Here at Brown Bag Films, we're lucky to work with a team talented individuals across our studio locations who are all immensely creative. Our artists’ creativity is showcased in everything we produce together, and everything they make too! Today, we are excited to highlight another passion project from one of our very own Brown Bag Films animators, Christian Nelson.
Working out of our Toronto studio, Christian spends his days animating on the wildly colourful and hilarious series StoryBots: Answer Time, now streaming on Netflix. When he’s not helping to bring Beep, Boop, Bing, Bang and Bo to life, he can be found pursuing his own creative endeavors illustrating and writing graphic novels! We had the opportunity to speak with Christian about a range of topics, including Hux and the Hunters a book he created with his wife Ines Habara, his upcoming project Goblin Knight, and his tips and tricks for people wanting to get into animation themselves!
Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m from a small town called Kincardine, and have loved cartoons for as long as I can remember. When I was seven I would make stop-motion films with toy dinosaurs in my backyard, and knew I wanted to be an animator. I went to Max the Mutt Animation School where I met my wife who had published a children’s book in Brazil, and wanted to learn how to illustrate her next book.
After finishing school I’ve gotten to work on lots of amazing cartoon shows and was able to illustrate my wife’s next children’s book in Brazil, and we made our first graphic novel together called “Hux and the Hunters.”
What inspired your latest work, Goblin Knight?
I think I tend to obsess about the details not covered in most stories. In stories like the Lord of the Rings we never got to learn much about the Orcs when they where not fighting. What’s their normal day like? How is life in their town? Do they like having to serve an evil king? Do they even really want to fight or just be left alone?
I came to the idea that the Goblins and Orcs in stories all live in pretty miserable and oppressive conditions, so I thought the story of one of the rising up to free her kingdom would make for a different kind of hero than normally seen.
How do you start the creative process on your projects, whether they be personal projects or work at Brown Bag Films?
I start off roughing out the ‘Skeleton’ or framework of what I want to do. With a story I try to write down all the beats from the start to finish on just one page and see if it works before adding any details. The same with animation, I try to plan everything out in bold poses and look it over to see if it is interesting before going in and adding the little nuances it needs. If you can create an end goal in your mind first, all the work after tends to [fulfill] it better in the end.
How does your creative process differ between a graphic novel like Goblin Knight when compared to a picture book like What Size Treat Does an Alien Eat?
For this it was really thinking about the audience. When writing a picture book, I wanted to teach a really simple lesson about being able to see things from another’s perspective, but you have to write it in way that you hope a preschooler will understand and really enjoy, and create big fun images that help tell the story.
For a graphic novel the story is so much longer you have to add nuance to your characters and the situations so the audience stays engaged. Making a graphic novel is more like making a storyboard, while a picture book is like creating twenty-two posters that convey a mini story inside them.
What has working on Goblin Knight taught you about yourself?
That I really like drawing characters more than backgrounds! I also learnt I still love creating new worlds and characters and love the challenge of finding ways to make everything fit into a story, whether it is coming up with all the plot points, or figuring out the composition of a page.
What is the most challenging part about working on Goblin Knight?
Writing the relationships between the characters so they come across as feeling real and sincere. The core of the story is a friendship between Bogra a Goblin girl, and Camila a human girl. I really want the friendship to be heartfelt but am worried about making it sappy and false if I don’t get the dialogue just right.
How long have you worked for Brown Bag Films?
I started January this year to work on Storybots: Answer Time.
Is there any one thing you’ve accomplished during your time at Brown Bag Films that you are most proud of?
On the first episode of Storybots: Answer Time I worked on, Weird Al voiced one of the characters. His music was something my friends and I all loved to listen to in grade school so it was a great way to start work on this project and help me understand the caliber of show I would be working on.
What is your favorite thing about working as an animator?
I think when you animate something that makes a character seem “Real”, whether it is a [fumble] or an eye roll that makes everyone laugh. It’s when you capture that thing, we all do in real life, and although animation makes it an exaggeration, we all recognize it and laugh, because we are really laughing at ourselves.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in animation?
Learn about acting and always animate with intent in your scene. Even in school when you are doing test animations, ask yourself what you want to show to the audience, even if it is something painfully obvious. If you start animating with a goal in mind your work will always seem more alive and appealing, and people will want to look at it.
What’s your top tip for staying positive and creative?
Take time to step back and look at your work from a distance, both figuratively and literally. Lots of the time we look at our own work with our face buried in the screen, and only the portion of work we have assigned to ourselves. It helps stand a few feet from the screen and watch your shots in a full episode. Seeing the completed work can be a good ego boost know you helped create a whole show, as well as find ways to improve.
Check out Hux and the Hunters, and keep an eye out for The Goblin Knight when it comes out in the future!