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We know that animation comes in many forms, such as 2D, 3D, motion graphics and even kinetic type.

But have you ever wondered where artists get their inspiration?

Some animated films come from storybooks – for instance there’s Charlotte’s Web, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and even Neil Gaiman’s delightfully creepy Coraline.

Others come from folklore and fables – Chicken Little, for instance, was based on the old English folktale known as Henny Penny or Chicken Licken.

Today, however, we’re going to take a look at a narrative medium heavily biased towards a visual form of presentation – comics. After all, comics already have pictures – all that remains is to make them move.

Tons of Marvel and DC comics were remade into animated adaptations – titles such as Captain America: The First Avenger, Spider-Man, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and Batman: Under The Red Hood come to mind. Most of these films were made direct-to-dvd so you may not have heard of them.

But even though these extended cartoons may cater to a niche audience, comics provide animators with a pre-made storyboard – and suggested voiceover lines – which definitely simplify things quite a bit.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of animating a comic.

Animating Comics: The Pros and Cons

Note: To be clear, when we say comics here, we’re also referring to manga. In the interests of simplicity, we’re papering (hoho) over the differences between the two forms.

As mentioned earlier, comics streamline the working process – while adapting novels to the big screen requires quite a bit of character visualisation and concept art, comics already provide you with a pretty good idea of how a character should look.

On the flip side, fans of a well-established series, comic or otherwise, have a certain expectation of how they want a character to look and respond quite strongly whenever things don’t work out the way they want.

Source: Sonic’s live-action design

Remember this guy?

To digress a little, apart from its advantage in truncating the production pipeline, comics and illustrated graphics also provide a pretty good way of presenting information.

Source: Facebook @WeimanKowArt

For instance, these infographics about the coronavirus and how to prevent transmission do a much better job than an overwhelming wall of text.

While it is highly unlikely that these infographics don’t have all that much to do with animation, we just thought it was a pretty convenient segue given the existing health situation.

Returning to the main narrative; every so often, you do get a manga series adapted well for the big screen.

Source: YouTube

Comics: Setting the stage for animation

Source: Akira (Manga)

Akira is a cyberpunk manga – for the uninitiated, cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction, where characters exist in a dystopian future where cutting-edge technology in the vein of AI and cybernetics go hand-in-hand with urban decay and oppression from a totalitarian state. We won’t spoil the narrative (mostly also because it’s a little bit too convoluted to summarize and Wikipedia does a much better job than I ever could)

According to Illustration History, writer and illustrator of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo, brings forth three visual devices unique to comics: the visual portrayal of sound, the application of motion lines, and the manipulation of the shape/arrangement of comic frames.

He brings them all together to illustrate the character’s path into the dream world.

Motion lines are used to convey a sense of movement in comics.

Source: Akira Manga Online

In this case, motion lines aren’t the only focus – it’s a blend of all three aspects; motion lines, comic text, and framing.

This is in the midst of transitioning into the dream scenario – the comic goes straight into a particularly tight frame of the girl’s eye, focusing on bringing all the action lines from the edge of the frame to the centre of attention; the eye.

There are also small white shapes within the girl’s pupil and the smaller ring of lines overlapping part of the iris – all drawn to widen the girl’s eyes and make it seem as if she’s come to a realisation that she’s being sucked into a completely different dimension, aka the dream.

The text plays a part too in the transition. “DODOM”, is the sound effect drawn in bold, seemingly popping out of the frame.

In a way, it’s a symbolic sound which indicates the start of the dream, and the large font shows the intensification of the action and immersion into the dream.

Source: Marvel

In this image here, bolded text provides emphasis conveying the female character’s reluctance to fight.

But that’s not the only focus here – observe the capitalized characters which scream ‘Catch’. That’s one way of engendering a sense of immediacy with a medium that doesn’t actually move.

So, in summary – comics, with their simulation of action in stillness, make it extremely intriguing for readers to flip through the text. It’s never boring, and all the sounds, storyline, and visuals come together to tell a story in the audience’s heads.

On top of plot, dialogue and characters are all ready-made, adapting a comic provides a production team with an extra advantage. We’re talking about a pre-made art style.

Hergé, the Belgian cartoonist known for the Tintin series, got his work adapted into animation twice. As far as we’re concerned, the 1960s film wasn’t too impressive. But the 90s piece was definitely a work of art.

Source: The Adventures of Tintin (1991)

Of course, there were a couple of modifications to the original comics in order to keep within the limited runtime – but for the most part, Hergé’s art style carried the show.

The rise of Bitmoji

If you’ve ever paid good money to an artist on the street to get yourself caricatured in charcoal, you’ll understand the appeal of seeing yourself as an illustration.

But what if we said that you could get to be the star of your own show? A tiny, animated version of yourself in comic strips?

Thanks to Jacob ‘Ba’ Blackstock, you can.

Source: Facebook @Bitstrips

He first came up with Bitstrips in 2008, made for the folks who always wanted to create comics but found it a chore. It caught the attention of a small group of people; mostly students and teachers from schools.

Nevertheless, it was still a hit, and he decided to take it a step further by creating Bitmoji instead when he realised that many were excited at the thought of creating a personalised emoji of themselves.

Bitmoji was quite a hit, received loads of attention and was eventually acquired by Snap Inc.

We decided to jump on the bandwagon too – if you’ve ever wanted to create an avatar of yourself for kicks – feel free to try Cravatar here. It’s a web application we developed in-house; if you get tired of clicking through the endless array of customizable features, we strongly recommend clicking on the dice and letting the gods of chance do the work.

Bottom line

The fact of the matter is that stories and especially comics, provide much inspiration for animation.

Animation requires both art styling and excellent content to really shine. Comics help with both from the outset. Certain companies which produce newsletters and have their own mascots have gone a step further to create animated series featuring their character to personify their brand.

Here’s an example of something we did for Thermo Fisher Singapore with their mascots, Toby and Feby.

Source: Vimeo

Thermo Fisher Scientific is an American biotechnology company selling lab equipment. The bears go a fairly long way to add a touch of character to their brand.

And if a helping hand is what you need, why not get in touch with a video animation company that specialises in animation services? That way, you can get their assistance in brainstorming the best way to showcase your company’s personality.

It’s time to head out and get started on your video!