Early versions of the film had a separation between the hunters and the gatherers. Eep was fairly frustrated having to watch her brother Thunk taken out to the hunting grounds while she had to spend her days in the trees. Making things worse was the fact that Thunk was a complete failure when it came to hunting, and Eep was a natural. This board picks up where the plant-fighting board left off. After Eep beats a carnivorous plant to a pulp to pluck a strawberry out of it, she gazes out to the hunting grounds. Thunk is about two miles away, trying to knock a little bird off the back of a mammoth. Thunk has been missing the bird all day, and Eep is tempted to finish the job. Eep stores the strawberry away in her dress, then pulls a throwing rock out of her hair, where she keeps one handy. Before she can throw it, her mother drops in to remind her not to get involved in her brother’s hunt.
But Eep is going to throw it anyway. I boarded it to cut between Eep and Thunk winding up, and releasing their rocks at the same moment. At a few feet away, Thunk misses, and also manages to fall flat on his face. Eep hits the bird from two miles away.
All this was dropped in favor of a more compact sequence where all of the Croods hunt together. The new sequence works much better, but all this preliminary boarding went a long way in establishing the characters’ traits and tone, and developing the world they lived in.
The point of today’s post is that doing lots and lots of rough drawings can do wonders for your gestures. I’ve had the experience of struggling all day on a single drawing, only to have it come out way too stiff and self-conscious looking, and end up throwing it away – eight to twelve hours for nothing. In the case of storyboards you don’t have time to fret over things, you just plow ahead and leave rough drawings behind, hoping to get the time to clean them up later. Consequently, you’re forced to relax and just throw down little graphic scribbles that capture a teeny little piece of the larger puzzle. After the first dozen or so I always start to pick up speed, and by the end of the day can have several hundred such drawings. None of them ready for a story reel or anything, but plenty strong enough to pitch. And there are always some that I can pull out for beautification, their poses or expressions way better than if I had set out to draw only one.
This is the main reason I use a fat China Marker – it’s impossible to draw details.
In this series of drawings, pulled from a much larger sequence, Eep climbs up in a tree to vent her frustration from an argument she just had with her father – she wants to keep Guy but of course her father wants to let him go. As I mentioned in the last post, the Croods are quite a bit more dense than Guy, mentally and physically. I made it my mission to have them treat Guy like a rag doll or stray kitten whenever the opportunity arose. Not the prettiest drawings, but the last five have an ease and confidence that I can only manifest if I’ve been drawing all day.
In every version of the film Guy is waylaid by the Croods. Guy is human 2.0. Unlike the Croods, he can use tools and make fire. He is also physically weaker than a Crood, even a Crood child. Hence, if a Crood wants to keep Guy around, Guy will be staying. In this scene Guy is being forced to accompany Eep on a prehistoric date. Her idea of a good time is watching things sink in tar pits. The date is not going well.
But the real point of these two boards is that they both contain an early version of Guy, who used to be a bit of a hippie. Thankfully, we changed that.
There used to be a Dr. Seuss-ish creature that lived in Crood Valley – a tiger with an unusually long tail. He slept during the day with his tail across the trail, waiting for an unfortunate creature to trip over it. Once tripped, the tiger would awaken and go on the hunt. Grug’s son, Thunk, is arguably the dimmest of the Croods. The rock in the foreground of drawings is Thunks favorite hunting rock. Even though it is indiscernable from a million other rocks, Thunk likes this one because it is famous – more Crood hunters have died with that rock in their hands than any other.
So Thunk is about to retrieve the rock, and of course steps on the incredibly obvious tail, alerting the tiger and starting a lot of trouble for himself.
If you are inclined to be a board artist there are some things to make note of. I learned a few things from Disney board artist Burny Mattinson that help the legibility of these panels. Burny taught me to fade background lines away when they collide with a character – this helps the character read against the background, boosting the clarity and keeping the image from being too busy. When the character is actually in contact with something, like the tiger’s tail, then its okay to have all the lines connect.
The other trick Burny would use is shading places and elements you need to pay attention to. You may have noticed that on the 2nd and 3rd drawings in the Eep VS Plant series. I shaded the plant on the 2nd drawing, and Eep’s elbow and the plant’s head in the 3rd drawing, so they read quickly when the series is digitized and placed in the story reel. Drawing 15 is also shaded – Eep’s foot and the plant face are what you need to see, so they are shaded. your eye will always travel to the point of highest contrast.
The Croods are a caveman family, possibly the last caveman family on a crumbling continent. They are what you’d expect, not the brightest bunch, with beginners’ minds. They only emerge from their cave every three or four days or so, and only in the daylight. By sundown they are back inside their sealed cave. The Croods cave is the only thing that stands between themselves and the super predators that rule the desert night. If their cave is their main survival strategy, the second is their pack behavior. They Croods are an extremely cohesive group, never being out of sight of one another. Ever. In a world with no hospitals or telephones, staying together is critical. The father, Grug, takes his role seriously, constantly checking up on everyone and herding them here and there.
Our film kicks off when the Croods lose their cave. Without the cave they will have only a few hours of daylight before they will have to face the night for the first time.
That’s the set up you see in the trailers. But what you won’t see is this tiny horse. He’s at the end of this series of drawings, and he’s a little rough, but you’ll get the idea. He was dropped from the film only after he was built and rigged, and performed wonderfully in the talented hands of James Baxter, who took him through his paces. It is one of those hard choices you have to make during the development of one of these movies, and dropping the pony wasn’t an easy decision. Who knows? Maybe someday he’ll get another chance. At the time of this boarding he was one of the things the Croods met on their prehistoric road trip. The pony took a shine to Grug, despite the fact that Grug wanted nothing to do with him. Grug was always chasing him away, only to have the pony return and linger just out of arm’s reach. In the Croods world, all animals are to be avoided – even the smallish ones would gladly trip you and bite you. So a friendly animal just didn’t make sense to Grug.
The pony picked out the one Crood that was least likely to accept him. The pony saw something good in Grug and was quietly devoted to him, following him everywhere. There was a hopeless, heartbreaking quality to the relationship that I liked.
I promise I’ll post finished drawings again after I get back to Los Angeles. For now I’ll continue to dig around in my drawing box. The first drawing is the start of some marketing ideas I was drawing up featuring Sandy and the big Macawnivore. We have a collection of animals in the Croods that are combination-creatures. In this case it’s a Macaw and a Saber-Toothed Tiger. We moved the teeth around so they face forward like tusks, and borrowed the parrot colors for his fur. He’s the only animal I designed – most credit for our wonderful creatures goes to Shane Prigmore, Carter Goodrich, Takao Noguchi, and Shannon Tindle. Takao would go the extra step and would model our characters, practically overnight. When he presented them he would typically reveal that he’d thrown in some rigging so that the creatures could do some rudimentary things like smile or move their legs.
I wish we could release our characters like we saw them on his computer screen. Before they were covered with fur they looked like collectible vinyl toys.
Anyway, some of the following things are in the movie, some are not. The vampire rabbits are, but appear only briefly. We call them Jackrobats. Names like Liotes (Lizard Coyote), Jackrobats (Jackrabbit Bat), and Macawnivores are never mentioned in the movie, but they are occasionally given other names by the cavemen. In the case of the Macawnivore, he was dubbed Chunky by the grandmother.