The Making of God of Dance [radio edit] (Part Seven)

THERE ARE TIMES FOR 2 CENTS AND THERE ARE TIMES FOR TWO CENTS: THIS WASN’T THE TIME

To digress for a minute... Before talking about and looking at the rough animation footage, I figure I may as well talk about a couple of suggestions that were made at a time when pretty much any new ideas or a shift in concept was simply too late and would only derail the train into oblivion. Every little detail had been planned to fit inside of the deadline and I wasn’t even certain that all the animation would be ready.

I’ve always assumed that deadlines were important because of the word “dead” in it. In other words: deliver or die. This may not always be true, but when delivering a final product (as opposed to a segment in a larger production), I believe a deadline is fixed and in the case of GoD, the pitch meeting was already set for a certain date and time and it was fast approaching. There had to be a promo of some kind ready for the meeting.

I forget at what point exactly this first suggestion was made, but it was made far too late in the process. I can say that at the very least, the concept had been worked through and the animatic completed. I don’t recall if animation had started or not, but it is moot since once the animatic was locked, there was little or no room to change anything major or add more to the promo and especially if it added more animation. For those who don’t know, actual animation takes time if you want it to be done right, unless you have a really great animator. Even then, a great animator still needs time. So when this first suggestion came in from someone who had a say in the promo, I wasn’t a happy camper...

Suggestion #1: “Let’s change Rasta into one of the female characters”.

character1

“What?! You’ve got to be kidding?!?!?!” That was pretty much what I said to Andrew on the phone. I may have said it in a more colorful way, but that was the gist of it. The reason for the request was the fear that because there was no girl, the show would be perceived as a boys only show and inserting a girl will show it has appeal for all genders. I didn’t agree with the logic since:

a) There would be a lot more to the pitch meeting than just a promo. There would be pictures and pitching and a promo. Somewhere in all that is room to make it clear that girls can watch too.

b) We were already far enough into production that making such a fundamental character change would involve a complete rethinking of what we were doing.

I’m not of the mind that you can just interchange male and female characters at will without it having an effect on the story you are telling. For starters, I would have had to change the already cut together music. It works for two testosterone teen boys, but not if one is a girl. In the same way that Godzilla and the Three Stooges have little appeal for girls, so does highly aggressive music (There are always exceptions, of course). Perhaps it is my personal limitation, but I just didn’t feel the music worked up against a female. Something more dance club style would be fine, but then that would take away from the idea of making a promo that grabbed one by the collar and didn’t give them a chance to breath. The music had to be aggressive. So, conceptually, changing Rasta to a girl character just didn’t work for me unless we designed a new concept. Fine, but there was no time to do that.

There was another reason for me not wanting to replace Rasta: he’s a great looking design! Everyone to a rule loved his design. There was a reason he was picked to be in the promo and that reason was because he looked great. It helped that visually he contrasted well with Ramen. Rasta is tall, wears big bad sunglasses, dreadlocks and only wears a pair of shorts and flop flops. Ramen is not tall, looks like a regular guy and wears clothing. Great. Another less interesting character to contrast Ramen just wasn’t a good idea. After all, why change what everyone considered a strong design to one that is good but not quite as strong just to calm a worry that may not exist other than in someone’s head?

The bottom line was that the promo was conceived and proceeded upon the notion that it was to be Ramen and Rasta. All ideas and concepts revolved around that. It was like cooking a high end meal: you just don’t change something that is designed and prepared to be deep fried into something broiled: it won’t be good. I’m extremely flexible, but I do take a very big picture of my work and there comes a point wherein the ideas get so wrapped around each other that to change elements unravels the whole. We were at that point with GoD.

In the end, Rasta stayed.

Suggestion #2: “How about some dialogue to go with the girl?”

Aside from the fact that the characters were not rigged and were not going to be rigged for mouth movement, this was a most impractical and unnecessary suggestion. Then I read the suggested dialogue. It was, to be kind, atrocious. It was your standard “Not bad, but check this out” kind of trash talk (Ahhh... Trash Talk) that you find in poorly written animation. It was dialogue written to fill air and not amuse or inform. To add dialogue like this not only would work against the concept of the promo, but it would add cost and time: neither of which was an option. Needless to say, this dialogue idea git nixed right fast.

Suggestion #3: “We need a group shot with more of the cast”.

Ok, I wasn’t happy about this mostly because there was no time to do anything that involved new art. This request was really down to the wire, if I remember correctly. The only thing I could think to do was try and use the art from the one-sheet poster that I’d drawn up a few weeks prior and see if I can turn it into something.

I’m of the mind that when developing a show, make sure all art is compartmentalized so that it can be broken apart and turned into something new in case you need something fast. Well, I did. All the characters on that poster are stand alone drawings that sit in their own level in Photoshop. I was able to take that poster and recompose it to fit the 16:9 frame and make that the basis for the group shot that would be inserted before the main title. I added the lights on the background just to jazz that up a bit and try to make it fit in with the promo more. It doesn’t really, but I don’t think anyone gave that any thought.

I sent the layered Photoshop file to Tom the editor along with a quick storyboard that I drew for the shot. He then was the one who composited the shot and added the motion and effects according to my storyboard. He did a great job. I certainly didn’t have time to do that myself.

So, my concept of saving everything for a rainy day and making sure it is set up to be useful paid off. Whew.

I did have to add a bar of music to accommodate the extra shot. If you compare the animatic with the final promo, you’ll see/hear the difference.

I don’t love this cut, but it has grown on me. I can’t argue with the logic that it makes sense to show some more of the cast to showcase the idea that there is a populated world outside of these two guys dancing. So there ya go.

Cut 22 Finished Art

Suggestion #4: “Can we get a tension release shot at the end? It’s too intense as it is, now.”


I’ve already said my peace about that so I’ll just talk about the smoke effect.

I had the thought to hand animate the smoke from Rasta’s cigarette, but it was clear I wasn’t going to have time. The smoke got added in Toronto. The first smoke I saw was some kind of computer smoke plug in and so pitiful that I have no idea why anyone would have thought it was good looking enough to show anyone. If I put that smoke in a shot representing cigarette smoke, I sure as hell wouldn’t have shown it to anyone, I’d be ashamed as a mofo. I asked for something more appropriate and what I got is in the final promo. It isn’t as interesting as I would have liked, but it does the job and there really was no time to worry about it: the deadline was about 2 days away by that point. At least it looked like something that might flow from tobacco and the fact that it is so sedate looking probably works better for the overall shot than if more interesting smoke dominated the visual. It works and I’m very fond of the shot as it is.

Suggestion #5: “I’m getting rid of the magic.”

Ok, this was actually my suggestion early on when dealing with GoD as a concept. Originally, the dancers were supposed to channel chi and that would allow them to do remarkable feats and also do battle that would involve special effects of the chi. The problem I had with that was that I couldn’t for the life of me know what to do with that idea if an actual series were to be made. The bigger problem was that no one really knew what to do with that idea. My suggestion was just to make it a strait drama with no overt mystical aspect at all. Practicality won the debate for me.

The promo as originally devised would have had glowing fists and various effects that would light up, representing chi, the shots and provide more visual stimulus. Well, that was extra work that would have complicated production and since the schedule was tight, stripping things down to the essentials was, well... essential. Glowing fists, etc. just wasn’t practical. I also argued this, “What if the investors love the chi angle so much and we still can’t come up with an idea of what to do with it? What if that ask about it, during the pitch, and a solid idea can’t be thought up on the fly? Let’s just leave it out. We can always add it in later, but if an investor is in love with it, we can’t take it away and it could end up being a serious burden on the series.” I guess my arguments made sense because I got my way.

Next: First Footage AND “I Don’t Drink Coffee”