When I was hired as lead animator – and only animator at that time – Forgotton Anne was much smaller in scale than it later came to be. We wanted to tell a story that would capture its audience, and to me it was important to animate Anne in a way that allowed people to relate to her and feel a connection with her. The biggest challenge would be to make Anne move realistically, but at the same time keep the number of pictures down without sacrificing the weight and fluidity of the animations. With time we grew as a team and the game grew longer in playtime. This is a short description of my thought process on the animation throughout these years.
Anne was supposed to feel like a real human being. She was supposed to feel heavy in movement. Athletic but not acrobatic. If she falls from high up she would not land in a cool pose but rather hard and a bit clumsily. That may take away some of the coolness but also conveys that she is supposed to be just like any other person.
Since she is still athletic, she has control and some grace to her movements but not so much that we would perceive her as super-natural. Other characters like Mr. Fig or Bulb would have more exaggerated movements, since they’re not human and don’t have the bodily limitations of Anne – or Bonku for that matter.
Anne landing heavily
Anne waking up
When animating for Forgotton Anne we wanted Anne's movements to feel heavy, but with too high of a frame count she could easily end up looking sluggish or floaty, and that was something I really wanted to avoid. By keeping the timing of the frames longer and spacing the frames accordingly, I thought we could achieve this. To some people this might look choppy, but it's a known technique used especially in Japanese animation.
Western animation is as a standard animated on 2’s. Meaning that one image is held for the duration of two frames out of 24. While Japanese animation standard is on 3’s and 4’s. If the spacing of your images is there, you can achieve the same animation with fewer frames. This doesn’t mean laziness but rather optimization, since it can also be very hard to get the spacing just right to make this style of animation work. A lot of the time this makes for more weight and just a nicer looking flow in my opinion.
It was sometimes a challenge to animate Anne with her having to start and end in her idle pose. Also considering that her idle pose was facing to the side. That could sometimes make the animation seem very flat and un-dynamic, and for this we had to find various workarounds. For example, turning her slightly towards the viewer in certain jumps, etc. It wouldn't be right, logically, but it makes for a much more interesting animation.
Since Anne has her Arca glove on one of her hands, that also meant that it had to switch hand every time she turned, which meant we had to do a little magic trick and try to cover it up as much as possible.
Anne going from idle to turn
Anne going from run to turn
Anne is the 'enforcer' and therefore there's a bit of an apparent harshness to her. Along with her strong side we also felt it was important to show glimpses of her softer side in expressions and subtle movements.
Anne inspecting a crystal fragment
Anne looking around
Anne fixing her bow
Some key frames of Anne waking up – first pass rough, cleaner rough, cleaned up and colored.
I hope all of you reading this will look at the animations as you play Forgotton Anne and maybe notice and appreciate some of the details mentioned in this blog post.