Tuesday, March 7, 2017


With SING releasing on home video in the next week, I thought I'd post about the development that the 3rd Act underwent during production and my little part in shaping the version in the final film.

As I've stated many, many times and everyone in the industry knows, these films go through any crazy number of iterations during production.  Sometimes the gender of characters switches, then switches back again, heroes become villains, dogs become cats, human giants become giant geese.

Many people get very attached to their story work on the films and I understand that sense of ownership, but over the years, I've finally managed to develop a healthy detachment from my sense of artistic self worth and whether or not my story boards are used exactly as drawn, 'cause in most cases they won't be, because...well see the above paragraph.  Changes.

SING was an interesting film to work on.  Garth Jennings, the director was from live action and had never worked in animation, but he was infinitely fascinated by the process, which was great.  Like live action though, Garth, who had also written the screenplay, was determined to stick to what was on the page, at least initially.  I get it.  Draw up what he envisioned in his script and then have a good look to see how that played out.

The normal process for animated films, in my experience, is there is a lot of room for experimentation and I think it was something that became much more comfortable for Garth as production went on.

Now, I only worked on the film for about 6 months, but after a screening I'd seen of the in-progress story reels, Garth asked me what I'd thought of the film in it's current state, which was probably around early 2015, almost 20 months before the film would hit theaters.

My only real notes involved Buster Moon, the main character that was voiced by Mathew McConaunghey and his character arc as the story moved into the 3rd Act.  Initially, as you'll see in the boards in this post, Buster held the singing competition in the ruins of his theater and IT WAS STILL A CONTEST.  There would be one winner among the group of main characters that we had been following and invested in, and the rest would be losers.  Also, Buster was still trying to make money at this point to save HIMSELF financially.

For Buster to still be in it for himself at this point, just felt off to me.  I really wanted a kind of redemptive moment for him, since he'd been knowingly misleading the other character throughout the film.  I didn't feel there was much that needed changing, just a slight adjustment to Buster Moon's self awareness and a new turn that led him to become a Self-less character in contrast to his Self-ishness.

So, I emailed my notes to Garth: (-here's the pertinent part..)

Buster has to go to the unknown masses to find new talent, which really IS his talent, thought he doesn't yet realize this.  

As the story unfolds, Buster reverts to his same pattern of trying to force the talented characters we meet into his bad ideas.  Things fail as they do, the talent he finds is unhappy with his direction,  he destroys the theatre in his attempt to put on an over the top show, it's his lowest point, because he keeps focusing on the wrong thing.  

It gives more focus to what Buster is trying to undo, trying to live up to his own expectations, but he needs to understand why his approach is the wrong one. 

It's about Buster realizing that his true talent is finding and giving others an opportunity to shine without all his crazy set dressings, less about him and more about them, the talent. 

It's what makes the American Idol style show that he ends up putting on so perfect. 

The satisfaction of finding and giving talent a platform to succeed and in doing so he making amends with Nana so that she comes to his rescue financially, at the end when all seems lost.

I don't ever try to dismantle the films I work on, there is no point to that.  I  always try to find a way into the heart of the story that maybe hasn't been looked at.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but I always look to be additive to the story, not dismantle it.  

Garth was super grateful and complimentary for the thoughts and insights and joked he wasn't ready to steal my ideas, just yet.  Well, he wasn't stealing anything, that's what we get paid to do and it really is the most satisfying part of the job to me, finding solutions to stories that make them more complete and satisfying.  It's thrilling.  Like suggesting on PUSS IN BOOTS that the giant be the actual GOLDEN GOOSE, or helping to redefine the character of DRAGO, in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2,  the story telling ideas and solutions are at the heart of being a story artist.  

Seeing SING! at the premiere in December I was SO, SO happy and grateful that my ideas were of help on the project and that Garth found use for them in telling his story.  

The 3rd Act of the film is about Buster giving his group of talented unknowns their shot to show the world their talents with no benefit to him.  He just does the right thing, and Nana seeing that, buys him back the broken down theater and at the very end it is rebuilt and all the characters are together and celebrate a new beginning for all of them.  

Oh, AND we got to meet Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service/ Eddie The Eagle) at the premiere, who asked me to do a drawing of his character, Johnny for him!  Someone's an animation nerd...and just the nicest guy.  SO COOL!

Here's the first part of 3 postings of boards for the original ending.


  1. This is why you have one of the best storyboard blogs out there:
    sharing the 'internal kitchen' goodies and thoughts!

  2. Thanks! Glad you find any of my scribbling and ramblings of interest.