New IRTC animation topic (Jan 2006): Inventions

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New IRTC animation topic (Jan 2006): Inventions

Postby sascha » Tue Oct 18, 2005 8:12 pm

I plan to participate again this round (bones should be ready to use quite soon). The deadline is January 15. If you've got a plot idea, please let me know!
Last edited by sascha on Mon Jan 30, 2006 6:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby pndragon » Tue Oct 18, 2005 8:15 pm

Shades of Rube Goldberg...
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Stupid Plot Idea #1:

Postby pndragon » Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:26 pm

Stupid Plot Idea #1:

"Necessity is the mother of invention."

What if this were true and in some hospital room where there is woman? goddess? named Necessity constantly giving birth to all sorts of different Rube Goldberg-type devices while the nervous inventor-fathers pace the floor outside?

There are so many fathers that each has to take a number, and there is a big digital sign over the delivery room door that reads "Now serving number:" and display a number that is constantly changing.

When the father goes to the nursery window and finds the crib that holds his brain-child (his number is displayed beneath it) he sees... whatever you think will convey the feeling of inventiveness. (Personally I would try to make a cute baby version of the terminator from The Impostor and have it say "Da Da" like Arnold. Not very inventive but it appeals to me... )

I don't know if it is workable. Probably way too much...


--- Jim
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Postby dcuny » Wed Oct 19, 2005 9:37 am

The specification for this round is a bit tighter than usual:
    ...you imagine it, then show it.
Of course, you don't have to follow the guidelines exactly.

The first thing that sprang to mind was something along the lines of Wallace and Gromit's "Cracking Contraptions" series. The idea here is that the invention that's supposed to solve some fairly minor problem vastly overengineered, and fatally flawed.

Image

But the invention is sort of secondary - it's the interplay between the two characters that really drives the story. So you've got one character who's bounding with enthusiasm for an idea, while the other looks on with a bit more caution, knowing these things are destined to fail in some sort of spectacular fashion.

If you've seen Will Vinton's Claymation Easter, there's a similar sort of scene where Wilshire Pig is competing in the Easter Bunny contest. All the bunnies are on scooters, but he shows up in a Volkswagon Bug. He pushes a button, and the VW transforms into a walking robot, and havoc ensues.

Image Image

For those not familar with Wilshire Pig, here are some links to clips (unfortunately, the car scene is not among them):One of my favorite inventions is the "transmogrifier" from "Calvin and Hobbes":

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It's elegant in it's simplicity - nothing more than a plain cardboard box, with the word "transmogrifier" written on the side:

Image
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So the actual "invention" doesn't need to be a complex model, so long as it actually performs the necessary plot function.

Image

"Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" is also a good example of the genre. He's built an robotic dog/assistant/companion named "Goddard":

Image

On dependable behavior of geniuses is to act without thinking through the consequences of their actions - for example, to bring back extinct velociraptors.

My suggestion:
  • Absent minded genius
  • DNA splicer/time portal/whatever for creating dinosaurs
  • Robot assistant
  • Vicious dinosaur
Heck, the plot virtually writes itself! ;)
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Postby sascha » Fri Oct 21, 2005 12:47 pm

I like that "weird professor" idea a lot. The invention could be something like Frankenstein's monster. Or maybe a microscopic black-hole that eventually swallows the professor, the lab and the entire planet.

An other option might be to not show the invention at all - or maybe showing it as a strange device, but not revealing it's purpose to the audience. If David doesn't mind, we could adapt his plot idea for "Explosion": The professor and an assistent try to capture the great invention on videotape, but first they forget to remove the lense cover, then the tripod mount is loose and the camera unintentionally pans down just as the experiment becomes interesting. After the third and final try (they may have not enough power left for a 4th try) they double-check everything, but just as they start a red "low battery" warning appears...

The invention could look like a minature of the alien machine used in "Contact":
Image
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It was made up of a number of concentric rings - they began to rotate, got faster and faster, eventually the center of the machine started to glow and a kind of gate or wormhole was opened.

We could use David's original script and just replace the explosion with the machine glow sequence (we'd catch a fleeting glimpse on it just before the camera pans down) - everything else could be there - flashy lights (when the camera points to the floor), the bursts of static,...

What do you think?

Here's the link to the thread with the original "Explosion" plot:
http://jpatch.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t ... c&start=40
Last edited by sascha on Fri Oct 21, 2005 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby pndragon » Fri Oct 21, 2005 1:22 pm

You could have, as the last shot before the the battery dies, the professor with a death grip on the tripod struggling not to fall into the machine. Then leave with tagline that the tape was recovered from the safe of the Titanic...

--- Jim
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Postby squirrelhavoc » Fri Oct 21, 2005 4:50 pm

I have a simple idea for an animation that I am still working on (the idea, not the animation).

An opening shot inside a bar, panned back so you can see everything. And all looks normal. Then it shows the bartender putting a new bottle of beer on the bar. Then a robot walks up and pulls the bottle cap off, then lights a few cigarettes. Then a shot of people watching and betting on pool, then the shot of the table, with robots playing. Cut to a shot of robots playing darts. Someone grabs the last of the peanuts from a bowl, and a robot walks up and refils it. Basically everything gets sillier as it goes on. Then an outside shot of the front entrance, with a neon sign saying "Lazy Bones Lager"

As I write this, the idea doesn't seem as funny as it did when I came up with it. Incase you can't tell the story, it's about inventions designed to make life easier, but it's gotten to the point where it's too easy, and people buy inventions to do things they could easily do themselves.

If you can find a better way to convey that message, or anything to add that would make it more funny, please let me know.
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Postby pndragon » Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:24 pm

How about a commercial...?

In a world populated solely by robots...

"New from ChaosLabs... Humans, the Toy that plays with you!"

--- Jim
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Postby pndragon » Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:26 pm

Sounds sort of like "Small Soldiers" doesn't it?
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Postby squirrelhavoc » Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:26 pm

pndragon wrote:Sounds sort of like "Small Soldiers" doesn't it?


Never seen it
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Postby squirrelhavoc » Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:27 pm

pndragon wrote:How about a commercial...?

In a world populated solely by robots...

"New from ChaosLabs... Humans, the Toy that plays with you!"

--- Jim


Modeling a human is out of my capabilities. I was just going to do legs and arms in my animation, then some tricky lighting and camera angles
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Postby dcuny » Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:49 pm

I can recall when I thought that just watching a computer generated spinning cube was neat. (It still is, if my program was used to generate it. :wink:)

I thought that CGI would be great for bringing to life alien landscapes that I had only dreamed about while reading stories by Ray Bradbury, or space with hyper-lightspeed ships zipping around.

It has, but when I think about my favorite IRTC animations, the ones that involve fantastical inventions or imaginative worlds aren't the ones that come to mind. Instead, I think of the ones that managed to bring characters to life, if only fleetingly. For example, The Poolshark, Melvin's Happy-Time Speedy-Fast Adventure or Gladiators.

In the Roadrunner cartoons, the fact that the Acme inventions always fail wouldn't be nearly as funny as it without the Coyote. His misplaced faith in his genius (and the Acme Corporation), his smug confidence, and his complete disbelief when he fails are what drives the humor.

I find it interesting that some of the the first (and most primitive) IRTC animations are still the best. :D (Note that in many cases, the modeling is quite primitive - something I think only adds to the charm).

Anyhoo, I think that some sort of character-driven idea is likely to do better than one that focuses on the technology part of the story.
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Postby pndragon » Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:10 pm

I wasn't thinking so much of the technology as just the idea that in some other dimension robots invent man.


--- Jim
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Postby squirrelhavoc » Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:43 pm

dcuny wrote:It has, but when I think about my favorite IRTC animations, the ones that involve fantastical inventions or imaginative worlds aren't the ones that come to mind. Instead, I think of the ones that managed to bring characters to life, if only fleetingly. For example, The Poolshark, Melvin's Happy-Time Speedy-Fast Adventure or Gladiators.

You just named some of my favorites. I have those, and many more, in my collection of CG
I find it interesting that some of the the first (and most primitive) IRTC animations are still the best. :D (Note that in many cases, the modeling is quite primitive - something I think only adds to the charm).

Then my submission certainly will have your vote ;)
Anyhoo, I think that some sort of character-driven idea is likely to do better than one that focuses on the technology part of the story.


I agree to a point, but to me it's the humor that makes them memorable. The characters are funny, and that helps, but I've seen some (such as the futuristic one that has the wright bros plane) that aren't just funny, but have the element of surprise that makes them good.

Just my 0.02quid
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Postby dcuny » Fri Oct 21, 2005 11:54 pm

One problem I can see with that is getting across the idea that it's in another dimension, instead of being set in the future and a point after which man becomes extinct.

The other problem (from my perspective) is that it hasn't got much of an emotional punch to it. It's got a bit of irony to it, but (despite what the Goths might tell you) that's not really a feeling. :wink:

On the other hand, you could possibly set it up as an adversarial situation. For example, you could have a human trying to create a robot, but being told that he's a crackpot. Then you have a clever transition (screen wipe, title care "Meanwhile, in another dimension...") to a parallel scene with a robot trying to build a human, and being told the same sort of thing by one of his peers.

It's the same idea, but set so that (hopefully) you build a bit of sympathy towards the protagonists.

But I think it still lacks the sort of drama that would make a good short. I was watching an interview with the Pixar guys a while back, and Brad Bird made the comment that he reviewed "Toy Story" to get some perspective. He said that within a few minutes, everyone watching had stopped paying attention to the technology, and had gotten sucked into the story.

Which is, of course, the whole point. Hopefully there's some sort of story there, which according to Storywriting 101, needs some sort of conflict. And that's a tall order for a very short short; you need to:
  • Introduce the protagonist;
  • Develop some sympathy (or antipathy) for them;
  • Present a problem the need to solve;
  • Create a "eureka" moment for them;
  • Have them create an invention;
  • Solve (or attempt to solve) the problem with the invention.
The "invention" doesn't even have to be something you traditionally consider an "invention" - Blur Studio's "In The Rough" is a good example of this. (Video at Atom Films). You can use transitions (character runs offscreen to build/assemble something, for example) to get around some of these things, but you've still got to cover all that ground. Of course, if you're sufficiently clever, you can combine several elements into a single scene. Relying on stereotypes is also convenient. :P
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