Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Back in 2005, I had a storyboarding class at the Art Institute of Dallas. Our instructor, Mike Gargiulo, gave us a very unusual first assignment. He wanted each of us to find some good jokes, and return to class next week prepared to tell them.

It was actually a pretty ingenious idea. Why go through the struggle of coming up with your own story when you can use one that's already been tried and tested for you? It allowed us to get right to storyboarding, instead of stalling for weeks in attempt to get a good story.

I brought in several jokes the following week, but one joke in particular was well liked by the class:
One day an out of work mime is visiting the zoo and attempts to earn some money as a street performer.

However, as soon as he starts to draw a crowd, the zookeeper grabs him and drags him into his office.

The zookeeper explains to the mime that the zoo's most popular attraction, a gorilla, has died suddenly. The keeper fears that attendance at the zoo will fall off. He offers the mime a job to dress up as the gorilla until they can get another one. The mime accepts.

The next morning, before the crowd arrives, the mime puts on the gorilla suit and enters the cage. He discovers that it's a great job. He can sleep all he wants, play and make fun of people and he draws bigger crowds than he ever did as a mime.

However, eventually the crowds tire of him and he gets bored just swinging on tires. He begins to notice that the people are paying more attention to the lion in the cage next to his.

Not wanting to lose the attention of his audience, he climbs to the top of his cage, crawls across a partition, and dangles from the top to the lion's cage. Of course, this makes the lion furious, but the crowd loves it.

At the end of the day the zookeeper comes and gives the mime a raise for being such a good attraction as a gorilla.

Well, this goes on for some time. The mime keeps taunting the lion, the crowds grow larger, and his salary keeps going up. Then one terrible day when he is dangling over the furious lion, he slips and falls. The mime is terrified. The lion gathers itself and prepares to pounce. The mime is so scared that he begins to run round and round the cage with the lion close behind.

Finally, the mime starts screaming and yelling, "Help, Help me!", but the lion is quick and pounces. The mime soon finds himself flat on his back looking up at the angry lion and the lion says, "Shut up you idiot! Do you want to get us both fired?"

In the following two weeks, I penciled 120 storyboard panels. Mr. Gargiulo suggested on numerous occasions that I might want to consider trimming the number of panels, but I was adamant about making the 'board as thorough as possible. My classmates stuck to the suggested 20 panels (because they were smart, and not drowning in overachiever-ism.) I became strangely infamous for this within the animation department of my school. I suppose using up an entire classroom wall to present your storyboards while your classmates could fit all their work on a sensibly sized piece of black matte board tends to stick with people. There were a number of occasions where people knew who I was before I even met them. I still laugh occasionally when I think about it. Sadly, I haven't learned to lay off the overachieving yet.

I don't have the patience to get all 120 panels of the old storyboard online, but I picked a few samples for people to gander at.

Now, to say the least, my knowledge and skills have improved quite a bit since my storyboarding class back in '05. I plan to redo everything from scratch, right from the beginning. The only thing I'll be taking from the old stuff is ideas.

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