Green Life is a 60-second animation which takes a behind the scenes look at how CG animated short films are made. “We started off with the loose idea of making something about people doing stunts. Then once we started bouncing ideas back and forth one that popped up involved a guy in a green screen suit,” explains Russ Etheridge, who worked on the project with fellow directors and designers Ricard Badia and Milo Targett.
“After that the ideas that made us laugh the most involved more and more ridiculous green screen scenarios. We then weaved the ideas together so that we’re showing behind the scenes footage for an invented Hollywood movie. We even came up with a back story for an off-screen romance that went sour between the main actors of the movie, meaning they required green screen stand-ins to avoid having to actually kiss each other.”
Having worked closely together in the past at animation studio Animade and elsewhere, the trio’s complementary styles have come together for their first group project. “The idea is that we become some kind of 3D hive mind. We’re still in the early stages,” explains Etheridge. “It’s tricky transitioning from individual freelance work to dedicated group work but we’ll see how it goes.”
In Green Life, the directors opted for a playful style with a stop motion vibe. “It’s a style that we’ve used before on our personal films, and we felt it worked well for these characters,” says Badia. “It’s been quite fun to brainstorm ideas, mix them, and split the tasks. We are happy with what came out from that cocktail.”
For Targett, Etheridge and Badia, Green Life has been a tester project to see if this three-headed director approach would work in reality. “We storyboarded a section of the film each and combined them together,” says Targett.
“There were lots of discussions about what the overarching narrative was and how we could link all our ideas together. Design was a kind of combination between us and ended up with quite an eclectic mix. We used a shared colour palette and materials to bring cohesion to the design.”
Aside from blending different styles, other challenges were working through lockdown during winter, which meant making an animation exclusively online. “Fitting all our ideas together into a cohesive narrative was tricky but it was fun working in such a responsive way,” says Targett. “We’d bounce ideas back and forth and just keep rolling with what someone else put forward.”
Though it’s only 60 seconds long, the animation packs in various scenarios such as a two-man horse, waving arms that turn into flames and a curled figure to mimic a telephone. With no dialogue, each joke is a purely visual one, and the team wanted to keep the gags as fresh as possible during the process. “I think you need to make yourselves laugh first, and then don’t lose sight of what you found funny once you’re two or three months deep in animation,” notes Targett. “It’s easy to lose spontaneity when you keep polishing something. Characters that look funny are always a sure fire way to make me laugh so that’s quite straightforward.”
Part of what elevates the funny actions of the trio’s characters is the sound design and music provided by Mutant Jukebox. “The animation moves back and forth from the ‘real’ to the staged at a fast pace, and so functionally the sound on the one hand needed to reinforce that short sharp contrast between the two worlds, so that the audience is with you temporally and with every cut,” explains Shervin Shaeri, sound designer at Mutant Jukebox.
“And on the other hand it serves to add humour, by exaggerating and thematically characterising the different scenes using classic Hollywood musical tropes, which also serves really well as a common language. The sound then culminates to the final piece of music whereas with the animation things get a bit strange.”