Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Skeleton Jack The Animation

It is finally complete! Hope you like it.

You may want to watch it here on Newgrounds as well (and look at all my pretty awards).

Monday, May 25, 2009


I started animating once I've completed most of the environments. It makes it easier to judge the relative size of the drawn character to the background.

As a lot of people have discovered, this animation had little true animation. It was mostly a collection of well-placed key poses. This is one area I need lots of practice on.

The 2D portion of this animation was done entirely in Adobe Flash. I used the brush tool to draw Jack's outline in one color then filled in the outlines.

Some scenes were animated on two's and some were animated on ones. But most of these frame-by-frame animations were minor ones. Like head turns, standing up, turning around, etc.

Most of the animation was motion tweened and this resulted in a couple of 'lazy animations' such as the running inside and outside the temple.

For the ghosts's hypnotic skirt, I used 3DS Max to make a simple animation, export it as .pngs, and used Trace Bitmap on each frame to produce the vector loop.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The particle effects, such as dust and smoke are just a single smoke drawing that has been manipulated with by transforming its scaling and placement.

Background Design

Background art was the first things I drew in this animation. It makes it easier later to animate because then I would already know the relative placements of the characters or any other animated element. All 2D background elements were created in Flash itself.

For inspiration, I relied heavily on Samurai Jack episodes for reference.

The design of the 3D temple, created in 3DS Max was inspired by a building in Samurai Jack episode 'Samurai vs Samurai'.

For color choice, I had specific color palettes that I wanted to use. (picky for a red/green color blind person) For exterior shots, I wanted to use a cool blue color scheme.

As the character entered the fortress, the blue starts to fade, then changes to a bit gray.

When reaching the alter, where the artifact is placed, a dark yet warm environment is present.

The underground scenes consists of a bright warm color scheme. Most of the light comes from the underground lava pit. (Nobody seems to have commented on the lava though, maybe I colored it wrong)

Then as the scenes move back upwards, the colors go back to being the cool blue.

Choosing contrasting color schemes for different environments helps keep the audience entertained and also helps audiences differentiate one environment from another.


Jack sees and enters the fortress.

Jack is inside the fortress looking around. He stumbles upon a little box. Must be where the artifact is located.

Jack opens the box and nabs the artifact.

But who would happen to appear but Casey, the ghost of uncertain motive!

Casey blasts the crap out of Jack (or thinks he did) but Jack manages to skillfully dodge the attack.

Jack flips the squid to make it enter his backpouch.

Anticipating his attack, Jack manages to forcefully stab his staff into the ground, thereby...

..surprising Casey with his homebrew escape tunnel.

Jack falls a while and eventually comes across a huge chasm.

Jack manages to pole vault across the chasm and land on the other side. 3 guardians confront him.

Jack dodges the first attack and defends himself.

Jack defeats all guardians. But Casey is back!

Jack annoys Casey and manages to escape to ground level.

Jack is running through the temple to the exit. Casey slams out and spots Jack.

Casey charges his Orb of Paralysement (but the audience thinks it is lethal)

Jack is engulfed by the massive explosion of death. (actually paralysis)
Jack opens his eyes to find...

...Casey breathing down his neck! Startled Jack is startled.

Turns out Casey was merely looking for his little baby ghost things. Aww...

Russell the ghost gives Jack the artifact. Jack feels awkward and then prepares for his next adventure.

Music Selection

My workflow may be a little odd to some of you. Instead of animating first then adding music to my animation, I actually hear the music first then 'see' the animation in my head.

This makes the music used appear to have been composed specifically for the animation.

Thus began a long and arduos task of listening to a bunch of orchestral pieces, mainly from soundtracks of the game Metal Gear Solid.

I chose orchestral scores because these are the music which most inspires me and they are the most dramatic sounding of all the music genres.

Eventually I settled upon 'Desperate Chase by Harry Gregson-Williams' as the main music playing.

'Fortress Sneaking by Harry Gregson-Williams' is the one that plays during the beginning when Jack enters the fortress.

'Swing Doors by Allan Gray' plays towards the ending. This was chosen to strengthen the depiction of the harmless stance that Big Ghost is showing. It also adds to the overall lighthearted mood of the scene.

Design Process

Concept Board

What you see above is the initial concept of the main character.

Character Design

  • Skeleton Jack

Clearly an homage to Samurai Jack, this oriental treasure hunter is as bad-ass as (that was a mouthful) Genndy Tartakovsky's popular Samurai Jack.

The origins of Skeleton Jack is of yet unexplored and we just have to assume he doesn't eat very much. His anatomy isn't too accurate in the concept board show above.

Limbs and any articulatory appendages are simplified in order to ease animation.

Lookie, its little ol' Samurai Jack.

  • Gui the Temple Apparition

The powerful apparition which guards the Terracotta Squid. Contrary to what the top image would convey, Gui is not a wugui, therefore is perfectly as untortoise-like as you can not imagine.

Later, I came up with one of those hideous ghost demons that you usually see on Chinese New Year. After a few more sketches I decided to ease my workload by simplifying Gui into something less hideous and slightly more appealing but still maintain a certain level of menace.

I also experimented with a dragon/serpent design but decided that with my inexperience, I would have problems animating the damn thing.

  • Little Baby Guis

Creepy little creatures that are supposedly offspring of powerful ghosts. Only two made it into the treatment so far as having more may convey a sense of "he doesn't love that one as much as that other one"-ness.

  • Temple Guardians

Mechanized guardians of the Temple. Design greatly influenced by robots from the Samurai Jack episode "Samurai vs. Samurai". They have blades for arms and uniform roughly similiar with the Terracotta army armor theme.

Background and Prop Design

The treasure was initially a fruit, a gold ingot and a ruby squid. But ruby squids don't really fit in an oriental setting. Terracotta it is then! Though it's not reaaaally that valuable. Then again, that might explain the ending.

The temple design was based upon a few reference images of pagodas which I didn't save because I sketched on the spot.

I always loved those curvy hills that you see in a lot of "China" tagged images so that's what I plan to use as the main background scenery in the animation.

A treasure hunter, Skeleton Jack, clearly an homage to the Genndy Tartakovsky (I can't get enough of saying that name) TV series, Samurai Jack, finds the Temple Of The Terracotta Squid, grabs the goods, becomes hunted and a touching ending ends the ending.

Name Change

At some point during the making of the animation I had to change my name and flee the country. I mean I renamed the title of the animation to correspond to a little gimmick that I worked into the end of the animation. Without it, there wouldn't be any contrast in mood in the animation. The initial title was Skeleton Jack and the Temple of the Terracotta Squid.

SRI Research

In addition to actually animating, I also did some research on creating the most appealing animation style and technique. This was done during a course which taught us the methods of research.


My research focused on animation techniques and character design.
For example, the character in A has a poor silhoutte and pose, one of the many reasons why some flash animations on Newgrounds look poor.
I also did research on the simplification of the design of the character. Simple designs are not only easy to animate but are also visually appealing.
Details on this research can be found here.


The conception of this animation had a couple of misfires. I was working on a Metal Gear Solid-themed flash animation at the time so I thought it'd be economical to animate one of my favourite heroes while at the same time working on a class assignment.

The theme that we were given was 'culture'. As much as I tried to fit the current story into the theme, I ultimately failed.

I eventually had to resort to change the characters and background to fit the theme.

Instead of a soldier, we have a treasure hunter. Instead of a military fortress, we have a temple. So I managed to keep the story relatively similiar but this time, it's in an oriental setting.