Mistha Bleedsworthy - Storyboards
I did my first set of storyboards when I was in college. I was part of a screenwriting group, and our teacher was planning to head off to Germany to shoot a short film he'd written. Somehow it made sense for him to plan the project remotely, locating cast and crew (pre-Internet) by telephone, newspaper and letter-writing, and then fly to another continent to actually shoot the film - a fifteen-minute black and white art piece, with only two non-language-specific words spoken. But hey, it's not my place to say whether or not this was logical - not then, anyway. Maybe the movie was just a ruse for him to sample some fine Teutonic beer.
Because I was a Graphic Design/Illustration major, this teacher asked me to develop storyboards for the film. I agreed - possibly because the film was titled "Watchman", one letter away from my favorite literary work, but also because it seemed like it would be a good experience - and it was. I still have the final pieces - I'll have to photograph them sometime. I say "photograph" because my teacher, the writer/director, insisted the storyboards be rendered on humongo 30x40" boards. He wanted the cast and crew to easily be able to reference the images while they were on set. Not a bad idea. I have a VHS copy of the final film - it was a moody, arty piece, kind of like Wings of Desire, but much more entertaining because it wasn't a pretentious piece of crap (uh oh).
The other interesting fact about those storyboards is that my teacher insisted that I draw them while he was present, so he could essentially direct me as I was working. That was pretty challenging. He requested very finished-looking renderings, so it was an especially long process with me going to his house in Philly for several weekends, drawing out multiple rough versions of each panel on a small sketchpad. Once he was happy with one of those roughs, I'd redraw the panel on the board using charcoals. Sometimes we only got through a few panels in one six or so hour day. Good thing it was a short film. I think he paid me $50 for the whole project - what was I thinking?! I didn't even get any of that beer...
Anyway, those movie storyboards are not the subject of this post, but the there's a very roundabout connection. When I joined that screenwriting group, I convinced another friend of mine (also a Graphic Design/Illustration major) to join with me. My friend Allen was and still is, the most creative person I know - and I know many creative people, trust me - but it just oozes out of this guy. While our teacher was enduring my in-progress screenplay about an assassinated American ninja who's brought back to life in the future (only to fight, of course, the ninja who killed him), Allen was presenting a concept for a screenplay called Mishta Bleedsworthy which our teacher absolutely fawned over. It was a well-deserved fawning.
Mishta Bleedsworthy was Allen's concept not just for a movie, but for an entire world. The story's titular (hee hee) character was a member of The Epitomes of Stuff - an unseen group of entities in a parallel universe composed of offices sitting on interconnected tiny planetoids. The Epitomes rule over different aspects of our world using their powers, all while working through their own dense bureaucratic system.
Exterior and interior shots of the Realm of the Epitomes of Stuff.
Willoughby Bleedsworthy (referred to as "Mistha" by his four-foot Chinese Cowboy assistant Neddy, who has a serious lisp) is the "Epitome of Doors, Gateways, Various Entrances and Exits, Holes, Paths, Bridges and Links, Both Tangible and Intrinsic" (Allen's description - pretty wild, eh?). He's part Willy Wonka, part Baron Munchausen with a bunch of other fictional characters thrown in. Besides Bleedsworthy and Neddy, the cast was filled out with Kishwa (Bleedsworthy's friendly anthropomorphic tie), the Epitomes' long-suffering Headmaster Szogfn, the identically-cloned Bettys who conduct communications in the Epitomes' realm (each using their own method - semaphor, finger painting, interpretive dance), and the tyrranical Epitome E.G. Wadsworth, who hatches plans to thwart Bleedsworthy and Neddy from beneath the fish bowl in which his head is imprisoned. Yes, the story was epic - so epic that it took over fifteen years for Allen to complete the screenplay (I believe he's working on a sequel now). The final document had a Monty Phython-like irreverence and was a blast of messy fun.
In the late 90's, while he was still working on the Bleedsworthy script, Allen surprised me by joining the U.S. Army - he's still enlisted. Right around that time, I was taking a traditional animation class. I asked Allen if I could take the Bleedsworthy concept and create a television series proposal from it, to use as a class project. He agreed, which was quite generous of him - this was his passion project. And besides being a writer, and a musician (I saw him learn to play the drums right in front of me once, over the course of a few minutes - it was like that scene from Close Encounters where we Earthlings learn to communicate with the aliens through music), Allen is an excellent cartoonist - he'd already rendered most of the Bleedsworthy characters on his own. I was a little nervous for him to see my renditions, which you can see here:
Character rotation, model sheet and prop sheet for Mistha Bleedsworthy.
His tie sticks out like that because it's alive!
He gave me permission to work up my own versions of the characters and environment, which I did over the course of about six months. I created model sheets, prop sheets, backgrounds, storyboards, a sample episode script, season overview and other materials. To my relief, Allen liked what I did with his project - I sent him drawings and other documents while he worked his way through basic training.
I then put together a package and sent it out to about fifteen production companies, who all responded by saying: no. Actually most of them didn't respond at all, or just gave their answer by sending my material back unopened with a form letter. I didn't cry, though - the idea of someone with no history in television or animation creating a full series, based on an original concept with no commercial tie-ins (comic book, novel, children's book) is beyond a long shot. But it was a great exercise - by the time I had everything completed, I had much more respect for anyone who's ever got a cartoon on the air.
So here are my Mishta Bleedsworthy storyboards for a couple interconnected scenes. You can click the image below to view them as one large image (sans dialogue or description), or view one panel at a time by clicking the interactive piece at the bottom of this post. Or don't click either - after all, I'll never know.
Click the image above for full storyboards in a new window... or click
below to view one panel at a time.