Shadow Puppeteer shadow cat animation

Animating the Shadow Cat

Today’s post is by Marianne and Philip and will be about 2D animations in Shadow Puppeteer. Animation is essential in Shadow Puppeteer. Part of the reason why Philip was brought onto the team in the first place was because of his 2D animation skills.

When we talk about 2D in Shadow Puppeteer we’re almost always talking about the shadows. While real shadows have shapes similar to their objects, we wanted to create weird- looking and unnatural shadows in our world. Since the shadows have come alive we wanted the world to feel unfamiliar and strange.

This is perhaps most evident in the shadow monsters, like the cat.

When we had the character design for the cat we explored movement. Being a shadow we believed it would not be restricted anatomically in the same way as a real cat. After all, it doesn’t really have a skeleton and muscles. So we played around with how the shapes in the cat would shift and change. Exaggeration is a core principle in animation; with the cat we wanted to see just how far we could go with this. In this way there would be a great contrast between the cat and the more «normal» shaped boy.

Anatomy comparison. Shows how the anatomy of the Shadow Cat is completely unrealistic.

Anatomy comparison. Shows how the anatomy of the Shadow Cat is completely unrealistic.

Examining the design of the cat we found a ball-shaped mass in his stomach, and decided that this would be a crucial visual element for us to play with. Animating the «ball» to express weight gave the cat a surreal, and slightly comical look.

Frames from the "run" animation. The ball shape is highlighted in blue.

Frames from the “run” animation. The ball shape is highlighted in blue.

Of course, there was the element of fun. The cat is dangerous, but we wanted him to also have a distinct personality that would be expressed through his movement. We made a decision to not try and make his movements cat- like. If you look at it, it’s more like a mentally (and somewhat physically) challenged dog. And we wanted this to contribute to the cat’s strangeness.

Different expressions of the Shadow Cat's personality

Different expressions of the Shadow Cat’s personality


Creating the animations we worked in Adob Flash. Starting with quick roughs to try out shapes and movement in different key poses, before refining and making the inbetweens.

The layering option is key, and with quick sketch-like strokes philip created the ragged outline that you see in the finished animation.

Showing several frames at once with Flash's "onion skin" option.

Showing several frames at once with Flash’s “onion skin” option.

Philip made a decision when making the «transformation» for the cat, to not use reglar key fram animations. In stead he wanted to surprise himself and animated straight ahead, starting with frame #1 and continuing chronologically.

Frames from the Shadow Cat's transformation.

Frames from the Shadow Cat’s transformation.



Shadow Puppeteer available on Steam

83 thoughts on “Animating the Shadow Cat

  1. Nice art! The frames which you used in animation to make that art was good. I think you should go with the 3D animation now. Because now a days, the 2D animation won’t work with visual effects and motion graphics. But in 3D animation you can try 3D motion graphics and visual effects in New York.

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