I went back to the only thing that remained true in all of the work I had done so far. The female character. I drew her, again and again. Imagining her moving, where would she be? what would she be doing?
This was all I had. But I liked it. I had a beginning, then I looked for some story inspiration.
The Story of Chang’e is really what changed things. I had something to frame my work with, Three points in particular became the inspiration behind the film.
The tale of Chang’e
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Princess Kaguya)
So I pushed down further on what I wanted my character to look like. Trying to keep in mind the original aesthetic I had for the film. Silhouette would be really important so I doubled down on that to make sure it read well on the screen.
I continuously solicited feedback from a number of people, trying to see what worked best in terms of shape design, overall form and look. Keeping in mind how to transpose the 2d characters into 3d software.
I eventually landed on these two, although very similar, the left pushed the angular design that I liked best, it kept things simple, clean and stylish. Whilst the right side was more anatomical, more correct but still embodied the gestural flow of the previous. The right design won by quite a margin. Although the graphical design of the left was more intriguing for me, It did offer a large headache in its implementation into 3d.
With a character in mind now I put together a narrative in which continued on from the Chang’e legend and incorporated some of the other influences too.
Then after some feedback I changed the order of events around a little to try and make the story more intriguing for the audience. Mainly was the reveal of the second character so soon, I decided to hold that back and reveal him at the same time he is revealed to the main character. I was also advised to really focus on the character of the setting, to give it a life of its own and personality. So I did some more drawings.
Then I went back to clean up the storybeats
Some Notes from feedback- (In my own interpretation as I always forget to write them at the time)
Alan suggested that it may be worthwhile to linger around the set as opening rather than jumping straight to the visage of the moon.
One thing could be to take some shots of the setting, let the forest live and breathe and become its own character. Allow the audience to feel the normality of the world before introducing the changes and characters.
Although for the story, it may make more sense that the girl is aware of where she is and what she is doing, The experience for the audience will make much more sense if there is some element of surprise at where she finds herself. Not quite shock or alarm but a curiosity and hunger for discovery. The journey to arrived there may have been physically exhausting too.
The audience will better connect with this character if they are discovering the world alongside them.
Alan suggests that the reveal of the character and the manner in which she traverses through the forest should be steeped in mysticism. Her full form can be alluded to but never quite fully realised on screen for the audience. Withholding this full vision and keeping the beginning section of the film shrouded in mystery and fumbling in a way blind through the darkness might give more character to the forest and make the reveal more interesting and magical for the audience.
For example here (the scene in which she stops at the tree and it grows), The audience doesn’t need to see the whole character. Part of her can be revealed by a shaft of light from the moon breaking through the trees, illuminating her silhouette long enough for the audience to recognise she is there, but not exactly what she is doing. This could also help this moment avoiding the idea that she is there purposefully to alter the forest.
And keeping the camera on the trail behind her allows her to slip away into the darkness once more. We see her effect more than we see her up until later in the film.