Cartoon Brew TV #16: <em>Love on the Line</em> Cartoon Brew TV #16: <em>Love on the Line</em>

Cartoon Brew TV #16: Love on the Line

Cartoon Brew TV is back from the holidays and we’re ready for action–19th century style! This week’s offering, Love on the Line (2008) by G. Melissa Graziano, offers the tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers who yearn to communicate with one another in a time before texting, IMing and the Internet. A combination of stop-motion cutouts and 2D computer animation, the short was made at the UCLA Animation Workshop, where it won the Dan McLaughlin Award at the 2008 Animation Prom, the school’s year-end animation screening It has also won the Best Visual Storytelling Award at the ASIFA Student Film Festival and has also been shown at the Bradford Animation Festival (BAF), NextGen Film Fest, and Dam Shorts Film Festival.

The director, Melissa Graziano, will be participating in the Brew comments if you have any questions for her. Here are a few thoughts from her about the making of the film:

My background is mainly in writing and art, but I’ve done a little bit of everything. Growing up, I could never decide which form of art I liked best. I played violin, wrote poems, plays and short stories, took tons of photographs, made videos, drew incessantly, even dabbled in experimental sculpture…but I could never decide on which medium to settle on. When I discovered that animation was the only art with the potential to include every other kind of art, that did it for me. I was no longer forced to choose between my loves; I could use them all to make a single work. I think that’s partially why I like to combine different animated media in my films, too. I can combine different elements to create something that couldn’t have been accomplished by its separate components. And, more importantly, it makes the story stronger.

The first night Love on the Line played in front of an audience, I was nervous as hell. I’ve been performing in front of people since I was six, and I’ve rarely been nervous. I was afraid that nobody would laugh; it seemed like every time I presented my storyboards and animatics in class, I would hear crickets. My teachers and fellow students would tell me it was funny, that they just needed to see it timed out to get the full effect. Once I started animating and watched the finished sequences, I started laughing–and the people I’d drag in to see my dailies started laughing, too. I felt much more confident about it.

The film had such an overwhelmingly positive response at Prom (UCLA’s end-of-the-year screening for Animation), I could hardly believe it. Even my most conservative relatives were cracking up (maybe that’s why I was nervous, all that Catholic guilt). Every time I watch it with a different audience and they laugh in all the right places…it’s the best feeling in the world. I know I’ve done my job right. It gives me confidence as a filmmaker, to know I’m capable of doing what I set out to do: to have the audience react a certain way, to feel what I wanted them to feel, and feel it strongly. That’s very important to me as an artist and as a storyteller.

I’m currently working on my thesis film, When Walls Could Talk, which will be a hybrid of different animation techniques and live-action puppetry. I want to go into storyboarding after graduation, eventually working my way to director for animated features.

  • Very Clever! Both in wit and the use of the lines of Morse code. Kudos!

  • Wow, I loved that. It was a little slow-going in the beginning (IE: Doesn’t grab your attention when played in a tiny little box on the Internet), but the idea and execution were brilliant. Well done!

  • Barbara

    Hilarious short Melissa. I saw this at UCLA and have been telling people about it…glad to be able to finally show it to them.

  • Dave Knott

    Great short! Clever and elegant in its simplicity.

    Can you describe your process a little? Did you scan paper cut-outs and then animate them with Flash or Toonboom? Did you use discovered Victorian art or recreate the look yourself?

  • Mesterius

    Wonderful short with lots of clever humor! There are so many good moments here, both visually and verbally, that it’s hard to choose a favourite, but I especially liked the answer to the first “What are you wearing” question:)

    Great work!

  • Jessi (the cold friend in the North)

    You had me laughing like a mad woman in my office. My coworkers now think I’m crazy!

  • Well done my darling, I knew you could make it!

    I never grow old of seeing this, unlike the adam sandler thing which shall never be spoken of again :-p

  • Very nicely done! Beautiful artwork as well. Did you draw it all or take the art from old magazines or books? Where those real hinges or did you do this digitally and add those for effect?

  • Adora

    Super awesome that you made it on this site, Melissa! I’ve pimped it out to all my friends so they can see the awesomeness too. :D

  • Thank you for this; I saw I still of Love on the Line at the Bradford Animation Festival’s Web site and, being a wore for both the 2-and-a-half-D-ness of Karel Zeman-style cut-outs and the decadence of Robert Jordian Victoriana, wanted to see the panorama it was in but said panorama was being shown rather too early in the day for me to make it there.

    I think it’s pretty obvious from the shadows and how things move that only the telegraph signals and intertitles are CG or, at least, that the other things would be very hard to achieve in CGI. But if that is the case, I would like to know what the rivets are made out of and how they were coloured… I also wonder about how she made the characters come in and exit through the door and how deep and how big the cavity between the backgrounds needs to (and could physically) be – I imagine that that she took advantage of how one can only see the characters’ faces through the circular window when the door is closed, and that the true position of the puppets is not what a viewer would imagine them to be from this. But again, that is just by estimation based on seeing it.

  • Bravo, Ms. Graziano!
    What a wonderfully inventive work! It’s great to see original work like yours coming out of the UCLA Animation Workshop.

    Give my best to Celia.. she’ll know me as Michael Lipman.

  • Stephane

    I saw the film a gzillion times already and I already told her all the good I think of it.

    And as I saw her do some of it at the workshop, yeap, the characters are all articulated paper puppets… I remember her spending an afternoon painting all the rivets and by hand… she was having a blast :D

    Anyways. Well done again, can’t wait to see the next one.

  • Chuck

    I love this movie. It gets better every time I see it. Great!

  • Jen (the belgian one)

    It was the first time I saw an animation film being made piece by piece and I’m quite impressed :)
    I really like your work !

  • Hi Mel,

    Well done, that’s a really nice film. I was hoping to see your work from UCLA but didn’t expect to see it on CartoonBrew! Congratulations, that’s awesome.

  • kane

    love this cartoon, i always knew you had a gift

  • Chuck M. (K1DFS)

    Nicely done, GMG: One of my son’s former students.
    I need to check the Morse Code though!
    (-.- . . .–. ..- .–. – …. . –. — — -.. –. — .-. -.- .-.-.-)

  • Pauline graziano

    Congratulations Melissa. I am glad that after years of hard work and sacrifice for your art form , that people are able to see your work on a large forum. I can’t wait to see the next one!

  • Thank you to everyone who watched Love on the Line and posted comments, or otherwise congratulated me on my film! I’m honored and excited for it to be displayed on Cartoon Brew.

    I apologize for not posting sooner; I had tried posting during the first week, but must not have pressed “go” or something, as it didn’t post. Oh, well.

    Jim.m, I agree with you that the beginning is a bit slow-going. I struggled constantly with this film’s timing, especially the slowness at the beginning. Every time I went back to edit, I chopped more of it off. However, it got to the point where I had to stop cutting and let the baby fly. If I were to go back to it now, that would be the first thing I’d do.

    As for my process, I designed my puppets in Photoshop, printed them, cut them out, and assembled them by using tiny brads, which I painted by hand. I had done a ton of research on the look of my film, especially on Victorian etchings and ink-and-watercolor illustrations. I originally was going to use silhouettes, but thought it would be funnier if I had these beautiful puppets behaving ridiculously. I also considered using “found” Victorian paper dolls, but couldn’t find any I particularly liked. So I ended up making my own.

    I painted the background using watercolors. I then lay the background down under a digital downshooter (a stlll Canon camera hooked up to a computer) and used GBTimelapse to capture the stop-motion animation. Once the stop-motion was done, I brought the still images into After Effects, where I animated the morse code. I cleaned up some rough edges in After Effects, edited in Premiere, and away I went!

    The space between the doorjamb and the “hallway” was tiny; I only left just enough room to squeeze the puppets in between panels. In fact, the watercolor paper warped to a point where I actually had a bit of trouble animating Phineas and his father’s entrances!

    Thank you all again, and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my film. :)

  • Windy Lawley

    Ha Ha that was quite cute. made me smile…. ;-)

  • Cadychan

    PFFFFFTTT BWA HA HA HA!! What a fantastic film! It had me laughing out loud!
    Wonderfully creative, and a visual treat…more! More!

  • hahahaha that was great!!

  • Julie

    I saw it at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck, MI this weekend.

    The Crowd (including myself) loved it!

  • Heather

    I too saw this at Waterfront Film Festival and have been telling anyone who will listen about it. I’m a lover of paper arts and film so, of course, this was a favorite of mine. Very clever!

  • G. Melissa Graziano

    Thanks, ladies! I’m glad the word is spreading. :)

    I’m also happy to note that Love will be playing as part of the Ottowa International Animation Festival in October, which I will be attending. :D

  • I’ve seen LOVE ON THE LINE on a big screen at the Ottawa International Animation Festival 3 days ago and adored it. It is an amazing piece of work. Congrats to Melissa (actually, I already told you how I was impressed by your film when we met at the festival picnic)! I hope you will continue the great work. This festival is crucial to discover the new films in animation and also to meet with the filmmakers. Everybody who loves animation should attend this great festival every year.

  • G Melissa Graziano

    I agree, I had a blast at Ottawa! Thanks for everyone who emailed or posted (Thanks, Julie!) or personally told me that they enjoyed the film. I am constantly overwhelmed by the response to this film. I’m just glad I can keep people laughing and excited about animation! Hopefully I’ll be there next year!

  • Th.


    I missed LunaFest this weekend, but this is the one people were talking about so I had to run it down. Nicely done!

  • G. Melissa Graziano


    LunaFest has been very good to me, and all of the filmmakers I’ve met through LunaFest are very, very talented women.

    I’ll be in my home state of CT for another LunaFest screening on April 12 at the University of Connecticut (go Huskies!). Check out the UConn Women’s Center or LunaFest website for more info if interested.