Crab Animation: Conceptual Art

It never ceases to amaze me just how much a simple project can worm its way into your heart, a project that you initially only felt was mildly clever; just a little germ of an idea that you had one day over a bagel.  Then all of a sudden it becomes this thing, in your head, more than just a silly little concept but an irritating little bug trying to get out.

Well, that’s what this crab project has become.  It was that silly idea about a crab hanging out on a beach, it started with simply nothing more than an image of this little red crab, then there was the opportunity to expound on it, really make something out of it.  Of course, this comes in the form of school.  The assignment:  Come up with three story ideas for work on a semester-long story & design class.

The other two ideas were mere filler for the requirements, because as soon as the assignment was given I saw the crab in my mind’s eye and could feel nothing else.  I produced six images of concept art for the piece.  The idea was to focus on color, location, and visuals.  Shape and final character designs were secondary, something we’ll be focusing more on later.  These are fast, quick ideas to focus on visuals in an attempt to develop some kind of “color timeline” for the piece.

Crabby approaches Ladycrab.

“Crabby” (as I call him for lack of any better name) approaches Ladycrab with the intent of getting her to mate with him.  I did some research and found out that male crabs attract potential mates by doing little dances in which they hold their claws above their heads and doing this odd little dance.  Crabby does a furious little dance, kicking sand in ever which direction, only Ladycrab is completely disinterested.

Crabby Encounters a Clam

After being let down by Ladycrab, Crabby sets off along the beach, depressed.  Occasionally he kicks at the sand with his puny little legs, knocking sand about.  After one such kick, he connects with a hard object.  He digs around it in the sand, unearthing an oyster.  Thinking that if he were able to get the pearl inside he could give it to Ladycrab and perhaps impress her, he tries to pry open the lid of the clam.  Gags will ensue at this point as he struggles.

At this point the story ceases to be so finely tuned, which is fine at this conceptual point.  Definite points are that the pearl will be dislodged from the clam and fall into the sand, but somehow Crabby will become partially stuck in the clam.  One possibility is that he becomes almost completely stuck with only a claw sticking out, other ideas are that only an arm or a leg get stuck.  In some way he becomes trapped and unable to leave.  The next two images show the idea of his complete capture:

Crabby is stuck in the clam as the sun sets.

Crabby trapped inside the clam.

Sometime over the course of the day, a third crab arrives on the scene.  Crabapple, a rotten crab with a lousy attitude, arrives Crabby stuck in the clam, with a pearl sitting just out of reach.  Crabby realizes Crabapple is there and pleads with him to help him out, but Crabapple instead steals the hard-won pearl, taking it back to his private cave, where he already has a large pile of pearls waiting.

Crabapple guarding his pearl hoard.

Sad and dejected, Crabby resigns himself to his fate.  The sun sets and it becomes night.  Ladycrab comes over a hill of sand, walking along the edge of the beach.  She comes upon the clam, with Crabby still trapped inside.  He begs for her to help him out.  She hesitates, but eventually decides to open the clam.  He scrambles around, looking for the pearl that Crabapple stole, but it’s not there.  He looks back at Ladycrab, and sheepishly attempts to dance.  She begins to dance along with him, then they dance off into the moonlight.

Crabby and Ladycrab dance on the beach in the moonlight.

The colors used for those of the three crabs are pretty self-explanatory.  The mean, angry crab is a very vibrant red, while the female crab is more pinkish.  Crabby rests in an orange somewhere in between the colors on the spectrum.

There are three main time frames in the story.  The day, the afternoon, and night.  The daytime colors on the beach are very straightforward.  A picturesque Caribbean beach, with bright sand and vibrant, clear skies.  The afternoon sunset colors become warmer, oranger, as things get more depressing.  The initial nighttime blues set a sad mood, but they don’t stay that blue.  They’re very versatile shades.

Doing these drawings has been essential in helping to shape this story.  It’s pointed out key flaws in the events that hadn’t occurred to me during the initial writing portions.

Next time I’ll talk about the inspiration for Crabby’s design…