Names of characters,plot points will be changed due to an unfortunate dispute with the co writer of this project.
How it began
As a child I was always scribbling and dreaming of making my own animated film.
Drawing was self taught. I was obsessed with animation and would research the works of Classic Disney,Nepenthe studios,Don Bluth and Richard Williams to name a few.
At school I made a lofty attempt to make animation..a short film called “A Dogs Life” which also never came to be!
When I hit late teens I eventually was introduced to Anime and was taken by the visual look and “edgier” storylines.
Takahashi,Miyazaki,Oishi and Otomo were directors that made an impact to me.
I had some ideas for a short film but was pretty bad putting things structurally into a cohesive plot…you could say was an ideas man back then.
In 2002 I came up with some designs for a short film..Im vauge what it was all about but there was a little girl made of clockwork parts and a cat witch like character.
The concept was called “clockwork infant/Cat in the witches hat”
At this time I was really influenced by two particular pieces of animation.
“Night on the Galactic Railroad” by Gisaburō Sugii and “Angels Egg” by Mamoru Oishii.
I was never much of a fan of “conventional” Japanese animation. So I cant call myself a Anime fan…more a fan of animation.
Anime and Manga was becoming more “trendy” and I came across a Manga artist forum.
I redrew the two characters and put forward an idea for someone to write a story to fit these characters.
Many liked the idea but knew it would be a big undertaking so passed.
I had two offers from members and I went with the one that had a lot of charm.
The writer was also was part of a voice acting group so that would also of been a plus for the production!
So in 2003 we began the process of taking her original outline and flesh it out.
Over time new characters were introduced (the little hedgehog) and emotional aspects to the characters motivations were developed.
This was done through online messaging and meeting up at monthly LAC (London Anime Club).
I made a demo video to gain some attention at the club.
It was largely dismissed when shown at the club.
Undeterred we got to a finished draft and I proceeded with story boarding.
I story boarded about half of the film and decided to get on with the animation.
I designed the characters with sharp angular shapes to make it “easier to animate”.
I had no formal training in animation but knew the process and learned as I went along.
I wanted to go with traditional hand drawn animation. On paper.
It was suggested that I could try Flash programs to make the animation.
I hate the look of Flash animation. There is something about hand drawn animation that has a soul to me.
Back in 2003/4 there were very limited choices for ways to make “traditional” animation on a limited budget.
Nowadays we have an abundance of programs that are free to dabble with animation.
I went a pro level program called Digicel which was used in the industry as a scan in painting tool.
With this I can draw my cleaned up animation drawing on paper and scan it directly to the software.I could then paint it within the same software and output to final video.
It was very easy to use (I like easy) but cost me (at the time) £1250 for the privilege.
Progress was patchy but also consistent and by time the second year was arriving I had animated around 20 minutes in clean line drawing.
How it never came to pass – Fantasy vs Reality
So what happened?
Many things that were fault of my own and many things out my control.
I was warned by a couple of people that it would never be completed as its a rare thing to happen for such a big animated film project.
I had this delusion that one person could do the following:
Storyboard an estimated 1 hour film.
Do all layouts.
Do rough animation. Keys and inbetweens.
Do clean up animation.
Create,draw and paint backgrounds.
Create a musical score.
Maybe I have missed something but you get the idea…
It was a huge undertaking. I also wasn’t skilled at landscape painting. I was aware of this and tried to convince some people to help out. Which obviously never came to be.
Then there was how I envisioned the film in my head and the final output. I would be dissatisfied with the character designs. I would be very unhappy with how the backgrounds looked.
Additional problems arose with data storage…one incident of my HD frying and losing a LOT of animation.
I lost a lot of drawings due to storage problems in the attic. Back then digital storage was a bit more expensive and I believe (though could be wrong) there wasn’t a benefit of clouds to back up to.
Then onto personal issues.
At the time my mental health was in decline. I hated my job. I lived a very solitary life after being a carer for many years..so I had a void I needed filling.
JOL was patching up that void but really wasn’t doing it.
So I met someone and life got better and what followed put things in perspective.
I had a break,traveled and got married. A new life…Normality!
We were having our first child and then complications suddenly arose.
We were told she would be severely disabled.
This changed everything for me. My priorities were for my wife and our daughter and not some crazy impossible idea of an animated film that would probably end up being terrible.
I made a brief announcement that JOL would be put on hold. And that was it.
So 15 years on and things are going good .
Over that time I attempted to get started on JOL again as its always in my head.
I know where my priorities are..our daughter is home educated ,needs daily physio,regular appointments and sometimes surgery.
Life would be considered hard but it has been an absolutely rewarding experience and would not change it for the world.
I took up photography as a creative outlet and now have started back into drawing since our daughter wrote her first book.
So what now for the JOL project?
Well it definitely is dead as an animated project.
I am now moving on to make comics and general concept art and more importantly…Having fun!
There is an additional reason why I wont continue with JOL in its current form.
About a year ago I was asked by a colleague if I was continuing with it and I explained that it wont be the case due to another animated series that was released which was very similar to JOL.
This show is called “Over the Garden Wall” created by Patrick McHale.
Although many story beats in the show differed from our ideas there were some very similar aspects
The two main protagonist characteristics were very similar. A reserved older child and a carefree younger one. The revelations involving lanterns and how it related to some evil creature within the woods…was too close to comfort.
Even though many reveals later in the story do differ and the show itself very American Gothic in approach there is to me still too many similarities.
Over the Garden Wall is quite complex and an animated masterpiece.
JOL was a very simple story and unfinished.
So if you were wondering what JOL would of been like..watch Over the Garden Wall and over simplify it!
If JOL was made now it would require a whole new plot. The two children lost in a forest is quite a generic trope that has been done to death.
I now have plans to evolve some of the original character designs I made for JOL and incorporate them for an upcoming project unrelated to the original JOL story concept.
This will be soon be known as “Wellside Wishes” A fun,Child friendly weekly strip that will be released at the end of the month.
I learned some things from the experience though. My takeaway is this.
Avoid going niche.
If you write with someone make sure they understand what adaptation means. Make a contract clearly stating what is theirs and what is yours in the development. This has caused me many issues in the creative process.
If it is a large project try to garner a reliable team.
Only proceed when you are at least 75% happy with it.
Good luck you will need it!
©2020 Andrew Chesterman.