I showed it to James Manning yesterday for feedback and we agreed it was an improvement from the previous animatic. The structure makes a lot more sense with the acorns as a device. His main comments was to give the right moments more space, specifically drawing out the ending so that there is enough time for the emotions to play out. The middle montage segment also requires sharper editing so that we don't spend too much time on what's not as important.
James also noticed that the Spirit is not acting "Spirit-like" at the moment and performs so much like a squirrel that it might as well be a squirrel as a metaphor for the spirit instead of a spirit acting as nature. I will consider this as an option, but I did want to express a magical/mystical side to the story and Amber's imagination, so I will also see about making it more spirit-like in movement and design. This is not the final design for the Spirit anyway, but was a temporary solution for my storyboard.
We also spoke about introducing the Spirit into the story first instead of the girl like in my previous animatic as it was a more interesting perspective. I changed it this time around because I thought it would be better to show the ordinary and then the extra-ordinary, but then it might be seen as odd.
I will also need to look at films such as The Sword in the Stone (1963) for their squirrel scenes and begin pre-vis tests in soft, pastel colour like in my animatic.
After seeing James, myself and Jessica Leslau went to Leonie Sharrock's lecture for the MA animation students to show them our animatics. We caught the end of their lecture which was about composition in Cinderella and going from written scripts to visual storyboards. It was similar to a lecture I had in first year, but was more detailed and very interesting.
Jess showed her animatic first; Leonie wanted each of us to play them without preamble, so the MA's had no idea what our stories were about so they could judge them visually as outsiders. The students understood Jess' film about Babbit (http://arabbitcalledbabbit.blogspot.com/) pretty much immediately. There were some film language issues (crossing the line, continuity etc) but these were minor and can easily be addressed.
My film was not as instantly apparent as Babbit, the message (caring for nature, not abusing it) was confused, and I think this is largely because my Spirit reacts differently to Amber's selfishness... sometimes it is angry, other times forgiving and will switch between giving her acorns, having her take them away and reluctantly giving them to her. The Spirit is supposed to give them to her willingly to teach her and is exasperated with her abuse of nature. So that needs to be more obvious.
The characters came across well, the students agreed that Amber needs to be very selfish and greedy but still very young, so the audience sees her as a poor naive girl, rather than a mean one: "Aww bless her".
Finally, the tree needs to definitely be destroyed: completely burned and in pieces, rather than still standing and with leaves still on. I also need to redo my character designs still, playing with style and proportions of Amber to make her more interesting/likeable and the Spirit more spirit-like.
I've been compiling an image of character art and film stills that inspire me for Amber, particularly with younger girl characters that are more like Amber now that she will be 5-6 years old. I found it very difficult to find 5 year old female characters in the leading role of a film or series in Britain. There's Mei in My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo, Aisling in The Secret of Kells, Boo in Monsters Inc., Bonnie in Toy Story 3 and Lilo in Lilo & Stitch, but these are all American, Japanese or Irish so it will be tricky to find a point of reference to make Amber feel more British. Here's the compilation, I'll be using it this week to redesign my style and characters. I'll make another one for my Spirit and for style/colour shortly.