Puff The Mailman

We present to you the adventures of Puff The Mailman, created by Robert DiNapoli, Alexander Boyarinov, and myself.


Case Study

Going back to the start of this class and what Professor Krikun was discussing with me with regards to what technology sets and languages employers are looking to see on your resume, I now understand the importance of having Flash and most of the Creative Cloud services.  Speaking firsthand I’ve seen them noted as requirements or optional/preferred skill sets for a number of jobs I’ve seen posted in the last couple of months.  I do think the challenge for Flash designers for web sites going forward is going to be with regards to mobile optimization, specifically as Apple Touch technology continues to not support Flash which doesn’t look like it’ll be letting up on any time in the near future.

Oil Spills and their effect on oceanic life

It goes without saying that oil spills do heavy damage to the ocean and those living both in and around the ocean.  For fish and shellfish they could experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Oil also adversely affects eggs and larval survival.  Oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water repellency of a bird’s feathers, which then exposes these creatures to the elements. Without the ability to repel water and insulate from the cold water, birds and mammals will die from hypothermia. Many birds and animals also ingest oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them.


Fish killed in the BP Gulf Oil Spill in 2010

The two biggest oil spill news stories in my lifetime have been the Exxon Valdez incident in March of 1989 and the Gulf oil spill incident in April of 2010. I found an article on the Mother Nature Network ranking the 13 worst oil spills in history and was surprised to learn that the Valdez incident didn’t even make the list (rating 36th all time) and while the Gulf incident is the worst accidental spill it only rated second overall behind an incident deliberately caused by the Iraqi army during the Gulf War in 1991.


Just a sample of the damage done by the BP Gulf Oil Spill

Creating Andy



When we were asked to create undersea characters for this project I wanted to stray away from the standard fish, turtle, whale or dolphin archetype character and do something utilized less frequently.  As such I went down to Oakland Beach (in some ways my home away from home) for a couple of hours for both observational and inspirational purposes.  I came up with two concepts, one was a jellyfish and the other was a sea anemone.  I wound up going with the latter as I recalled a friend from year’s back who was big on oceanography who had an anemone in one of his fish tanks, and I remember the whole cohabitation relationship it had with the clownfish in the tank.  I also went with the anemone concept on the basis that it was the less frequently used character of the two (actually let’s be honest, have you ever seen a cartoon or animation of any kind that had a sea anemone for a character?  If Spongebob beat me to it please let me know).

Obviously I took some liberties as your typical sea anemone has what they call a “basal disc” which is much longer and more circular but there are those with a form similar to Andy’s.  In terms of character creation and premise as I had mentioned my original intentions were to create a character who was a little more downtrodden with a feeling that his life was lacking, something akin to characters like Shrek and Wreck-It-Ralph in the sense that they wanted more out of their lives (albeit not anywhere near as angry as those two characters but at the same time I also didn’t want him to be overly mopey).  The original storyline concept was to have a fish or two of some kind meet with him to remind him what an important role he plays in oceanic life as he protects other fish (of course in reality sea anemone’s tend to have a cohabitation relationship with clownfish but it’s a cartoon so we’ll take some liberties), and then we’d have one of the fish take him out and around to see other parts of the ocean in a way that was akin to having him see other parts of the world.  Afterwards Andy would feel happy and have a new appreciation both for the ocean as well as for his role as he’d now feel both satisfied and have a sense of importance.  When I was paired up with Rob and Shawn, Rob came up with the concept of an oil spill as a means for having Andy protect Rob’s character Puff, I thought this was a better way to go as it would fit better with the sustainability theme that we were going for with the class project.

The one “challenge” we’ll say with Andy is that he’s a stationary character, so as he wouldn’t be physically moving from one location to the other his actions needed to be more detailed, specifically his tentacles.  My original plans had the motion of the tentacles being a touch more erratic, with the intent being that they were whipping with and against a more intense current, but Professor Krikun suggested making a more smooth and fluid motion which wound up looking much better. 

Each segment of the tentacles motions were first created in illustrator, then imported into flash as a symbol, turned into a motion tween, and attached to Andy.

For my scenes I also incorporated an ocean floor background which was altered to give it more of a painted look thanks to a suggestion from Rob.  After that I incorporated the different emotes for Andy based on the scene and situation, and also his dialogue and the whistle he makes to get Puffs attention while he’s seeking help during the oil spill.  Admittedly it was also nice to do some voice recording again (both here and for another project), and I also created the final still shot of Andy with the cape on as he was being celebrated as a hero in the news.

End Result

So am I satisfied with the end result?  For the most part yes, however as we might recall I’m known to nitpick my own work, we may all recall how I did just that with this piece:

I do feel the goal of the cartoon on whole was accomplished, and of course that’s credit just as much to Rob and Alex, I feel I met my goals with Andy and I hit all the key parts of what I wanted to do with him for this cartoon.  The tentacles and their motions look great, I definitely like the more fluid motion that I wound up creating instead of the more erratic style I was aiming for.  I’m still not 100% certain that the voiceover work and dialogue was necessary for the piece, however I do understand why Professor Krikun wanted it in, my objection was that Rob and Alex designed Puff and Shawn to be “silent” characters so I thought it would of made more sense to have Andy follow suit.  In addition if there’s one change I’d like to make or improve on it would be to have Andy’s mouth motions fit better with what he’s saying.

Andy Scenes

Here are the Andy Anemone scenes that I created for the Puff animation short:

A little inspiration going into the home stretch

Keeping in the spirit of our oceanic/sustainability theme, first we have Tabitha Johanson from Bob’s Burgers:

And Toki Wartooth from Metalocalypse:

Andy in motion and some additional updates

So here are Andy’s tentacles in motion:

Again this is probably the key thing for him under the basis that he’s a stationary character.  It was Professor Krikuns idea to have the tentacles a little more “unbalanced” compared to the way I was lining them up, given the content we’re going for here it makes sense.

Also a “sneak peek” at our production, here’s Andy and Puff during Puff’s “running away” scene:


The original background was an actual ocean floor shot, I was thinking along the lines of some of the realistic backgrounds used for “Sitta Sings The Blues”, but Rob suggested using one of the light filters in Illustrator to give it a more “painted” look (don’t want to say artsy or cartoony here) and this is what we wound up with, I think it looks pretty good.

I have to give it up to both Rob and Alex, their pencil and animation work is outstanding, it’s the kind of work I’ve wanted to be able to do for a long time now as we all might recall going all the way back to Digital Imaging.  Creatively speaking Rob has pieced together a lot of this down to the little details like the bubbles you see floating over Puff in that screenshot.  I’ve also seen a number of Alex’s additional side sketchwork and it’s very impressive, so is Shawn the shark who you’ll get to see soon enough.

So I just need to change one thing for the edits I made for tomorrow, after that the scenes I’ve been working on have been expanded, I’ve also taken a couple of potential musical scores for consideration to be used for the short which will be a focus of tomorrows class.  After that I just need to change Andy’s facial expressions based on the scene, I also want to get his eyes darting while Puff is running around in the above scene, and we also have to determine if we’re going to have dialogue for the short.

Andy Animatic

Ok we’ve got the animatic up and running.  The only little tweak I would of liked to of made would be including a zoom for one or two of the storyboards, but Professor Krikun says it’s good the way it is.

As I said in my last post the only difference is it looks like we’re going to go with the oil spill part of the end of the story as Rob came up with, and again given the “sustainability” theme we’re all going with I definitely think that works much better.

Andy Storyboard and Animatic progress

So we’re in the middle of working on our storyboards and animatics for our characters, it brings me back to my video and editing days when we were setting up shoots and working on them afterwards.  For this sequence we’re going to have Andy along with Puff who was created by Rob and a shark that was created by Alex.  Puff is the main character of the story, he’s a mailman fish out making his deliveries when he’s suddenly attacked by the shark, a chase ensues.  We’re then introduced to Andy who’s in that “isn’t there more to my life” mood when suddenly Puff goes racing by with the shark in hot pursuit.




After that point we have a couple of different ways this could go.  The way I wrote it out, as you’ll see in the following storyboards is that Andy whistles to get Puff’s attention, Puff then looks down, sees Andy, goes to him and is then coated in the toxins within his tentacles.  Puff then uses his spikes, which are now coated with the toxin, to retaliate against the shark who he then sends running away.  After this Puff comes back with either a cape or a medal for Andy for helping him, and Andy feels greatly appreciated and happy.






Rob also did a storyboard whereas instead of having Puff fight back against the shark with the toxins an oil spill occurs and he needs shelter, so he goes to Andy who protects him inside of his tentacles.  Given the sustainability theme that Professor Krikun wants us to go with I think that might work better.  Alex also did some storyboards of the shark making his initial attack which look outstanding.

I have an animatic that still needs some touching up, I’d like a few holds in between frames and maybe to zoom in a little on some other frames but I haven’t been able to get everything working the way I want to.  I’d like to show everybody the animatic thus far but for whatever reason YouTube isn’t accepting it, so that’ll be something we need to figure out in class tomorrow.