Adventures in Motion Comics
ABC New's award-winning Documentary Group
approached Dojo Graphics to collaborate on a motion comic for an upcoming primetime show about climate change called Earth 2100, we were excited. Through an imagined future scenario - intermixed with interviews with scientists, a global summit simulation, and user-generated videos - the two-hour special explores the effects of catastraphic climate change, and educates viewers on possible solutions. Earth 2100 will air nationwide on June 2.
Earth 2100's producers asked Dojo Graphics to create characters that would put a human face on the hot-button issue. For Dojo Graphics principal Josh Neufeld, this was a perfect match of talent and treatment. Throughout his cartooning career, Neufeld has been drawn to documentarystyle storytelling. He is the author of the graphic nonfiction book A.D.:New Orleans After the Deluge (due out from Pantheon this summer), and several comics works of journalism and memoir. And for myself, this was an opportunity to use my background as a fiction writer and comics scripter to bring Josh's concepts and characters to life.
Motion comics are emerging in the rich space between 20th century comic books and 21st century digital animation. The subject matter can range from superhero battles, couch-based three-panel gag comics, the adventures of an online bingo enthusiast and their friends, to serious issues and darker comics, like the motion comics used to promote Dead Space last year. Enhanced by simple, layered illustrations, selected special effects, complex sound design, and dramatic voice-over, effective motion comics combine edginess and emotional intimacy.
For the motion comics element, Dojo Graphics took scientific concepts spelled out in expert interviews and built a sci-fi scenario around them. We pitched a dark, apocalyptic future narrated bya ninety-one-year old woman named Lucy. Looking back on the previous century from the year 2100, Lucy tells of a California under siege from wildfires and apocalyptic cults, a drought-starved Mad Max-esque Midwest teeming with bandits and mercenaries, and a flooded New York City with streets like Venetian canals.
We then helped the ABC News producers audition artists to bring the "Lucy scenario" to life. Together, we settled on lead artist Joe Infurnari (with assistance from fellow cartoonists George O'Connor, Leland Purvis, and Tim Hamilton.
The entire process was amazingly collaborative, with the plot points and characters emerging out of long brainstorming meetings. Once story treatment and characters were developed, Dojo Graphics cranked out detailed scripts on tight deadlines.
There was enough excitement and cross-fertilization to make the collaboration a heady one for everyone involved. For the Documentary Group producers, it was a leap into integrating fictional elements and a comics universe. For us at Dojo Graphics, it was a step into the primetime TV world. Working with a big company like ABC was a thrilling experience because of their resources and large-scale vision (which includes numerous interviews with scientists, widespread use of "B-roll" and stock footage, and a gaming site for harvesting user-generated videos as "reports" from possible futures), as well as their commitment to exploring new animation techniques to bring Lucy's story to life.
The most time-intensive stages of the process took place at production studio Guerilla FX. Guerilla is a visionary leader in creating the emerging motion comic aesthetic based on techniques of &limited animation&. It was amazing to see Lucy and her family coming to life on Guerilla's computer monitors. Finally the folks at ABC News added voice-overs, sound design and music, and edited all the elements into a dynamic whole.
For fledgling Dojo Graphics, Earth 2100 has been a dream project: creating an original science fiction scripts, connecting with a prime-time TV audience, the chance to explore new storytelling techniques, and to weigh in on one of our era's most critical issues. The show that will air to ABC's millions of viewers next Tuesday night is the first (that we know of) integration of motion comics, traditional documentary, and user-generated content. We're thrilled to have been part of this experiment, and like you, are eagerly awaiting Tuesday night to see the final result.
Sari Wilson, a principal at Dojo Graphics, is a comics writer and a fiction writer.
She also coaches teachers on integrating comics into Language Arts curriculum.
Her website is www.sariwilson.net.
About Dojo Graphics
Dojo Graphics is a studio specializing in original graphic narratives for print, online, and TV -- including motion comics. Clients include ABC, Lifetime, and AT&T. We offer story concept and development, script writing, storyboards, digital motion comics. Dojo Graphics partners with animation studio Guerilla FX. Our website is www.DojoGraphics.net