The story follows the thought and physical journey of a vagrant man (Jeb) deprived of purpose, trying to live a content life with very little. He travels in search of a better existence, leaving the city, and escaping to the outer wilderness. Along his path he meets two other vagrants who help him realize there is more to life.
It is a journey of the mind as he progressively discovers purpose and reason. He eventually finds spiritual contentment.
Jeb the vagrant travels on a freight train headed through mountainous wilderness, escaping from the bustling, merciless street life that he didn’t seem to belong to. Whilst traveling he meets two other unfortunate vagrants that give him a map to a squat. Having no other choice and nothing to lose, he accepts the possible path of refuge as an act of fate and sets out on it. Abruptly leaving the moving freight train, he travels through tranquil, seemingly unexplored woodland scenes, eventually finding the refuge (the squat). At the refuge he has a dream that he is wealthy and all-powerful. Waking up from this delusion, he understands far better the harsh reality of his situation, but also learns that he can be content with what he has. Nothing. With nothing one can still be satisfied and, in a way, have more than the wealthiest man. Without the burden of unnecessary junk, one can move freely and actually stop to live and admire the small things. You are free.
World / Theme / Style:
The story takes place in a world with a strong class divide. The city is cold, blue (monochromatic), dark and mean. The protagonist (Jeb) sees the city (and himself) in his past as an ironically jolly 30s cartoon style. Everything is exaggerated and rounded and looks something like early Mickey Mouse. This image is strongly juxtaposed by what takes place in the location. On a visual level it also juxtaposes the outer forest wilderness, shown later, which is brighter and more hopeful (with a broader colour palette), while still managing to retain a gritty edge in a different way. The wilderness is inspired by Ansel Adam’s landscape photography, notably his famous picture of Snake River. The wilderness is filled with tall North American pine trees of sea greens and autumn warms. Above them tower red ochre, earthy rocky cliffs, and above those, snow-capped Swiss-looking blue jagged mountains, the sort reminiscent of old ‘Scrooge McDuck’ comics.
The vagrant character designs are rigid looking and stiff. They are angular and look relatively flat intentionally to make the characters seem more lifeless. I know this isn’t necessarily a good thing for animation, but I found it essential to bring the character’s whole gritty, primitive, and practically lifeless, defeated personas across. This is something I wanted to show especially in the Jeb character. His dream/past counter-self or whatever is the complete opposite. The design is so cartoony it makes its appearances feel less real and more abstract, which is reflective of the way the hobo’s brain works, as his memories aren’t clear. Also I plan to symbol animate the past Jeb to further differentiate him from present Jeb. It will also hopefully connote Jeb's possition as a pawn / puppet to society (the machine).
The Bob character is comically short and has his dungarees strapped over his ears as a visual quirk/joke. The character is meant to look a bit strange so Jeb is reluctant at first, not knowing whether to take his advice, not sure of Bob’s true intentions.
The Abe character is comically tall giving the whole tall guy / short guy dynamic thing. His head is based on an echidna, with his nose being the snout and his hair and beard / parker fur being the spines.
Some colour background tests and stuff.
Epic moody skies would be cool.
BG1 test. Want the colours to be drab and miserable to reflect the character's emotion state and to also contrast the later scene colour palettes. It'll probably also help establish it as a moment from the past.
Basic colour keys showing the progression of colour and mood throughout the film, as the Jeb character journeys towards enlightenment. The warm colours should symbolise the hope and progression, the colder tones show the negative aspects, and the doubts that he faces.
Character lineup. from left: Jeb, Abe, Bob, (Old timey) Jeb, Mutt.