Our final week in a Studio

In our final week with Blacknorth studios, they decided to go another way (stylistically) in the project, so all our previous work was scrapped. We were then shown an example of how the game would now (hopefully) end up looking and began working towards that, as we only had a few days to get the work done, we were working on a much smaller scale.

I ended up modeling a little part of the set were I inserted the original crashed spaceship model and added some rocks, an arch and icicles to fly through. I then UV unwrapped, and textured the file. We decided to go for a much more ‘icy’ look than before. I used a lot more blue tones than just snow to give a much more icy feel, I actually think it looks pretty good given the time period it was done in.

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Once happy with that I baked in ambient occlusion and applied It to my texture, I also made a normal map of my texture to give a nice ‘bumpiness’ to the texture. I then added in lights and we stuck to the blue/yellow highlights and shadow idea as we had done previously as this had proven successful and we felt it looks best, we then baked in light and colour.



Working at an Animation Studio| Timetable

Week 1 In week one we were introduced to the project, got to know the style and began making concept art with the technique of ‘photobashing’. Something we had never done before. We each created concepts based off of a different theme, eg: lava, desert, forest, ice.
Week 2 Week two, we got feedback on our first set of concepts and then went off and made more based off of the criticism and direction we were heading.
Week 3 In week 3 the project leader decided that he liked the ‘ice world’ (icetundra) world concepts best and we then all began creating basic block models in maya based on the concepts.
Week 4 In week 4 the project leader gave us the green light with our designs and we began creating detailed and realistic models.
Week 5 Week 5, was similar to week 4 in that we were just continuing to model and fixing pieces they were not happy with from the previous week.
Week 6 In week 6 we began UV unwrapping and texturing our sets. In my opinion this is the week that was most stressful as none of us has any experience in UV unwrapping yet.
Week 7 Once they were happy with our textures, they asked us to bake in ambient occlusion and bake in the lights. This was also something we had zero experience in, but we learnt pretty fast and got there in the end.
Week 8 Over the next few weeks we spent our time fixing the odd Uv problem, re texturing our sets and baking in lights in different ways until we finally reached the desired effect.
Week 9 Read above
Week 10 Read above
Week 11 Read above, we were also given a broken spaceship model with textures to put around our scenes to look like a crash site. We baked this in too.
Week 12 In the final week, they liked our baked in light as we chose to add blue shadows and yellow highlights into the snow that was very effective. We then spent time animating in a camera onto a curve to give an idea of what the game would actually look like when brought into the Oculus Rift format.

In the end the company asked us to stay a little longer to finish off some of the work and in the final week (week 14) they decided they were going to scrap the game to go for a much more simplistic style, leaving us just a few days to make something new that we had previously spent many weeks learning and perfecting. In a way this was a blessing as we now knew how to do everything really well and were able to produce some work at a very high speed.

Overall, I did enjoy my time working for Blacknorth Studios. I learnt a lot and adapted to the weekly deadlines whilst working at a fast but professional standard. I learnt how to take rough criticism like a pinch of salt and produced work tirelessly until the company was happy. I am glad of my time there as I now have experience working in a professional animation studio environment and I now feel better prepared for when I am finished university and going out to get a job in the real world.

Working with an Animation Studio | Evaluation

For the past 12 weeks 6 others and I have been working for Blacknorth Studios (the creators of Finn in the Forest). During this period we have been working on creating a level for a game. The game is science fiction and based in a world with flying spaceships. The idea of the game is to fly around and shoot enemies as you make it through the levels. This game will be made available for Oculus Rift, meaning you can look around and not just straight ahead.

Our task was to create a level for the game, we began by individually creating concept art for different idea’s of levels such as lava, forest, desert, ice etc. I was in charge of creating the concepts for the ice level and ultimately my work was chosen and we moved onto creating this world in the 3d software, Maya. At the time I felt pretty proud that my work was chosen, but really everyone’s concepts were amazing and the game creator just liked the idea of an ice world.

We began by modeling rough blocks to show what the set would eventually look like, so instead of mountains and caves it was towering blocks and small fat ones. We then roughly animated in a camera on a curve to show off how we thought the spaceship would fly through the set.


Once the basic layout was approved we began the proper modeling. We all spent a great amount of time trying to make our models look realistic, around this time we had to teach ourselves about ‘baking’ and quickly learnt how to bake in ambient occlusion and how to bake in lights and colour onto our sets. I really enjoyed this whole experience as it really excited me to go off and learn something on our own, overcome our problems and fix them as a team. For the first time we felt self sufficient and that we didn’t need to ask a tutor for help with every little problem we encountered. We could do it as a team.

Once our models were approved it was time to UV unwrap them. We had to unwrap and texture our entire set in one-week, witch in normal studios, isn’t a problem. However, for students who still didn’t fully understand how to UV unwrap and had never textured before, this was a daunting prospect. Personally, I struggled with UV unwrapping, I felt like I was never going to be able to do it, I tried and failed and tried and failed until I finally got there. I really do thank my team member Hannah Turkington, as she helped me understand and get to grips with it much better.

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I can now UV unwrap things quite confidently and ultimately we had our entire set UV unwrapped in 2 days.

The texturing, I didn’t find hard, it was just time consuming, luckily I had a little experience in texturing from my previous groups film done in first semester, so I was able to help the group by showing them how to take UV snapshots, bring them into Photoshop and back into Maya.

The rest of our time on this project was fixing parts of the set they weren’t happy with, and re UV unwrapping those parts and re texturing. We also had to set in pieces of crashed spaceships into the set, put everybody’s set together and animate in a camera moving through the set and baked in light and colour and ambient occlusion. We also each rendered a turntable of our sets every few weeks.

At the end of the project we were asked to work on for another few weeks and the company decided to completely ditch the idea and all of our for a more simplistic game style. We had one week to make a very simple set. To be honest I wasn’t happy with this as I didn’t think it looked as great. However it did shock me how fast we produced it. Having learnt everything in the previous weeks we were able to create this in a matter of hours of working.


My time working there has given me an understanding of what working in a real studio is like, what the deadlines and work pace is like and how I deal with such things. I have to say I really enjoyed it, even the criticism because with every piece of negative criticism, we were going back and fixing it, making it better and bettering ourselves, even though I didn’t enjoy the idea being completely changed in the last week of the project, the speed we produced the work at shocked me. Being told they are happy with your work is such a rewarding thing to hear and be proud of at the end of the project. I feel this experience has given me an insight into what to expect in my placement year and when I leave university and begin getting real jobs in the industry.

Skype Call with Jason Sadler of Blue Sky Animation Studios

“Industrial design is always solving a problem wether it be time, money or technology. Going through progressions at Blue Sky is that you get to see the process from start to finish instead of modelling something and not getting to see it again until the film is out. ”

Sadler’s process is one of many ways to go about doing something. Don’t feel like its the only way.

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“Sometimes you can love the character because of the pose, not the character. You should try drawing the character in an unattractive pose to see if the character is still appealing. Draw small and if the basic shapes look good you have better chance of it being a successful characters”

“Rule of thirds always helps with proportions, never divide things in half if you can avoid it. Proportion decisions are everywhere, be deliberate about your choices”

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Sadler mentioned ‘The Illusion of Life’  and how its principles still work. He mentions off setting straights and curves like natural body eg back and boobs, legs and knees etc. He mentions looking back at black and white films because of how brilliantly their lighting was.

When discussing the difficulty of animating/modelling “peanuts”, Charlie Browns nose caused many problems and simplest shapes are so difficult to convincing in 3D.

When working on Gabbi the frog (from Rio) he was surprised at the fact the modeller actually made his character so much better.

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Can be forced to specialise but work closely alongside all other specialisms.

Sadler (concept artist) works closely with model and even rigger. Grew to love deadlines because things just don’t get done without them.

Working with a Company

As soon as we came back from Christmas break, our course director told us he had got in touch with a few companies who would be taking us on for the next 12 weeks. I was thrilled, i was really excited to be working in industry and seeing how a real studio works and at what pace and quality our work would need to be produced in.

The companies in question were

Black North

Sixteen South




Myself, Daniel Boyle, Hannah Loughridge, Hannah Turkington, Scott Gill, Aiden Scott and Nathan Nicholson were put in a group and working alongside Black North.


Black North are a Belfast based studio who have worked on such films and tv shows such as ‘The Fall’, ‘Looper’, ‘Good Vibrations’ and the Bafta Nominated ‘Finn in the Forest’. They have been Bafta Nominatied and Emmy winners.

When we went for our first meeting we were told what the project was and what we were to do, the project is to create a science fiction gaming experience for phones and the Oculus Rift.

Essay Plan

Title: Comparing the Female Lead in Western and Eastern Animation



  • Explaining title
  • Why I feel passionately about this
  • Why I feel it is important to write this essay
  • What I plan to discuss and why

Discussing Walt Disney Studio’s


  • Begin with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ (1937): Discuss plot and what purpose Snow White actually had to her own story, who was the hero and who was the villain. What message does this send to women?
  • Move on to the next Disney Princess film, ‘Cinderella’ (1950: Came over a decade later, was there much difference? Did she have more importance to her own film?
  • Skip ahead to the 80’s and 90’s and discuss ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991)- discuss what has changed in this films, if anything.
  • Fast forward to 2010 onwards with films such as ‘Brave’ (2012) and ‘Frozen’ (2013) where we see a much more drastic change in the female lead.
  • Discuss why I think this has changed looking at time period, culture and how gender equality has changed most drastically in the last twenty years.


Discussing Studio Ghibli


  • Discuss ‘Castle in the Sky’ (1986), Studio Ghibli’s first film, discuss what purpose Princess Sheeta to her own story, possibly compare this to Snow White?
  • Discuss ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ (1988), and the two main characters, children, Satsuki and Mei.
  • Discuss ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) and the main character Chihiro and what purpose she has to her own story.
  • Fast forward to 2013 and compare Frozen and/or Brave to ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ (2013)


Compare both Studio’s


  • Compare both studio’s first off looking at the female characters and their looks, body image and age’. Then discuss the importance they have to the story plot they are involved in.
  • Look at cultural movements of that time and discuss if this reflects in the movies.
  • Discuss why western films characters are usually between the ages of 16 and 18 and why Eastern film usually have children between the ages of 4 and 12.


What Message Does this Send?


  • What do young children say these films messages send?
  • What do grown women feel the message is that these films send?
  • What do men think?
  • What do the directors and writers of the films say the message is?
  • What do I think?




  • What message have I gotten across?
  • Do I think film has changed through time?
  • Will it?
  • Does there need to be change?
  • What can we take away from this?


Essay Proposal

DES333 (83247) Design Discourse 2, 2014 – 15

Essay Proposal Form

1. Title of Your Essay

Comparing the Female lead in Western and Eastern Animation

2. Description for Your Topic

In my essay I wish to discuss Gender & Sexuality within Animation, focusing on the female lead. I want to mainly focus on two animation studios, Walt Disney Studio’s, an extremely well known western animation company, and Studio Ghibli, a equally well known eastern animation company. I didn’t just choose these two studio’s because of their popularity but because they both have one very important thing in common, almost all of their films have female leading characters.

With Disney I want to discuss how their female leads have changed throughout time and why this has happened, discussing the likes of Snow White, (who didn’t really have the lead in her own film) right up until the likes of Merida from Brave and Anna and Elsa from Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen, All of these characters are usually 16, the oldest being 17, turning 18.

With Studio Ghibli when looking at films such as ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Spirited Away’ you can see that the female leads are much younger and are seen as children, for example the lead character from Spirited away is only 10 years old and the leading sisters from ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ are 11 and 4 years old.

I want to discuss why both studio’s like to focus on female leads, and I want to research further into why they have such different age ranges. I will be looking at the time period, cultural changes within different parts of the world at the time these film’s where released and how I think these factors were shown or affected the films of the time period. I also want to look at how media may have affected the story, appearance and script of these films.

3. The Research Question

  • What are the differences between female leads in Western & Eastern Animation and why is this different worldwide?
  • What message does this send to women and young girls alike?
  • Does this send a good or bad message and what should change?

4. Importance to the Field of Your Research

I feel this discussion is important because in todays society, advertising and the media sometimes send terrible messages to women and young girls about how they should look, dress, act and even what they should like, when in fact everyone should be allowed to be who they are, wear what they like, and have interest’s and act as they want without judgment. People see characters in films as role models and idols and when it comes to animated films from the two companies I am discussing, they are seen as family films, so the message they send to young girls is much more important, which is why I feel passionately about this subject and want to discuss and research it at length.

5. The Outline for the Essay

  • Introduction- What I plan to discuss within the essay and why
  • Discuss main points of both animation studios and compare similarities and differences
  • Discuss the message they give to young girls and women alike
  • Discuss reasons things may have happened, eg: finance, time period, cultural movements etc
  • Discuss what message the directors claim should be took from the films
  • Conclusion

5. Bibliography


Cavallaro, D (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Mayazaki . London: McFarland & Co Inc .

(1992). Women and Animation: a Compendium. London: The British Film Institute

Lerew, J (2012). The Art of Brave. Chronicle Books

Davis, A (2006). Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Women in Disney Feature Animation. John Libbey Publishing

Sites and PDF’s

Gaynor, C (2014). The Ladies of Studio Ghibli


Jones, S (2014). Hayao Mayazaki: The Great Feminist Filmmaker of His Time


Stampler, L (2013). Do Animated Female Characters Need to be ‘Pretty’?