Thursday, July 22, 2010

Storyboards #1

From 1997 to 2001 I worked at a small animation and web design company. I helped work on 3D computer animation (you know, like Toy Story, but not nearly as impressive), and 2D Flash animation. It was a fun place to work. Too bad the company's no longer around (that's a story for another day).

One day around 2000, a local bread company came in and asked us to come up with some concepts for a series of computer animated commercials. They wanted to show everyone know how healthy their bread was, and wanted to promote nutrition to kids and yadda yadda.

It was my job to come up with some concepts for several commercials and draw storyboards for them. Since I've been a comic book geek, er, fan all my life, of course I came up with a superhero theme.

Anyway, here are the storyboards for the first commercial in the series. Keep in mind that I drew these 10 years ago (I like to think I've improved since then), and that story boards are supposed to be rough.

In the vastness of space we see a large object approach the camera. As it gets closer we can see that it's made entirely of unwholesome junk food.

We follow the junk food asteroid and see it heading on a collision course with... Earth!

Panic-stricken citizens point and shout at the sight of the asteroid growing larger in the sky.

Why do people in movies always point at giant asteroids or 100 mile-wide spaceships? Are they afraid people can't see the moon-sized object hanging overhead?

Meanwhile, at the Fortress of Nutrition, the home of the Food Force...

Note that since this spot was for a bread company, the Fortress resembles a loaf of bread. Well, maybe half of one.

This of course was my homage to the Hall of Justice on the Super Friends cartoon. I can almost hear Ted Knight narrating.

The Snack Alert sounds!

I have to assume that the Snack Alert tells the Food Force that... someone's eating an unhealthy snack, I guess? Someone's eating too many snacks? Sometimes it's hard to tell what 2000 Bob was thinking.

The Food Force gathers in the War Room to hear the announcement.

I don't think I got far enough into the project to name any of these characters, or even think about whether they should have names. Because these commercials were for a bread company, the slice of bread is the star of the spot.

The Mayor appears on the viewscreen and tells the Food Force of the impending disaster: the junk food asteroid will strike the Earth in minutes, wiping out all healthy foods and turning Earth into a junk food wasteland unless they can stop it.

Wait, didn't that happen for real? I think it did. This is why DisneyWorld had to dig a deeper trench in the It's A Small World ride so that the boats wouldn't run aground from the weight of American passengers, and why hospitals are buying wider, reinforced beds.

If you look very closely you might be able to see a faint outline of a top hat on the Mayor. Apparently I decided that the Mayoral sash was cliche enough and erased it.

Captain Whitebread (I just made that up) shouts, "Food Force! It's up to us to save the Earth!"

It's hard to tell here, but the lady hero with the tiara there on the left is supposed to be an egg. Eggs are healthy, right? 

The Food Force takes to the skies! Hopefully there's a skylight in the Fortress!

They rendezvous with the asteroid in space, as it zooms ever closer to Earth.

The Food Force attacks the high-fat, sugar laden asteroid, but to no avail. It continues on its deadly course.

Note that the potato character has several sets of masked eyes. Com-o-dee!

Captain Whitebread says, "Our only hope of stopping it is to join together and form... The Food Pyramid!"

Obviously I did these storyboards before the government changed the food pyramid. It used to be easy to understand-- eat more of the stuff on the wide bottom and less of the stuff on the pointy top. Now they changed it all around and it's got vertical stripes and even stairs on one side (no lie!). I have no idea how to read it or what I'm supposed to eat anymore.

I'm a bit puzzled as to what the character on the right is supposed to be. A waffle? They don't seem particularly healthy. A Triscuit? I honestly don't remember what I had in mind there.

The Food Force joins hands and forms the outdated, old school Food Pyramid. As soon as they're in position, crackling energy forms around them.

We now see a stalk of broccoli came along for the ride, and I think that's a whole grain muffin on top of the pyramid. Or maybe it's a cupcake, who knows? They're definitely one of my food groups.

They fire a powerful beam of nutritional energy (whatever that is) at the artery-clogged heart of the asteroid. For a moment it continues its relentless course unabated.

Gradually it crawls to a stop, then begins reversing its course, unable to withstand the mighty power of the Food Force's nutritional energy.

The asteroid is knocked clean into the sun, where its instantly vaporized, and hopefully doesn't do any damage to our precious, life-giving star. Earth is saved!

The Food Force returns to Earth, surrounded by a cheering populace.

Captain Whitebread tells the crowd that eating foods from the Food Pyramid will give them the power to hurl their own metaphorical asteroids into the sun, or some such moral.

Looking back at these storyboards, they're incredibly ambitious and way beyond the scope of our little Mom & Pop studio. Remember, these were going to be 3D computer animated, not Saturday morning cel animation. It would have taken our small staff at least 3 years (and cost the client a million dollars) to pump out something like this.

It also seems a tad long for a commercial. I doubt if I would have been able to squeeze all this into just thirty seconds. 

The bread company came in for another meeting to look over the storyboards. They said they were impressed and liked what they saw, but that they'd decided to just rerun their current commercial for another year (meaning they saw our estimate for the ads and fainted dead away).

This happened a lot at our studio, and is the main reason it no longer exists. We were too small for Hollywood, but too big for Evansville. Local businesses would come to us, wanting us to produce slick looking animated commercials, but they'd have a whopping $500 in their ad budget. We'd burn through that in less than a day.

Even if we simplified the concept or switched to 2D cel animation, it would still have cost them $10,000, minimum. No local business had that kind of moolah to spend on one ad.

Ah well, se la vie!


  1. I remember this incident. I was disappointed in Bunny Bread for not going this route. I really liked the potato guy with masks all over his body.

  2. Eh, it wasn't their fault. Few businesses in town had the budget for 3D graphics.


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