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Incredible Story Studio was a project Ideas Included undertook for Disney Channel, based on the popular show of the same name. Children sent in their stories and they were filmed by professionals and turned into short movies based on the stories.

It was suggested by Disney Channel that we should make four short animated films based on stories sent in by Disney Channel viewers, and we were glad to accept the challenge.

Three months later we had produced four 5-10 minute films based on the scripts we created based on the four winning stories. The stories had four different styles: an Asian shadow puppet show, black and white photographic stills, wartime propaganda posters of the 1930s and 40s, and a more traditional cell animated film.

The still photographic piece, David and Goliath, was actually shot on DV using child actors, and stills were grabbed from the DV tape and treated with a variety of film-look filters. Any details needing to be removed were painted out using Photoshop, such as the blankets the kids sat on in the mud. Binocular masks and other effects were added, and finally the whole set of images were sequenced together to the music using Adobe Premiere Pro.

Song of the Sea was a more complex proposition. Comic book artist Lee Sullivan was hired to take the show to another level. Lee's work on Doctor Who and other Marvel comics was just the kind of experience we needed to bring to life this tale of the paranormal. Black and white line drawings were made by Lee and coloured by us. Then the frames and elements were loaded into Macromedia Flash 4 and animated within that environment. The finished animations were exported to QuickTime and once again edited using Adobe Premiere.

We'll Meet Again was drawn by local Somerset artist Dan Walker, usually known for his exquisitely precise drawings of architecture and animals. Dan based his art for this story on propaganda posters from Russia and the UK of the 1930s and 40s. The stark but primitive style lent itself well to this poignant wartime tale of loss and discovery.


And finally The Dragbersnak, a tale of a fearsome creature terrorising a Nepalese village, was produced using a virtual shadow puppet theatre, developed by Ideas Included exclusively for this project. The Dragbersnak creature itself was designed by the artist Gerald Scarfe, as were many of the characters for this project. The puppet characters themselves were derived from research carried out by Phil South of Ideas Digital and Gary Whiteley of Del Muerto Productions. They found examples of a wide range of shadow puppet styles from all over the world and designed characters which drew on all the types and styles. Once the characters were created they were scanned in as 3D objects, in fact totally flat 2D objects, which could then be animated in Lightwave 3D against beautiful backgrounds created for us by artist Jude Knight. While it isn't a traditional shadow puppet style, it is suggestive of shadow puppetry, which was what we were after. We wanted to be non-specific about which particular cultural tradition we were taking the ideas from, so as not to cause offence. Additional effects added by Phil South included practical (real) rain and fire effects.

All the animations were planned as Quicktime movies for the Disney Channel UK web site, but in the end they were compressed to run on the web. This wasn't ideal as the shows were quite detailed and a lot of this was lost, but on the whole we were all very proud of the results. The films were on the Disney Channel web site for about two months, but were later replaced by new material. Such is the nature of the disposable modern world.

Soon we hope to be able to reclaim the rights to make these films and make them available for download. Watch this space.

 2011 Ideas Digital