Senior year can be a stressful and difficult time in many students’ lives, but there is one student who has taken on a project which makes this burden a little easier. By beginning a project for himself, this student has made a busy schedule a little more fun.

“Basically I just wanted an excuse to do something fun and visually interesting,” said Dan Smith, a senior studio art major at URI, “So it’s just one big action scene; that’s all it is is two sides, basic good and evil types… which despite the cartoonish nature it’s got some heavier themes, like the reality of war and that kind of thing.”

He decided to use only animals and insects for the cast of his fantasy story.

“I thought why bother making them people at all?” Smith asked himself. “It’s a lot more visually appealing, more variation… That’s the main character [the rabbit], and there’s really no names or dialogue. I’m telling the entire story visually.”

The lack of humans in his pictures adds a whimsy to the project. Although the animal-like characters are not exactly what they seem at first glance.

“I don’t really think of them as animals per say,” said Smith. “They’re more like a race that looks like different animals… The [rabbit] is leading this one side, and that shot is basically the calm before the storm. That’s his outpost, he kind of has this balloon [which] he stares over the whole field from.”

In order to create these characters and their surroundings Smith must go through a series of processes repeatedly. Though the backgrounds may be reused because the entire work is made using layers, he approximated that each image (that makes up a sequence) takes his about five minutes on average to produce, though some are more graphically intense to create, such as the rabbit scene.

“It’s hu

Cap. - Courtesy: Dan Smith
Cap. – Courtesy: Dan Smith

ndreds and hundreds of individual drawings played in sequence,” said Smith. “It’s this whole process [and] you have to storyboard it out, which basically is an individual thumbnail image for each individual shot. [Then] I sketch those out to get the idea, and then I draw those out on the computer using my tablet. After I get all those individual storyboards done, that’s when I go and do the colors. So I don’t just sit and do one frame and then start from the beginning for the next one.”

Smith became fascinated with animation around the age of thirteen when he was inspired by others’ own video creations.

“I used to watch Flash Independent Animations,” said Smith. “Which is the program I use, and then I managed to get my hands on a copy so I’ve been dabbling on it since then.”

Anyone can purchase the program and do what they want with it but to make a good product it takes both practice and talent. Smith did not take any classes in high school, rather he taught himself through research, articles and practicing on his own. He hopes to eventually publish the work and enter the festival circuit, but he must first get the rights to a song. One song will play throughout the animation because the scenes are only narrated through action, no dialogue. Classical music tends to be easier to obtain rights for distribution.

“There’s a song that goes to the tune of a classical composition,” said Smith. “You need to get the rights before you can just put something out there and start making money off [of] it or in a festival.”

Smith made up the story and art on his own, and in addition to animation and illustration he also enjoys painting. After graduation he plans to continue with art in any way he can.

“I’m really casting a wide net,” said Smith. “It helps to have multiple skills, especially in a field as difficult as art with the job market… but I would love to do something with animation.”

After starting this project last year, Smith went back to it to expand upon and improve the animation for his senior seminar. He will display what he has completed at that point, though it will not be completely finished, with a logical end for the viewers on a TV in hallway outside of the gallery during the senior exhibition. By then Smith expects it to be around one minute in length, which will represent a lot of hard work.

“You’ve got 12 frames for every second of animation,” said Smith, “multiply that (12) by 60… and you get quite a few hundred individual images.”