Teddy - a short film by Christiaan Moleman



Backgrounds were drawn in charcoal. I started with a set of reference photos for details and overall ambiance, then a rough pencil test served as a guide for the final version. I tried to go for something that suggested detail without overpowering the animation.

Background 130a

The billowing smoke was particularly tricky as I decided against doing it digitally like the characters, which I meant I had to draw several frames of more or less continuous smoke that then gradually faded into each other, with charcoal...

As I was doing the second pass on the storyboards and starting to create the backgrounds I put a lot of consideration into where the audience should be looking...

Composition 130

In this shot (130) most of the lines flow towards the girl and where she’s going. The shading helps contrast the characters to the background. Because of its brevity the shot had to quickly set the scene and not lose track of what was going on...

180 - girl on offense 180 - girl on defense

I was told in an art class once that characters on the right always feel more dominant over characters on the left. I’ve found this to be frequently true. In the original shot (180) the girl is very much in control... but in the mirrored version, the soldier on the right is a lot more menacing and the girl seems almost defensive, shielding herself with the teddy.

Composition 210

This scene (210) is framed by the darker parts of the background and the soldier’s silhouette, and lines lead first to the soldier’s gaze, then to the girl and the door...

I’d be lying if I said all of this was a 100% deliberate, but I like to think even the happy accidents came unconsciously from absorbing all those notes on composition in the AM lectures and at Temple of the Seven Golden Camels.


I like rough animation. There’s something about pencil tests... They have a life to them that’s missing from cleaned up ink & paint. I wanted to get this feeling of spontaneity in my film.

090 - Naimah looks on 160 - Confused

I would generally start working with my storyboards as layout, sometimes even using them as keys (090, 100, 200). I didn’t use video reference much as I don’t quite have the build to match my protagonists, though I did use it on 070 to figure out how they should get up into a run...

Generally my process was: Start with thumbnails on paper, copy them over into Plastic Animation Paper, then break it down and refine from there, eventually adding inbetweens.

050 thumbnails

Shot 050 : Blocking / Polish / Final

Originally the mother walking away was going to be in a wider, sixth shot, but this was cut because it felt unnecessary to show the boy at this point and only distracting from the main idea of the scene (the girl receiving the teddy).

Being relatively unfamiliar with 2D animation I experimented with different workflows… Sometimes, like here, I started with (mostly) clean keys and continued from there, while on other shots I started more rough and gradually uncovered what I was going for.

The shots that were the most frustratingly difficult to get right were usually the most interesting in the end...



Shade was used judiciously, mostly for contrast to emphasize depth or focus the eye, and only outside. The girl is not actually blonde, I just couldn’t work out how to give her black hair without losing the definition in the drawing.

With the exception of the un-shaded 160 I tried to progress the soldier into a lighter shade from his introduction to the final shot as he becomes less of a threat. It was difficult trying to get the shading right for individual shots, but still have it cut smoothly and make at least some sense for where the light would be. Keeping the close-ups 'lines only' seemed to work best...


I really only had one significant sound in the film which is the sound of explosions and gunfire in the background that comes in when the girl goes outside, and that was cut together from samples I got from SoundDogs.com. Everything else was just Foley that felt like it needed to be there.

I used t-shirts and pillows to get cloth sounds and soft impacts, myself and the floor or table for harder ones. I actually bought a toy car to knock over for the first shot and the sound of drawing is really charcoal on paper. The sandy footsteps were me grinding salt and sugar with some plastic thingy.

I tried to avoid adding sound to things that I didn't want to draw attention to...

prev - next