Blue Zoo CG Character Animation Production Studio, London UK

Keeping our storyboards alive

May. 30 2018

Keeping our storyboards alive

We were thrilled to welcome Dr Chris Pallant to the studio recently, lecturer and author of Storyboarding: A Critical History, to talk about the evolution of the storyboard.

Dr Pallant is on a mission to keep our storyboards alive, physically and metaphorically, as genuine ‘working’ storyboards are often overlooked and misunderstood, and produced digitally there’s a real danger that they’re permanently lost in the ether.

Disney or didn’t they?

A common misconception is that Disney invented the storyboard, and whilst storyboarding was put into practise and promoted at Disney, it was being used before this (just not so publicly). Walt himself was involved in the introduction of storyboarding as a process, but it was in fact the writer Webb Smith who created the first boards at Disney in the early 30s, initially by pinning his sketches to the wall in sequence.

Keeping our storyboards alive

The messy reality

The storyboard that Disney presented publicly in the 30s, and the storyboards we’re accustomed to seeing in books and on making-of DVDs, are often a polished, edited version of the disordered reality. This is not a true representation of how the production team arrived at the final image on screen, and implies the production process is predictable and linear - far from the truth.

Working storyboards are messy documents, generated from a mass of notes and sketches, created in a very non-linear fashion. They are a series of illustrations used to imagine the story and will be re-ordered, discarded and remade until they work. It’s an art in itself and integral to the production of an animation.

Keeping our storyboards alive

Keeping our storyboards alive

Keeping the files alive

Whereas hard-copy storyboards can be popped in a cupboard for safekeeping, the danger with digital files is that the format will become obsolete. Dr Pallant is worried the historical significance of storyboards may be overlooked in a busy studio, and files are easily deleted or filed somewhere forgettable.

Proper digital archiving should become part of process as much as creating the storyboard itself. The benefit to future projects and artists is indisputable, and in a wider context, preserving our present-day storyboards will help to inform students of the future and the next generation of storyboard artists.

Keeping our storyboards alive

A huge thank you to Dr Pallant for the superb presentation, not only covering the subjects in this post, but a fascinating insight into the different approaches of artists like Ray Harryhausen and Ivor Beddoes (Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back), and Dave Lowery (Jurassic Park). To pick up a copy of Storyboarding: A Critical History click here.

Keeping our storyboards alive

"The talk by Dr Pallant really made us think about our professional practice here at the studio and, as a consequence, we will be taking a deeper look at the way we archive our work in future.” Paulene Hamilton, Head of People and Talent

"Many of the ideas presented in Dr Pallant’s research resonated with what we do here at the studio and it is great to see someone championing the storyboarding process, which is integral to our work but which often remains invisible to a general audience.” Tom Box, Co-Founder