Jason Porath

has a website, i guess

The Baby and the Balloon

As one of the first assignments for a storyboarding class I’m taking, we had to make a scene based on the prompt that a baby loses a helium balloon and a grown man wants to get it back for the baby.

The restrictions were as follows:

  • No dialog
  • Must have a clear beginning, middle, and end
  • Stakes must be raised throughout
  • There must be no way out for the protagonist

I was one of two people to actually complete the assignment, and although I had a huge number of technical mistakes (due to not understanding the format of the medium), I thought I’d still put it up here. I’m going to post the pictures, without explanation, and then provide a description of the scene, afterwards – as people are supposed to be able to glean everything from the boards themselves. Granted, the boards are supposed to have some description and sound effects on them (a fact I neglected, as I misunderstood the “no dialog” edict as much stricter), but hey. See if you can follow.

(click any image for a larger version)






Got all that? Okay, so, the scene:

Open on a  creaky old house in the middle of the woods, surrounded by scientific-looking pylons. Lightning strikes one of the pylons, and we follow it inside to where it is powering a laser gun. The laser gun shoots down at a robot, which lurches to life. The camera trucks back, revealing it is within a mad scientist’s lab.

Cut to the mad scientist laughing maniacally, and then moving a lever on a switchboard. In response, the robot’s head-mounted antenna starts beeping, and its arm lurches upward. The scientist, pleased, grabs the controller switchboard, whips around to face the camera-

-and cut to what he sees: a happy baby in a basket, playing with a balloon.

We then see that behind the two of them is a banner wishing the youngster a happy birthday. The father offers the controller to the kid, who ignores it in favor of the balloon. He angrily swats the balloon away and then, amidst the baby’s cries, teaches him how to use it. He stands back for a second, pleased with the baby’s swift uptake, only to be yanked from behind-

-to find himself face to face with an angry robot. Who tosses him into a wall.

Groggily, the man looks up at the baby, who is controlling the robot. The baby waves his arms plaintively upward. The man glances upward to see the balloon that the kid was looking at — and it’s heading to the skylight. The camera trucks out, revealing how far away that is… and the robot steps into the frame.

The man ducks between the robot’s legs and runs up the stairs, as the robot crashes through the wall in pursuit. The man makes his way to the roof, as the balloon goes through the skylight. He dives for the balloon, as the robot breaks through the roof, reaching for him-

Back in the lab, the baby continues playing with the controller. A loud CRASH can be heard, and the father falls to the floor amidst a shower of shattered glass and debris. Defeated and barely moving, he offers the baby the balloon. The child, delighted, drops the controller, which bounces off of the father’s ruined and prone body.

A beat, as the child enjoys the balloon, and then the robot comes crashing through the roof and lands on the father.


Now, I’m pretty happy with the story. The actual art also turned out alright, and conveys a lot of what I was trying to convey. The parts that I did poorly, though, are myriad:

  • The setup is weak. Having some more buildup of the play of electricity (following it from outside to inside, so we get a tour of the roof, the skylight, and the electrical cabling beforehand) would have been better.
  • I don’t show the controller-robot connection very well – probably the chief fault of the whole thing. Makes it hard to understand.
  • There’s almost no close-ups of the characters, so it’s hard to read their emotions. While I maintain it kind of works in a Wes Anderson kind of way, I’d be the first to admit that I went that route largely because I was so sick of drawing new setups. But my scene suffers for it.
  • The character design is kind of weak, although the evil robot works. In retrospect, I should have made the robot look super happy, like he was designed for a kid. Would have made the violence much funnier.
  • Some of the staging (especially around the robot throwing the father) is pretty weak.
  • Any number of other little things.

Still, I’m happy with it, especially since I thought I would suck WAY way more. And also, hey, I did it. Most people in the class didn’t. That’s a win.

Perhaps soon to come: I post my first assignment, which was to storyboard and deconstruct a scene from an already-made movie. I had a ton of fun with that one.


1 Comment

  1. for what it’s worth, my two cents on your self proclaimed poor parts:
    • I can see where following the electricity along it’s path further could be useful, but I didn’t have a problem with the setup. I followed along and understood the scene.
    • you might be right here, the connection between controller and robot was understood but maybe not as quickly or immediately as intended
    • I don’t see a necessary problem with the lack of close-ups. I’m not sure I understand what added benefit that would really provide. I wouldn’t be opposed to it but I’m not sure what I’m lacking but not seeing them.
    • I would agree with you here. The robot made to look more appealing to a child, which is obviously what the father intended, would have added to the scene. Please educate me though, is character design generally done before, during, or after a storyboard? I mean, if you took this through to completion, would you not use the storyboard to further your sense of what the characters need and edit character design going forward? or is that doing it backwards?
    • I’m not sure I’m qualified to speak to that, or understand exactly what you are referring to.

    Overall, I enjoyed and was able to follow along and understand everything from the storyboards that you described in writing — save perhaps the aforementioned controller-robot connection. I thought it was a fun story that is fitting this time of year (Halloween) when mad scientists and crazy robots are plentiful.

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