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In The Beginning
"Every animated movie begins with a blank page,” says Sony Pictures Animation executive vice president Sandra Rabins. Unlike a live action film that starts with a casting agent's copy of a script and a stack of headshots, an animated feature begins with artists creating storyboards. They illustrate the story with characters that are brought to life in still drawings.

Storyboards are initially conceived in a format similar to comic books, in which each square denotes a piece of the action. During the course of an animated film, thousands and thousands of sketches will be drawn in this format. Some will be posted on bulletin boards and office walls, most will be filed away and a few will make their way onto the screen after they have been greatly reformatted, refined and re-imagined.

"During the storyboarding phase, we go through a lot of trial and error, putting our characters in various situations, and their personalities start to emerge somewhat organically while the storyboard artists are working,” explains Long. "We change and modify the characters to make them the most entertaining that they can possibly be. Once you start visualizing possibilities and personality traits, a much clearer character starts to emerge, making them easier to write and draw for.”

Adds Stacchi: "Storyboarding is where it all happens. The story can be all laid out, the plot structured, and beats made clear and logical, but if space isn't made for the characters to come alive with their own idiosyncrasies and moments here, it will never happen later. We were lucky, in that our story department is full of flea-bitten, misfit mongrels just like Boog and Elliot, so they brought a lot of insight into the characters.”

For Open Season, the early storyboards were the inspiration for the next four years of work for more than 200 artists and animators, who executed 1,223 shots, using more than 7,200 feet of film, from the more than 34,000 storyboard drawings produced.

The process of creating fully dimensional characters for Open Season began with character designer Carter Goodrich, who was assigned the monumental task of designing every character in the film. Goodrich is a contributing character designer for Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, and Shrek, whose illustrations have graced multiple covers of The New Yorker, and have appeared in Time, Newsweek, GQ, Playboy and the Atlantic Monthly. With bold lines and the strong shape-language for which he is known, Goodrich gave each animal and resident of Timberline his or her own distinct, whimsical personality.

"We worked with the storyboards from [head of story] David Feiss, which everyone really liked, and we tried to stay within the world he created,” explains Goodrich. "We would supply a group of images and the directors would choose the ones they most liked. Then we would hone in on those and keep going until the final character design was completed.”

Visual-development supervisor Richard Chavez worked closely with the storyboard department and the character-development team to fashion the film's overall production design. "We do preliminary work on the concept of the characters,” says Chavez. "We help the directors create design attributes to define both character and story. This early process is very organic. There is a lot of flexibility at this stage, as things have not been narrowed down and the storyline is still in flux. So anything is possible.”

Goodrich's initial drawings for the design of the characters are translated into the computer and then fleshed out by visual-development artist Michael Kurinsky, who creates paintings in Photoshop to establish texture and color, especially for the animal fur and human hair. "Each animal in the movie has a specific fur,” explains Kurinsky. "The coarseness and denseness of beaver fur should loo

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