A Cactus’s Journey: A Sort Of Happy Story

My animation is titled A Cactus’s Journey, and I chose this particular story that follows a male cactus through feelings of regret, sadness, heartbreak, and, eventually, love, primarily because of the doors it opened in terms of Animate CC options. What better reason to go on a journey than in pursuit of love? Thus, this story was born, but I opted to use cactus images to take a relatable story and make it more cute and comical than it might otherwise be. My decision to create something cute led to my selection of cartoon images and lighter, pastel color pallets for each scene.  Even in the scenes that took place at night, the backgrounds come off as brighter than they might otherwise had the goal not been for cartoon and bright.

My choice of song came from the subject matter of my animation. The song Cause I’m A Man by Tame Impala reflects the thoughts of an individual who realizes what he has done to end a good relationship, but attributes it to being a man. While I don’t agree with the lyrics’ notion that being a man means that you don’t have control over your behavior, I felt the artist’s emotion aligned with that of Stanley.

The key characters were my two cacti, whose names are not told in the animation, but who I’ve quietly (and fondly) referred to as Stanley and Heather. As the story takes place from Stanley’s point of view, he is repeated the most throughout the animation, though Heather makes an appearance at the beginning and end. Other than Stanley, the most reused graphics were the thought bubbles, which I used to communicate Stanley’s thought processes and explain his course of action.

There were a couple of new things I executed in Animate that required research. First, I opted to place each of my sliding backgrounds in different layers, rather than editing them all onto one image for the sake of ease. This required a serious dedication to precise timing throughout my editing process. The backgrounds were all on various layers and were made into motion tweens that I had to continuously be changing throughout the process, simply because one edit anywhere on the timeline impacted whether or not the motions for each background layer were timed correctly. I didn’t seek out a tutorial to help guide me through this portion of my animation because I felt I knew how to troubleshoot my issues. By the time I had completed the project, I had removed and recreated tweens for those backgrounds several times.

I was also very concerned with attempting to make the transitions between backgrounds smooth. I found this forum on Newgrounds.com that discussed ways to create a “fade to black” transition between scenes by editing the alpha on a black square. I successfully used this to shift from the nighttime cityscape to the daylight park, but couldn’t find a way to use it between my sliding backgrounds earlier in the animation without the “seems” between backgrounds still being visible.

cactus

A screenshot of the growing thought bubble.

Lastly, when I determined I wanted to use thought bubbles in my animation, I knew I wanted them to come into the animation slowly, one bubble at a time rather than simply pop up. I tried to find a tutorial to demonstrate how to do this, but this Youtube video called “How to Animate A Speech Bubble in Adobe Flash CC” by Mr. H was the closest I could get. While it didn’t really tell me how to do it, looking at the timeline visible in that video inspired me to do this motion from small bubble to the main thought bubble via main timeline, when I had previously attempted to create it through a nested timeline. This allowed me to decide how long I wanted the “growth” to last in reference to other things on the main timeline.

cactusyoutube.png

Mr.H’s Youtube tutorial.

As previously mentioned, my biggest frustration came from the timing of my various background motion tweens. The smallest of edits could throw off what had been perfectly timed before, so I was very irritated with how often I had to revisit that aspect of my animation. Furthermore, I was very concerned about the published animation I created as it seemed to lag or freeze on my personal computer. I’m not sure what caused that issue in particular as all of my other animations on my public HTML worked correctly, but I was relieved to see that that issue was contained to my laptop and not all computers.

Most of my images were found on Vecteezy or through simple Google searches, either for backgrounds or transparent items that I can easily put into Animate. I mostly googled what I envisioned being appropriate by the words “2D background cartoon.” For example, I searched “neighborhood 2D background cartoon” or “2D cityscape night background cartoon.” When I found one I liked or that was similar to what I was looking for, I would click on the image and then select “View More” to see what Google had decided was relevant. Through that approach, I found most of my background images through a secondary step rather than on the first Google page I accessed.

The only thing I would go back and change is to make my stage smaller. I opted for a 1280 by 720 size, when I realize now most of my classmates used to automatic HTML5 Canvas size. I thought bigger would look better, but I think that is what led to some of my images looking pixelated in publishing despite having looked good in Animate. I tried to search for large images so that was not an issue, but I’m sure using a smaller canvas would’ve helped that as well.

In conclusion, I feel comfortable with Animate CC, which is definitely exciting after having been so nervous about it before. I think back to some of the 24 hour Flash animations we viewed, and would love to understand how the more complicated ones are created. I don’t necessarily think I’m at a point where I’m skilled enough with Animate to recreate something so complex, but I’m definitely intrigued.

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About mhill1

Trinity University student with a passion for movies and an obsession with food network.
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