Or How the Tale of Hootz Mageee Came to Be Told
“I want to learn how to do animation like you,” my six year old son Eliot casually said while we were driving around one day. He’d always been interested in what I do for work. I mean, it IS pretty cool. So I asked him if he wanted to animate one of his stories with me and a smile spread ear to ear across his face.
About a week or so prior, he was working on an Adventure Belt Loop for Cub Scouts about space. He loves space and couldn’t wait to do every aspect of the requirements including learning about astronauts, specific constellations and stars in those constellations. Another requirement was to create your own constellation in a drawing and make up your own “mythology” about how your constellation came to be. This was how the story of Hootz Mageee (yes there are three ‘e’s in Mageee) first appeared. He included incredible detail about Hootz and lobsters who attached him. For instance the things above Hootz’ eyeglasses are hearing aids and he was very specific about the colors of the glasses and Hootz’ feathers. The lobsters changed names a couple of times in the telling (there original names were “Chalk” and “iPad”) but the majority of the story remained the same. It seemed like a natural jumping off point to create an animation from something he had written and was passionate about.
First we went over the story to make sure we had all the details. Why did Drake and Nay Nay attack Hootz Mageee? What happened to the magic wand? Eliot helped write it all down so he’d be ready to do the voice over.
Recording the voice over was a challenge. Anyone who knows or has a six year old knows that the constant fidgeting doesn’t exactly lend itself to sitting with a quiet body to record voice over. If the feet aren’t tapping it’s the rear end squirming. If the lower body is still, there’s likely a digit up the nose blocking the microphone. It took a bit but he learned about how important it was to sit still and enunciate clearly to tell the story.
Next was music. How would it help the story? He takes keyboarding classes and really enjoys it, so this was easy. We recorded a few different songs he knows and then listened to them to figure out which ones worked best. Then I showed him how to mix the voice over, sound effects and music down to one track that we would time our animation from.
Then we dug into the characters. Hootz was already drawn for his Cub Scout adventure, but what about the lobsters? What did they look like? What colors were they? What about the background? What did the trees look like? What about Hootz Mageee’s magic wand? So he drew pictures of all the characters, trees and other props we would need to create the animation. Then I set about interpreting his drawings into vector based character artwork in Adobe Illustrator that could be animated.
Once we had all of the assets created, it was time to make the magic happen. I explained and showed him what I was doing at each step in Adobe Animate where I do the majority of my character animation projects. Much of it was a little too complicated for him to understand. Lots of ‘keyframes’ which just looked like a dot to him. Explaining the audio track and tweens and such. But he’d make suggestions about maybe how Hootz Mageee would fly in here or maybe adding a sound effect there. Mostly giggling and asking to play the section again. A sure sign I had done a decent job.
Eliot was also a great producer. Every day when he got home he’d ask how much of the animation I’d gotten done. Once I asked “When do you want the animation done by?” and he replied “Well, by the end of next week because that’s my project deadline.” Clearly he listens to a lot more of my work conversations than I think.
So does he know more about animation now? I think so. Now that he’s taken part in the process he definitely knows everything that goes into it. Although immediately after watching the finished animation he was already talking about doing the “Further Adventures of Hootz Mageee”. We shall see. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the finished animation of “The Tale of How Hootz Mageee Became a Constellation”, enjoy: