"A cat and a possum walk into a bar..."
WARNING: GRLS NITE is an adult oriented animated film with lots of bright colors, strobing lights, drunkenness and nudity and other slight NSFW themes. Viewer discretion is advised.
When a posh yet sheltered Persian cat is befriended by a party girl possum despite their social classes, they go on a wild clubbing spree together but she soon realizes the ups and downs of party culture.
A 6 minute adult oriented short utilizing a mix of symbols and hand drawn animation with a strong emphasis on emotional acting and visual appeal. Over the course of this film I will increase my character acting ability and comfort level using symbols.
Women in our society are often conditioned to judge other women who engage in “unladylike” activities such as partying, drinking or wearing certain clothes. Often these women are deemed as classless" or "trashy". Instead of further pushing these ideas created by the patriarchy, women should always respect one another regardless of their personal stance on devisive subjects.
Use of Internalized Misogyny,
Elitism & Micro-aggressions
Internalized Misogyny is when women form hatred, contempt, or general mistrust of other women usually due to societal or parental conditioning. Women who have internalized misogyny often put themselves in a position of superiority over other women because of how they might spend their time or how they might dress.
Bea's internalized elitism and misogyny nearly costs her one of her friendships. Regardless of your stance of party culture, you are not and never will be above another person because of how they choose to spend their free time (legally). In Bea's realization that she is behaving in a personally unideal fashion, she fails to take responsibility for her actions and instead marks the entire culture off as bad. She goes on to use hurtful and demeaning jargon that places her in a state of superiority because of her personal opinions. Not wanting to be a party girl isn't bad, but calling them "ghetto", "trashy" or saying you're "better than" someone who does makes you an elitist.
Real life consequences
This story is based heavily off of my high school years when I behaved very similarly to Bea. My cousin was the cool girl who partied and I was very jealous of her freedom and rebelliousness while my mom kept me on a very very tight leash. I would tell myself I was better than her because I was a good student and "gifted" while she lived "unconventionally". I became what the internet described as a Nice Girl, or a girl who was nice and smart and modest so she should be chosen as a partner before anyone else. I'm embarrassed of those years.
I wish I could take some of the things I said back but the damage has been done and I'm not sure if we ever fully recovered from it since our relationship is strained to this day. My cousin was my best friend and I think it was a poison that killed our relationship over time.
Drafting The Story
The story has changed a bit over time but Bea and Nicki's relationship has always stayed the same.
Most of the story visually has stayed the same but the script is what changed the most.
Keep in mind this film was developed post George Floyd.
Having humans would've meant I needed to pick races and at this point in time talking about race exhausts me. It would've been very easy to perpetuate stereotypes onto certain races by using humans and no matter what race I would've chosen, it would've had some sort of muddy connotation behind it.
The sad thing about this that I did not realize is that people are going to see these animals and subconsciously assign a race regardless.
(Below) Practicing drunken emotion with Beatrice, the younger and goofier of the two.
Voiced By Amanda Berry
Bea's character has changed the most over the film.
Originally she was a raccoon, Nicki's best friend and they'd go on wild clubbing sprees all over town. But I decided towards the beginning to make Beatrice a posh Persian cat because it gave her and Nicki a more distinct difference. As much as I loved her previous version, her personality was just too similar to Nicki's.
Bea's dress is also representative of her opulent lifestyle and obnoxious personality.
Voiced by Artista Michelle, originally voiced by Janet Wychock
Nicki's character changed the least out of the two but has remained my favorite character throughout the months. She is a wild and carefree spirit and I personally felt that her lines were much easier to write. She was a lot of fun to animate since most of her dialogue was pretty feisty and dramatic.
Her design has a lot subtle nuances, my favorite being her snaggle tooth that indicates she needs dental work or her eyebrow piercing to show she's much more rebellious than Bea is. I also was really excited to have Artista onboard as the voice of Nicki as I'd been a fan of her voice acting work for a while.
The girls' wardrobe are big part of their self expression and shows a glimpse of who they are and their lifestyle.
Additional Character Design
"Why are these girls so...?"
Don't be gross.
I wanted a film that didn't fall into the "ugly adult animation" so I defaulted to my personal style but made sure the girls were designed with very realistic bodies to push the idea that this is not a kids film if it wasn't obvious enough.
Style and Color Choices
I originally wanted a much more vapor wave aesthetic but abandoned the concept later on because I felt that it made the time period confusing. Here's an early piece of vis dev. Nicki and Bea also still had tails then.
I was also tasked with creating a colorful world while also creating colorful characters that could stand out from it.
In the end I went with a route that had a style more routed in realism but I really liked the end result and still kept most color decisions.
I moved on to cartoonish realism, taking lots of Inspo from background artists Steven Sugar and Michelle Kwon.
Oh my god I love painting backgrounds??? The designing part is just "eh" but painting them was a lot of fun, especially the ones with fun lighting. I'm considering making a painting portfolio just for this so that I can have another possible career path.
Also I did everything in photoshop despite my pushback on it over the years. Now I can't work in any other program because I love the brushes and controls so much.
Backgrounds that were made for the club sequence. I chose a more bokeh inspired surreal look to demonstrate the exhilarating feeling of being in a club surrounded by pulsing neon lights.
Symbols don't suck?
Originally I had the plan to do the entire 6 minute film that was made up of 62 shots and three minutes of dialogue completely hand drawn. At the time, I was much more fond of 2D but as time starter to run out, I began to consider other options, one of which was symbol based animation.
Very early style test of "traditional" symbol animation
The image below is a line up of animation rigs I created of the three main characters with speaking roles. It know that it looks terrifying but hear me out.
The faces and heads of the characters are very specific and it would've driven me crazy seeing them off model. Also, with head, mouth and ear symbols this sped up production greatly and increased acting quality significantly.
Beatrice and her mother share the same set of mouths which helped production.
Using head symbols and replaceable mouth shapes, the only thing hand animated on the face are eyes and eyebrows. Since so much of the film is emotionally based, I felt it was a good call to hand animate the eyes to get better control of acting. Everything also looks a lot cleaner this way.
The noses are also detachable to cheat certain perspectives and depth. The body is animated by hand separately.
Here's what Nicki's mouths look like. Bea's is very similar only with a cleft so that her mouth is more catlike.
These mouths are used for the front, two and three fourths view point. Side profile mouths needed to be drawn into the face as shown below.
Final symbol library
Head Turn arounds. Bea's Mom doesn't receive one since she is only shown from one angle for her twenty seconds of screen time.
Cheating with symbols
Cheating depth and perspective was easy once I figured how to make illusions with subtle face shifts. You might notice Bea's head shape actually doesn't change when rotating in space but by manipulating her eyes, ears, mouth and nose she looks like she's moving a lot when her head isn't even moving.
Each character has their own set of what I call detachables, or parts of their face that are removed and animated on separate layers to help cheat the idea of depth and volume. Small changes such as slightly changing the positioning of the nose or slightly moving an ear downwards can make these flat assets look much more lively.
Personally I don't believe there's a correct way to animate. As long as its efficient and is production sensitive to your pipeline, the way you animate doesn't matter as long as the finished product adheres to the principles of animation.
For the most part, animation was straight ahead with some guidance from boards and previous hand drawn anim from when I thought the film would be one hundred percent hand drawn. Most acting and anim was plussed significantly from the source.
Fun with Comping
I saved a lot of time by doing my comp work in Animate. This helped me get a good understanding of the program and all of its extra bits and pieces. Bea's dress alone was a hassle and a half during early comp tests so being able to comp her dress using masks without having to jump to another program was great.
Challenges I faced
-Time management. It's very easy to fall behind.
-Handling severe anxiety and burnout due to not taking care of myself very well during production.
-Breaking out of my comfort zone. I did eventually but I wish I'd done it sooner.
What I've learned
-Easing and arcs are my best friend when animating, especially with symbols. No tweens necessary. Secondary animation, leading action and overshoots helps keep the charisma of hand drawn animation.
-Its ok to ask for help.
-I'm not obligated to take everyones advice.
-I should still acknowledge and consider those who critique my work as long as it is reasonable and constructive.
-Comping in Animate is quicker than After Effects once you know how to use it.
-Sometimes you don't succeed completely, but that's ok as long as you learned from it.
-The shoulders are the eyebrows of the body.
-Sometimes you have to cut your FAVORITE shots for the good of the story and overall flow of production.
-Don't take those random pills you found on Amazon that claims you'll concentrate better. They'll give a panic attack. Panic attacks are not fun and last hours.
Would you change anything?
There are a lot of things about my film I'd change story wise. The thing is that is a STUDENT FILM produced in nine months and holding myself to a ridiculously high standard is a disservice to myself. Regardless of any failures I've encountered I am very proud of the work I've done regardless of what a critic says.
That being said, any and all critiques are welcomed!
I learned so much from this and have gained a lot from this experience. Hearing people tell me that they see themselves in Nicki and Bea or tell me how my film makes them miss going out is such a great feeling. The friendships I've made with students and committee members alike has been a great plus also.
This film is not at all what I would've ever guessed I'd make but I'm beyond proud of it.
At the moment I am planning on internship at Sesame Workshop while currently interviewing for other companies for other possible positions as well. I'm very excited for my future and I'm glad I went to art school. It was one hundred percent worth it.
Thank You All!
Written, Produced, Animated and Comped by Zharia Rahn
Amanda Berry as Beatrice "Bea"
Artista Michelle as Nicolette "Nicki"
Zharia B. Rahn
Zharia B. Rahn
Dave and Sheila Heyman-Schwartz
In My Imagination by B.Y.B
Mom and Dad
Dedicated to Jordan Charlton who helped me learn symbols a year prior. You are dearly missed.