Panda Pander

Short Film
HEROmation
Director / 2D Animator
1999
IMDB

Panda Pander gathered a few million hits at Crackle, because they featured it on their front page when they first launched. This was before they changed their format and removed all the user content. I recently discovered an old feed that showed it had 2,572,030 views in 2007. I can't be sure if that's the last count before it went offline.

After my previous film, 'Two Face Tabby', I didn't want to spend so long on my next project so I did some one-off exercises to flesh out my showreel while I spent a few months developing the preproduction material for Panda Pander (the working title was "Shelf Life").

This gave me a chance to really hone the storyboard and character designs. Of course I'd already done a reasonable amount of pencil mileage with these characters (on Archer and the BIT advert) so I knew exactly what to change to make them even better for this film.

Although Polo still had his issues (there's no way he works unless he's sitting down!) I am still very pleased with Racket's design (the Red Panda).

I guess I started before Christmas in earnest. I recruited a first year student, Damon, to handle the animation of the bugs and I asked my friend Marcus to help out with the modelling for most of the background props that would litter the ground in my set and give it an untidy appearance.

It was a hard slog getting through all the animation but a real thrill since I'd developed it as a strong piece of character interaction first and foremost. As I was getting to the end of the whole thing, it was all becoming too familiar to me, so I was constantly coming up with new ideas for the end scene and I didn't know what to run with. My flat mate, Rupert (also on the same animation course), recommended allowing the scene to run it's course naturally no matter how long it lasted, and I reluctantly proceeded. That scene ended up doubling the length of the movie. Thanks for the extra work Rupert! Still... lesson learned.

I did an initial color design that I wasn't very satisfied with. It featured some vary acidic color combinations and I eventually asked my friend, Sarah, to re-design the colors of the entire film. I was very happy with the result.

When it came to the cleanup, the deadlines for the award ceremony were approaching fast so I had a couple of people chip in, but I have to admit that it was a challenge for them to match my cleanup style. By this point the college had bought some Archer coloring systems (thanks in part to me), plus I had a complementary copy on loan, and so began the long coloring job. Generally the two color design of each character made things simple, but Racket's striped tail did throw the automatic coloring system off a few times. Rhys and Graham both did a great job of keeping those coloring systems busy for me at a tense time in the project, while I dashed around meeting with all the other team members and did a dozen jobs at once.

This was also the second of my highly successful collaborations with Craig Bradbury, who did all the music and most of the sound effects work. He worked with me throughout the production (unusual for a musician) and ultimately made some huge personal and professional sacrifices for the project. It was a great working with him.

Panda Pander eventually won an award for best third year film and another for best traditional 2D animation that year. I walked on stage at the Odeon in front of all the industry guests and my peers with a giant Polo teddy bear (that my Mum had graciously made) and a team panda cap that many of us wore on the day. I made my speeches (twice), and thanked my tutors and my team mates for their support. Thanks everyone!

Storyboards / Animatic

Projects starring Racket and Polo

Animatic temporary audio: "Antz" © Dreamworks 1998 / “Indiana Jones” © 1981 Lucasfilm Ltd. / “Jaws” © 1975 MCA Records, Inc. / “Mission Impossible” © 1996 Philips Classics and Paramount Pictures / “Terminator 2” © 1991 Carolco Pictures Inc.