Behind the Scenes: Painting Firefly - Part 1


“Any idiot that wants to make a couple of thousand drawings for a hundred feet of film is welcome to join the club.”

Winsor McCay (a pioneering figure in the history of animation) supposedly said this in 1914, and he was right; who in their right mind would pouer over thousands upon thousands of drawings, spending days and nights intricately creating a film single frame by single frame, most of which are on the screen for just a fraction of a second.

Yet there are. Today there are still legions of these ‘idiots’ around the world who dedicate their lives to doing just that - making 2D animated films, and many more appreciators, lovers and connoisseurs of this craft.

This is dedicated to these people and to those who might even just be a little curious about the inner workings of animation.

A Homeage to the Classics


Clockwise from top left: "American Tail", "The Secret of NIMH", "Bambi" and "The Lion King" .

Many people today grew up watching Disney’s animated films. The members of the “Firefly” team certainly did and recount them with fondness, and so we decided this would be a great moment for us to pay homage to those golden films of yesteryear.

Something in particular that caught our eyes were the films “The Secret of NIMH” and “American Tail” - these are of course not Disney’s but Don Bluth’s films (which some will say is very “un-Disney”). Nonetheless they share similar visual motifs and we felt the darker nature of these films were a source of inspiration more suited to our film in mind.

Above: Early concepts of the environment. It was slow going at this stage while we deliberated on the look we wanted to achieve.

Above: After some of the environment had been established, it was time to explore how we were to use colour in the story-telling. The story begins at dusk and ends in the night, which gave us a perfect opportunity to play up the red palette of sunset contrasting against the blue of night; the former to compliment the frantic desperation of the first half, then progressing to the muted blue palette of night as the story slows down to a somber mood.


Above: A step-by-step progression of the main firefly hut background. You may notice the leaf design changes half way through, that was when I realized all those little leaves were going to take me far too long to paint, so I had to do a mid-production extreme makeover.

That's all folks for this round. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I further break down the process.


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