The Little Witch

The Little Witch is a passion project developed by myself and Daisy Kellett for our final project at Leeds Beckett University. We gathered a small group of other students to help us in the areas we were not confident in. My role was the creation of the Witch rig and her animation, alongside lighting and rendering. The concepts and ideas were a joint effort between myself and Daisy Kellett.

Visual Effects
James Beardsell

Foley Artist
Philip Shacklady

Music
Jane Sophia

Environment Modelling
Daisy Kellett


The Process

The World and Story

Without revealing the plot, it all takes place in a world where witches are seemingly commonplace. They have their own naturalistic cities in forests and live a fairly modern life with the aid of magic. Protection of the environment is one of the main concerns of the witches and they know best how to do so.
The time is modern day, but the world is not the Earth we live on. Things have developed differently, and magic being widespread and being used to accomplish most needs, combined with the witches’ deep ingrained respect for the natural world and societal reluctance to take without giving back, the growth of technology was limited.
There are some inventions, but they needn’t use the electricity we use, as they are all magical so things such as light aren’t necessarily a problem, they can create their own electricity magically. 
But despite living as close to nature as possible, the witch’s are still humans and humans like luxuries so there would still be businesses in the town such as banks, shops and restaurant.
(here are a few drawings done for leisure around the time we were brainstorming, about possible witches in this world)

Coffee Witches
Gertrude the 300 year old Batty Potion maker, a relative of The Little Wtch

Concepts

The Little Witch

The Little Witch was originaly drawn for the first time in the hotel myself and Daisy were staying at when we went to a 3D animation and visual effects event called Vertex. Then, a couple of months later, I decided to work on the design of her a little so she could work better with little to no simulation in 3D. If there is one thing that was never changing, it’s the silly shoes and spikey hair. I love them.

Originally, her hair was dark blue but I tried a few other colours and I actually really like the orange haired one as it contrasts against a dark witch’s hat. The brown is very plain and the green just doesn’t quite look right to me.
So I stuck to orange, and tried out some colour combinations. Daisy and I liked alternate ones, so we mixeed the two together to come up with the final design.

The Witch’s House

When Daisy and I were discussing what the feel of the house would be like we decided somewhat whimsical but not too out there, in the woods and appearing magical. Now I do know of a symbolism and that is a circle of mushrooms, known as a “fairy circle”. Generally if something is surrounded by a circle of mushrooms it would indicate that whatever is in the circle is magical. We also wanted it so that it was encased in trees but I feel it just looks so much better in a parting in the woods by a brook.

Assets

Most of the assets were designed by Daisy Kellett. Here is an example of her concepts for the cauldron. See Daisy Kellett’s links for more of her work.

Cauldron Sketches by Daisy Kellett

Storyboards

In an ideal world we would have made our ideas into a whole film or a series, of episodes. However with only two of us at the time and a university deadline to meet, we decided to make a condensed version of the start. Something that establishes the world in some way, then the main character, then gets her started on her story. We knew we wouldn’t be able to tell the whole story (yet) as we had no funding, a tiny student team and a tight deadline. So we decided to tell the story of how her story starts!

When we decided to start on storyboarding, we decided that it was important that we had a plot with a beginning, middle and ending with a question. All we knew at first was: Introduce a witch, unexpected event, leave on a question.
We took inspiration from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, where she falls down the rabbit hole and she is danlging upside down.


The Little Witch in 3d

She was modelled and rigged in Maya and, when unsmoothed, has 17,000 polygons. Her textures were created in Photoshop

Test Poses

After finishing her rig, I did a a few animation tests, and this was my personal favourite test. A test of her emotional range, which was very important to me as I really wanted to push her facial expressions


Rendering

The Little Witch was rendered using Redshift, which has been my favourite investment so far. I fell in love with it after a company I worked for from 2018-2020 used it, and decided to get a lisence for my own personal use.


To see the full blog of the entire process of making The Little Witch short, written during the making of it. Click here

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