Animation : Where Do You Want to Go?

This animation was created for ACIS, the leader in educational travel. I’ve been illustrating the cover of their catalogs for 5 years. My good friend Peter Jones is the president of ACIS. We live in Ashfield, a small town in Western MA. For years when my kids were little we hung out at the beach at Ashfield Lake. Peter lives in Boston and spends weekends in Ashfield. For a few years we’d nod hello at the beach - but never spoke. Finally one year we started talking and when he told me the name of his company, it turned out I’d worked with a Boston design firm and illustrated a logo for a division of his company! SMALL world. Little did we both know that our meeting would be the beginning of an incredible creative relationship. 
He asked me to show some ideas for the 2014-15 cover. He was happy with what I came up with and liked working with me, so that’s how it started! Now, each year we spend months working on the cover and 10 full page inside illustrations. This year the designers came to me with the idea of a collage - based on sketchbook drawings they’d seen of mine. I knew I could be in for a roller coaster ride of changes and options with so many elements and that’s exactly what happened. So by the time I finished and everyone was happy, I was very relieved.

Then I had the idea to animate the cover as a promotion to encourage people to order the catalog. I contacted my wonderful animator John Ryan / Dagnabit and told him my idea. He was available - so I told Peter my idea and he loved it. He said I could do it if I could work within his proposed budget. I went to work on the storyboard. I then had the idea that Peter (who is an excellent writer and a big music appreciator) co write a song for it with my daughter Sonya Kitchell, who is a very talented singer songwriter. Peter is a big fan of Sonya’s and loved this idea. We increased the budget to allow for this original song, and the two of them began to work on lyrics. I knew the feel I wanted for the music and sent Sonya a list of songs to listen to - including Justin Bieber - What Do You Mean? That song had just the right feel for what I wanted. Sonya is a very accomplished musician and she was super professional to work with. I looked at many animated commercials, and was very inspired by New Renault Twingo’s TV ad by French artists Kuntzel+Deygas with music by Beck.


John gave me some poses to paint for the dancer, I made sure all my art from the cover was in neat layers, and adjusted all of it to work for the animation, put it all in Dropbox, John started animating and Sonya started working on the song. I saw two rough versions, everything was looking great and then I left to go on assignment to Grenada. I flew out of NYC and stayed with Sonya who loves in Brooklyn, the night before leaving. That night John sent what he hoped was close to the finished animation and it was good - but it wasn’t done and the ending was just not working. I’d pushed him a lot, I knew we were close to the edge of the budget/time for his work, but I also knew it had to be perfect. And I just wasn’t sure what the solution was. I showed it to Sonya and her comment was something like, time for you to just step up and figure it out! I knew I wasn’t happy with the flamenco dancer, so the first thing I did after arriving in Grenada was paint 50 stills of her, based on poses that John gave me. ( luckily, painting the estate I’d been hired to come there and paint could wait a few days)

I had so scanner - so took photos with my phone.

Then I began researching more short animated commercials for inspiration for the ending, mostly in the Motion Award winners! For some reason, Why Have I Sprung a Leak produced by Todd Albertson, spoke to me. I wrote Todd - a total stranger - and asked if I could hire him as a consultant to help me finish the animation. He was a huge help! And then John made it all work. 
A great experience all around!  Below is the front and back cover.