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Chasing Christmas FlipBook Short: Andrew Thomas

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We’re always on the lookout for people who make things with SketchBook Pro’s FlipBook feature. It’s good for making animated shorts of the old-school variety — stop-motion, cell-style animation drawn by hand. Most people who use FlipBook use it to create simple line art — kind of like you would to create a real-world flipbook but in a more efficient way by reusing parts of your drawing instead of re-drawing the entire thing every time.

Drawing, and art in general, is really empowering for me personally. I think art is the most primitive way to communicate and, often, the most effective.

You may not have thought about it, but you can also use FlipBook in an expanded way by making it the animation part of a longer film-based workflow. We found someone who is doing exactly that: Andrew Thomas. He’s a student at Columbus College of Art and Design studying 2D Animation. He used SketchBook Pro to create a video just in time for the season called Chasing Christmas. We asked Andrew to tell us more about his process of using FlipBook to make this animated short.

What’s your drawing background?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing, but I wasn’t always great at it. I have a twin brother who was anointed the “artistic one” from an early age. He was leaps and bounds ahead of me in terms of drawing — all the way through middle school. My brother’s path ended up leading him to a career in filmmaking and screenwriting, which he’s great at and is very passionate about, while I focused hard on becoming a better artist. I’ve always been fascinated by the ability to create things in art that aren’t possible in reality. I’ve found that drawing, and art in general, is really empowering for me personally. I think art is the most primitive way to communicate and, often, the most effective.

What kind of art are you making?

I’m a freshman at Columbus College of Art and Design studying 2D Animation. CCAD is such a great environment. My professors and my peers are super supportive, and I’m always excited about creating something new. It’s what drives me. While a student at art school, I also opened my own studio, Andrew Thomas Studios, and I’m illustrating children’s books and creating films in my free time. I feel honored to have done a lot of freelance work with excellent clients, and I’m always excited about creating new, exciting content.

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What was the workflow for Chasing Christmas?

Chasing Christmas was created for my Introduction to Animation class at CCAD. I was tasked with creating a stop-motion short film, but being the lover of cartoons that I am, I asked my instructor if I could implement traditional animation in my film. I animated each frame by hand in SketchBook Pro and printed and cut each frame before individually placing and photographing them in the custom-built set you see in the film. My twin brother the filmmaker, also a student at CCAD, was instrumental in helping put the film together. The end result looks like hand-drawn animation in a realistic environment. I used SketchBook’s FlipBook feature, which is for me the best tool for creating traditional animation. It’s simplistic in the sense that it isn’t loaded with menus and unnecessary tools and allows me to work in a clutter-free workspace that feels like it was tailor-made for traditional animators.

cell animation miniature set
Don’t have a ton of space for a set? Build one in miniature and shoot it with your iPhone like Andrew did.

The process of making the film was meticulous and required collaboration and some improvisation, but it was extremely satisfying in the end. We custom built the set and shot it using an iPhone 7. The film was edited in Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects.

What animation details did you focus on?

I’m a huge fan of silly cartoons like those old Looney Tunes cartoons, so I definitely try to incorporate all of that “squash and stretch” action you see in those cartoons into my animations. When Santa puts his hat on, I didn’t just want him to slip his hat over his head. Instead, Santa’s head squeezes into his hat. 

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It takes a lot of effort for Santa to fit that hat over his head! To achieve this squeeze, I created what animators call “smear” frames. These are exaggerated, disproportional frames of the character that, when played in real time, appear to make sense but give the action some fluidity and fun.

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Where did the inspiration for this film come from?

Chasing Christmas was inspired by a lovely John Lewis Christmas ad from a few years back, The Bear and the Hare. It had the combination of stop-motion animation and traditional animation that I was striving for. I knew that I wanted to explore the relationship between Santa Claus and a child. Santa is known to be a jolly guy, and because his suit and hat are so iconic and integral to his image, I wondered what happens if we take his hat away? Is he still as jolly? I wanted to keep the film light-hearted and give it a whimsical quality, and I’m really pleased with the result.

Make your own FlipBook animations

We’re happy with the result, too. Our sincere thanks to Andrew for sharing his film and story about how he uses FlipBook. Since we added this feature to SketchBook Pro, we’ve seen more and more people using it, often going beyond what we originally imagined it would be used for. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s easy to get started. Check out some of our past FlipBook tutorials here on the blog or tutorials on our support site.

Do you use FlipBook to make animations or in an interesting way that might surprise us? Point us to it on Instagram or Twitter.