Behind The Storyboards of The Princess And The Frog


Well, well, well. Look at me.

I’m writing a post! No lazy-ass video this time! Because I have one awesome interview for you!

I bring you Paul Briggs, Story Artist on Walt Disney’s ‘The Princess and The Frog’.

(UPDATE & CLARIFICATION: Oops, my bad! Paul was not, in fact, the Head of Story on ‘The Princess and The Frog’. He was a Story Artist. But he *is* Head of Story on a current, untitled project at Disney at this time. Sorry everybody! I’ve made corrections to this post since publishing it.)

How cool is THAT?

I feel all special and stuff.

And there are original thumbnail and storyboard drawings from him! Feel free to drool on your screen.

But before we get to it, I want to wish all of you a very HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Whatever that holiday may be for you.

If it’s nothing…well have a great weekend or something. 🙂

This interview is a juicy one, so I’ll be splitting it up into two parts. You get this one now to read at your leisure till 2009 is over. Then you’ll get the rest sometime in January 2010. (2010? My word, where does the time go?)

And the way I’ve been posting in my ‘Kid vs Kat’ haze, this could be the last thing your hear from me till June or something.

I kid, I kid! (Maybe.)

So without further ado, I bring you Paul Briggs, current Head of Story at Disney and proud new Daddy. Paul_Briggs_Baby


What is your background, education and how did you get started in the animation business?

In 1984 I was 10 years old and I was in a mall at a Walden’s Bookstore and came across ‘The Illusion of Life’ by Frank and Ollie. Even though there was no way we could afford it, my Mom bought it for me and I spent the rest of the day slamming into people, benches and planters because I couldn’t take my face out of that massive book.

That was the day I fell in love with wanting to do animation.

I went to college at the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri but I wasn’t focused on animation at the time (even though I found out later that Walt himself as well as the great Marc Davis both went to KCAI!) I was focused on doing sculpture, ceramics, painting, and really solid drawing.

I was busy experimenting, having fun, and making a million mistakes and learning from them. A lot of my classmates were talented draftsmen so I was constantly focused on learning and trying to better myself as an artist. We had some amazing drawing classes –including one where we went to a medical university and drew from cadavers for a week!

One of my instructors pressured me to submit a portfolio to the Disney Internship but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. He pestered me enough that at the last minute I threw a drawing portfolio together in a week and mailed it off. To my surprise and disbelief they called me a couple of weeks later to tell me I was accepted! I was 20 and packed everything in my Jeep and moved to Orlando to work at the Florida Animation Studio.

I trained under Pres Romanillos (supervising animator Shan Yu for Mulan) and David Tidgwell (Head of Effects.) At the end of the program they were hiring in special effects to work on Mulan and I was brought on as an inbetweener!


How did you end up as a story artist? Was that your original plan?

It was great being in special effects animation but I always wanted to do story. I always loved the development of characters and journeys to another world. In effects I saw how a sequence traveled from beginning to end through the animation pipeline and I was constantly examining why those sequences were in the film.

There were some sequences that I was really frustrated with and thought – “This isn’t working at all! I could do better than this .” So I decided “that’s it, either get into story or shut up!” So I really started to focus my learning. I started analyzing film, reading books, and showing my story tests to people I respected and admired.

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A Woman and Her Cintiq

Oh, dear blog of mine. How I have neglected thee. Yes, I’m kinda busy with that ‘work thing’ and all. (Damn that rent and eating thing!) But I figured something out. Like in my Mini Critiques where I’d rather record my feedback to an MP3 than write it out, I’m going to do the same … Read more

An Updatey Type of Thing

This one will be short and sweet. First off, go see ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’. Fun, fun stuff. For the kids and adults. It was a ‘cartoon-cartoon’ and one heck of a ride. I went out of my way NOT to see it in craptastic ‘Real 3D’ and I have to say, there … Read more

One Artist’s Process: The Revisions. For Real This Time

I’m here! I’m here!

It’s the long-awaited Aidan storyboard revision follow-up. With my comments and everything.


Since it’s been a short lifetime since I started this series, feel free to refresh your memories with the introduction post to Aidan Casserly’s storyboard he has created for his portfolio.

Then you can check out his brainstorming and thumbnail post, his first pass storyboard and my feedback on them in part one here and part two here.

Then he took my notes and made some revisions. He didn’t do every single thing I suggested and that’s cool.

Though…he should have. Because I’m, like…*ahem*…right and all. ; )

But I digress.

So now we have my final comments about his revisions. Enjoy!

(You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Page 1

I had suggested he add a pan on the first panel of the exterior of the jailhouse and he chose not to. Which is fine. But I can’t help but notice the total lack of camera movement in the board. I think it’s done more to keep the panels “nice and neat-like”.

And I say, if you want to storyboard for animation, you’re going to have to show some camera movement and not let the template dictate your story. I see it with students too. They make their camera movements to fit in nicely within the storyboard template.

Don’t do that. Tell the story the way you need to and you dictate what the panels should look like. So what if it ends up uneven? It’s all done for the TV screen, not the paper.

Without any indication of ‘cuts’ and transitions, it’s hard to tell when he wanted to cut and when it’s all one scene. As it looks now, they all look like cuts. And I don’t think they’re supposed to be.

For actual production boards, you have to show pans and truck-ins/outs. So if you are doing a storyboard for your portfolio…to get work…add some camera movement indications when appropriate.


Page 2.

This is an area where he could do some cutting since Aidan has indicated he wished the board was a little shorter. To trim it down, I would use the last panel on page one (guard at monitors) and combine it with the second panel on page 2 (guard still at monitors and legs walk past).

Then I’d get right to the close up of the guard and him getting whacked in the head. Four scenes (and seven panels) gone.

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I’m Back

Oy. What the heck happened there? How long have I been absent? Way too long, apparently. Funny how time can slip away from you when you’re working 16 hour days, huh? Sorry about that, but I just couldn’t summon up the brain power or the time to write anything. But I have returned! (If anyone … Read more

One Artist’s Process: The Board and The Critique Continued

Well it looks like people are digging watching me rip a storyboard to shreds before their very eyes.

I mean, can you blame them?

We’ve been following Aidan Casserly along his little journey of creating a storyboard for his portfolio. He purchased one of my fabulous Mini Critiques and is letting us all take a peek.

You can find the introduction post here and his brainstorming and thumbnailing process here.

Then It Got Really Juicy

If you look back at the previous post, you will find his original storyboards and my critique of the first half of them. All in their red-scribbled glory.

I now bring you the conclusion of said critique in more red-scribbled glory.

(Click on the images to enlarge and get a better look.)



  • Panel one, have him walk IN and let’s see him holding the bag.
  • Don’t rely only on words for gags. This could (if a real cartoon) be seen in other languages, so use visuals to support it where you can. So adding an ‘eye’ graphic on the screen will help drive home the message here.
  • Third panel. A bit more acting here would be good. How does he feel about this? Was he expecting this? Annoyed? Confident? Have some fun here with another panel or two.
  • Fourth panel, have the jar come IN to shot and the screen still with eye/required message. THEN screen changes to approved (give it the before and after poses). But we can’t SEE “approved” on that tiny screen. Consider changing this to a big check-mark (that could be green in a finished film).
  • Panel six, same thing. Maybe add a hand graphic. But hook it up by starting with the check mark, then it changes to this next request.

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One Artist’s Process: The Board and The Critique

Before I begin I just want to mention this is my 100th post! Hurrah! *throws confetti*

We’ve been following Aidan Casserly along his little journey of creating a storyboard for his portfolio. We saw the introduction post here and his brainstorming and thumbnailing process here.

Now we get to the good stuff.

The first pass of his storyboard and what I had to say about it in a Mini Critique.

But before we get to that, here’s his storyboard as it was sent to me. And yes, it is quite clean for a ‘first pass’. Which is fine and dandy.

But you can be much rougher at this stage of the game with your own boards.

(Click on the images to enlarge and get a better look.)





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One Artist’s Process: Brainstorming and Thumbnails

Here’s the second post in the little series I’m doing with Aidan Casserly. He’s creating a storyboard from scratch for his portfolio and documenting it on his blog.

I’m reposting it here along with my ‘two cents’ that will turn out to be a full blown Mini Critique of his work by the end of it.

Basically ripping him to shreds for all to see. (I kid! I kid!)

You can read the introduction post here.  I now give you his second installment. Take it away, Aidan.

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Part 1: Brainstorming and Thumbnails

Click to enlarge

This is, without doubt, the best part of the entire process. I love it. I reeeeally love this part.

Now that we have our ‘story seed’, we go about brainstorming. I grab a stack of paper (just junk paper, since this is a rough and messy stage). This is the part where, no matter what, you NEVER limit yourself. Ever.

Be as stupid as possible.

Any idea, no matter how irrelevant or pointless, gets jotted down. Anything. Even if it has remotely no tangible connection to the story at hand, everything matters. There’s a reason.

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