The mission of nope.ltd is pretty simple: we make pictures for your stories. As 2017 drew to a close, however, we were presented with the opportunity to breathe a little more life into the pictures.

94.9 KUOW Public Radio asked us to create an animation short for their climate change series, The Burning Question. We said yep.

Chuck Jonesing

The backstory is common. I grew up watching Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. My fascination with cartoons continued until, finally, a few years ago, I tried my hand at traditional animation.

Lisa Eats a Piece of Pizza by Michael Buchino

In 2015, I created Lisa Eats a Piece of Pizza (click through for a version with sound) by drawing nine tiny frames on regular old generic photocopier paper, scanning them in, stitching them together in Adobe Photoshop as an animated .gif, converting to a video and adding audio recorded from my iPhone Voice Memos app.

I accordion-folded the strip of paper to quickly modify each frame. It looked like this:

Tiny Lisa Eats a Piece of Pizza frames on regular old generic photocopier paper

It wasn’t Wile E. Coyote, but it was proof I could make something move. Over the next couple years, I would occasionally play with the form through frivolous test loops (Walk the Walk, Plant Lady and Booze Cruise are my favorites), an impromptu collaboration with Santiago Uceda, a federal holiday greeting with Julia McNamara for nope.ltd and moving a few elements in our posters for Book-It Repertory.

Newsworthy

Nowhere in the Trapper Keeper of my very-well-thought-out and meticulously-plotted life did I consciously think that animation would be part of The Official Business Plan. Looking back, it seems like an obvious and logical next step. Fortunately, the 2017 nope.ltd holiday animation caught the attention of KUOW, the Seattle NPR affiliate.

KUOW needed a 90-second video to introduce their series on the city of Seattle’s lofty climate change aspirations and its tendency to fall short. To do this, I needed to call in someone with a little more experience. Enter Jordan Harrison, an art director and video designer.

Since we met in Boston a decade ago, Harrison and I have collaborated on a lot of little projects and intermittent big projects. Most frequently, we offer advice and art direction to each other. This gig would be a 50/50 collab, sharing art direction duties and splitting the illustration (mostly Buchino) and animation (mostly Harrison).

Individual characters from the mayors scene
Mayors scene demo

In practice, this meant that I was drawing characters and scenes in multiple frames (just like Lisa Eats a Piece of Pizza), and Harrison would color and drag elements around the screen. In the mayors scene, for example, Harrison pulled up the box to swap out mayors and made the water rise on Mayor Jenny Durkan.

If you think this is not the most efficient way to animate, you’re right! I don’t want to say it’s the wrong way, but it’s definitely, absolutely, for sure the wrong way. And that’s okay! It was fun! And we learned stuff!

Repeat drawings with slight variations in rapid succession create the squigglevision effect.

I May Be Wrong

We were feeling our way through this process with a lot of unknowns. We knew what we signed up for. With clear eyes, Harrison and I decided to jump off the cliff and learn to fly on the way down.

There were script rewrites, character redraws and concept do-overs. One concept we cut was a crane (there are lots in Seattle) building buildings (there are lots of those, too) that would compose a graph of rising carbon emissions. The visual metaphor was a stretch, and the time spent on an incomplete test proved unfruitful.

New clients and unfamiliar media can add up to perceptibly wasted time. But the time you spend learning and growing is necessary. It may cost extra hours, but it pays dividends in experience. We factored this into the contract (and our attitudes) before agreeing to work together, which resulted in laughs and smiles even when we biffed.

Crane building a city of rising carbon emissions

As we chugged along, we made demos of sections of the video for KUOW, and they kept digging what we sent them. By the time we tied everything together, the only thing that was missing was music to propel the narrative. Did you know royalty free music that fits your story perfectly is difficult to find? It is. So we made our own.

A quick aside: When we met, Harrison and I would jam a bit and we formed a band called RAWK SEXXX and we played one whole gig entirely unrehearsed and it was the best. We also made a video about Care Bears with original music and then followed that up several years later with another video about a Care Bear with original music. We took that second Care Bear video music and set it to the climate change animation and, guess what, it fit perfectly. So now RAWK SEXXX has licensed music out there and a contract with Sub Pop is in negotiations and the band are contemplating a reunion tour.

So here’s the video:

In conclusion, we sent KUOW a file and they approved it and now nope.ltd is an illustration and animation studio. You can listen to or read articles from the series, The Burning Question. And stay tuned for more nope.ltd videos…


Nope.ltd is the illustration studio of Michael Buchino and Julia McNamara and collaborators like Jordan Harrison.

For more on nope.ltd, visit nope.ltd.

For more on Michael Buchino, visit buchino.net.
For more on Julia McNamara, visit
juliamcnamara.com.
For more on Jordan Harrison, visit
jordanharrisonprojects.com.