding me of a wild west scenario.
     
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  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Nice. They could have a sort of duel, like 2 cowboys, but not with guns. I'm thinking before he gets the gun from the trunk. Just mimic the setup and tension and music cues like a classic gun duel.
     
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