Animators Desk

Animation Workshop with Rory Conway

Rory Conways Blog

Rory Conways Blog

I had the pleasure of attending an animation workshop given by Rory Conway a layout artist from Cartoon Saloon on Monday 11th October, 2015.

His own film “Shoot” won best international film in London.  He designed the timeline which was on the wall of the corridor as you approached the Butler Gallery to see the Cartoon Saloon Song of the Sea exhibition.

A flavour of some topics discussed at the workshop:

As a layout artist he states that good drawing skills and perspective are very important.  Five minutes of animation could be a  months work.

What makes a great story?

  • Strong characters (try to keep it to two characters).
  • Simplicity
  • Universal theme – relate to a broad audience of all ages.
  • Conflict – if you don’t have conflict it will bore.
  • Sound/music very important.
  • Good ending.
  • Know your audience
  • Memorable

How to come up with a good idea.

  • Imagination -what if…/an off the wall idea
  • Life
  • Your own experience
  • Newspaper headlines
  • Books/short stories – add your own twist. (Disney’s stories were based on those of Hans Christian Andersen).
  • Overheard conversations.
  • Concept design – taking a key part of the script.
  • Song of the sea used 7 to 10 storyboard artists.
  • Qualities of a good storyboard artist:
  • good drawer
  • film nerd
  • know the top directors e.g Spielberg, Chris Nolan, Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock.

NOTE: The storyboard is your plan (like the blueprint of a house) it is bad practise to go back on it.


Storyboards are always done in black and white with tonal values. 3 tones recommended.

The storyboard artist has to pitch to, entertain and amuse the director.

The animatic is for timing.  Don’t change anything once this is done.

Production Design

  • Use Google for references.
  • Line drawing showing props related to the references.
  • Experiment using watercolour.
  • Then scan in the watercolours and work on them digitally.


Song of the Sea had 40 animators working on it.

12 drawings per second, sometimes 24 if motion is very fast. 12 is the most general. 1 minute can take 720 drawings.

Mitt Kahl is the animators animator. Died in 1987.


Some good animated movies:




It is very important to understand volumetric shapes for animation as these make up everything.


A circle          A soft and safe shape, playful, comfort shape, a friendly shape. Unity.

A triangle – speed and energy, anger, danger, sneakiness.

A square – strong, hard, honest, equal.


Perspective: The art of representing 3 dimensional objects on a 2 dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth and position in relation to each other.


Their is a low horizon in animation because it is focused on children and a child point of view.

Character Design

  • like a casting director
  • A character designer is a traditional artist who creates original drawings of characters for the visual media.  Their goal is to create characters.
  • For character design you need to know every single thing about the character.
  • Place them in backgrounds to see how they fit.
  • Create some poses.
  • Put yourself in the place of the character and associate.
  • A really successful character should be recognised by it’s silhouette.
  • Use silhouettes to see if the characters are different to each other.
  • Use references for clothing.


Character Dynamics

  • Never have a character standing straight.
  • Show some attitude.
  • Line of action
  • Two can technique
  • Balance and weight
  • Exaggerate the silhouette.

This is just some of the material covered by Rory at the workshop.  It was presented really well and was absolutely fascinating. Do look at Rory’s blog for further information.