December 09, 2014

David Myles - "Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo" by Copernicus Studios

Produced by: Scott Simpson
Directed by: Murray Bain
Animation Supervisor: Andrew Holland
Backgrounds: Tony Mitchell
Designs & Keys: Andrew Holland, Stefanie Achtnig
Animators: Joe Achorn, Tim Larade, Daniel Luke, Rebecca MacInnes, Ron Doucet
Compositing: James Dalziel, Chris Stroh

I sat down with the director to have a quick chat about this project...

How did you come across this project? Did you get approached by David Myles to make this music video?

Scott Simpson the producer is a good friend who regularly makes short films and music videos. I believe he was approached by David's manager Sherri, David wrote this song from a child's perspective, they thought it made sense to animate it.

Did you have a specific process in deciding how to develop the character designs and art direction?

Well I wanted it to be nostalgic, so I was aping Charlie Brown-Shultz, Searle, Sendak, and that quick-drawing cartoonist style with organic India ink lines that are actually easier to do using digital tools. I looked at photos of David when he was a kid but he looked different, so I went with a caricature of him as an adult. Tony did a stellar job with the backgrounds - I mentioned 101 Dalmatians as a jumping off point, but he made them more organic and painterly to match the characters.

When planning and storyboarding this 2 minute music video, did you easily and quickly envision the locations and shots?

Yes, the lyrics were very implicit, christmas morning, dreaming about what you are getting- writing letters to Santa, of course it instantly brought to mind the Canadian holiday classic "A Christmas Story" and Ralphie's quest for his red Ryder BB gun. I really relate to that movie, I can remember the Santa parade and the competing holiday window displays at Simpsons and Eatons growing up in Toronto. The station wagon is a tip of the hat to National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation". The underlying theme of the song is his promise/threat to play "so loud." Which is why his parents are reluctant to allow Santa to bring the banjo, so I never actually showed the parents faces, it's the Chuck Jones trick Scott and I discussed from the outset.

Did you have any animators on the project that knew how to play the musical instruments, to ensure the animated characters played authentically?

Ha yes, I gave all the fantasy performance scenes to Daniel Luke, whom is very talented at several instruments, so I knew he would make the playing convincing - I think he even figured out the chords to the chorus!

From concept to completion - how long did it take to make this short?

Not long - I spent a week on the animatic, and the animation was about two and a half weeks. Then a couple days of composite- less than a month for sure, sleep was lost, haha.

What tools and software did you use to make the video?

Flash CS3 for the animatic and animation, Photoshop for the backgrounds, and then composited in After Effects.

Any pitfalls or obstacles during production?

Pretty smooth overall, other than the studio was somewhat busy already, so I was stealing animators from you, haha. All kidding aside, the amazing talent we have made it a real joy.

What's next for Copernicus Studios?

A big move! We are moving to a bigger swank studio down the street, as we have a big Hollywood service gig, a very exciting and hilarious hush hush show, and we are jumping both feet into ToonBoom, which we've only dabbled in so far. We also have two very exciting development deals -expanding the already talented pool of artists, and the industry is definitely on an upswing. It's a great time to be an animator!

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