Life on a Leash

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‘Life on a Leash’ – a day in the life of a little boy constricted by a kiddie leash.

Transcript of Life on a Leash

  • Jessica HutchisonThesis 1 | Fall 2012 | Instructor: Sassa

  • Life on a Leash a day in the life of a little boy constricted by a kiddie leash.


  • My thesis is an animated narrative about a young boy whose curiosity is impeded by the restraints of a child leash. The world is a cryptic place built upon culture which is constantly evolving, therefore requiring us to constantly decipher our surroundings by acting on our instinctive sense of curiosity. Life on a Leash is a story that shows what happens when that freedom is denied. It is an attempt to highlight the importance of discovery through the eyes of an overly restrained, neglected boy.


  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. Dorothy Parker


  • When the time came to conceive my thesis proposal an overwhelming weight descended upon me. How am I supposed to create something beau-tiful that is an amalgamation of what I have learned during my time here at Parsons? Viewing this as an appropriate time for reflection, I began to trace back to the roots of my deep attraction for the arts and design. This prompted me to reminisce about my childhood and the large amount of time I spent with my mom. Arts and crafts define my formative years. My mom and I spent hours making trinkets out of papier-mch, glue gun-ning, and covering whatever I could find in glitter. Many of my weekends were consumed by trips to museums and concerts. I feel a deep gratitude towards my mother for exposing me to all that she could manage to cram into my prepubescent brain. The thought that some children are not as privileged as I was, to have someone so invested in fostering their educa-tion and creativity, is disheartening.

    My thesis aims to show a snippet of the boredom that ensues when the freedom to explore is not given. Nelson, a young boy, wants to discover the world around him, but cannot because a kiddie leash binds him. The leash is a visual symbol of the restriction and emotional disconnection imposed by his mother.

    Throughout the story Nelsons mother prohibits him from investigating whatever he attempts to discover. Nelson appears to be downcast and bored. These are the negative, emotional repercussions created by his mothers interference. I hope my animation will produce a sincere emo-tional reaction from its audience. I want those who walk away from Life on a Leash to gain a new appreciation for their own human interactions and an appreciation for exploring their surroundings.


  • The purpose of narrative is to present us with complexity and ambiguity. Scott Turow


  • My narrative will be illustrated through a 2D digitally hand-drawn ani-mation using mostly motion graphics with a few cell-animated elements. I thought that the use of animal characters would have historical rel-evance due to childrens literature being a large source of one decrypting the society around them. The beginning of the animation will have more color and detail showing that Nelson has not been fully affected by his restraints. There will be less color and more plain line work as the story progresses to depict the lack of exposure his mother permitshis percep-tion of life literally becoming duller.

    The resolution of the piece will purposely not offer a definitive answer. For this reason, a vague sense of space where the planar ground becomes even less distinct with a certain kind of distortion and flatness, will vi-sually pair well with the ending. Shadows and reflections will establish planes rather than any distinct horizon lines.

    Throughout the animation, the viewer will hopefully empathize with the main characterand believe that his mother is being distant and overpro-tective, although by the end of the story, both sides of the equationto what extent should children be allowed to explore vs. being sheltered from potential harmwill be left open for interpretation.


  • There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. David Hume


  • I thought that the use of animal characters would have historical rel-evance due to childrens literature being a large source of one decrypting the society around them.

    Children learn through playing and exploring their surroundings. To hinder this process of early discovery and intellectual development has long term ramifications. A large part of growing up is learning to dif-ferentiate right from wrong and creating a moral code for oneself. Com-plex topics relating to everyday concerns and behavior are often taught to children through books, many of which rely on anthropomorphism to comfortably explore issues that one would not feel completely at ease ex-ploring. The use of animals allows for a certain intellectual and psycho-logical distance. This idea is the same with animation. Often animation, especially in Westernized culture, is seen as innately innocent, allowing for topics and imagery that would never be shown in live action to a young audience. Therefore, I wanted to further the emotional and intel-lectual distance that animation creates with the use of anthropomorphic characters.

    1. Carolyn L. Burke & Joby Copenhaver, Animals as People in Childrens Literature (National Council of Teachers of English, January 2004)

    2. Elizabeth A. Dunn, "Talking Animals: A Literature Review of An-thropomorphism in Childrens Books" (PhD diss., University of North Carolina, May 2011).


  • STORE FRONT The Disappearing Face of New York //Photos by James T. Murray & Karla L. Murray

    These store fronts were great to look at when designing my backgrounds. I wanted to create a place that felt old and somewhat displaced. Allowing for all viewers to easily find a connection to this world.


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    Wymer's illustrations use reflection and shadow in order to show the planes in his drawing. I want to create ambiguity at the end of my piece with this method. I also love his color palettes and abstract shapes.


  • Hecox's illustrations have impecable line work. He creates beautiful store facades through vivid colors and great attention to detail. I want to use his methd of etching out of blocks of color to create the outlines of objects.


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    I love this Pott's character design. I want my characters to be somewhat grotesque, yet endearing due to their awkward apperance.


  • I really appreciate Hetmerova's line work and blasts of color. The choice to invert to show night time drew me in as a visual cue, as I want to create an abstract visual cue at the end of my piece.


  • Scene I

    Opens with a low shot of a sidewalk. A son and his mother walk into frame. It cuts to the back of the mother's feet and pans up to her tying a leash to a newstand. She walks out of frame to reveal her son, is the one tied to the stand. After a brief moment, once boredom starts to ensue, a woman walks by with a dog and ties its leash next to the boys. They stare at each other awkwardly both embarrassed of their situation. Nelson is about to pet the dog and is yanked away after his mother's return.

    Scene II

    They walk into a nearby laundry mat. The boy stares and the laundry going round and round in the machine. While the mother is preoccu-pied folding their laundry he tiptoes over to a toy dispenser. He puts in a quarter and in return he gets a red bouncy ball. He sits by his mother and starts to play with it. The mom looks over puzzled but does not seem to mind.

    Scene III

    They are at the pier. Sene opens with Nelson's perspective of the pier floor. Nelson looks up to see a flock of birds surrounding a man eating a hotdog. Nelson still has his ball and is bouncing it up and down while walking. As they get closer to the end of the pier the boy throws his ball on the ground a little too strongly and it goes out the boys reach. Mean-while, the man's hotdog falls out of the bun and the seagulls surrounding him start to fly in a flurry. Nelson runs toward the ball, jumps into the air, a midst the crazed birds, spreads his arms out, his fingers almost brushing against his surface, and suddenly his mom yanks his leash. Nelson flies backward as the ball plops into the ocean below.



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  • After deciding to change my character from a human boy to a rabbit boy, there was a lot of feedback lean-ing towards him looking initially more humanoid and then transforming to look more animalistic after each restrictive incident occurs between him and his mother. This physical transformation will symbolize his grow-ing loss of identity from being denied freedom to fulfill his interest in his surroundings. I created six stages of my character and decided upon choosing character 1, 3, and 6 for the three stages of Nelson throughout my story.

    With regard to the storyboards, two main changes were made. The first change was with the ending. I toyed with the idea of showing Nelson after he looses his ball into the depth of the ocean, but the class and I decided it would be more dramatic to cut the ending right as the ball falls in. The second chang