Cartoon Brew TV #8: The Story of One-Eyed Ophelia Jackson

This week’s short, The Story of One-Eyed Ophelia Jackson is a 2008 graduation film by Kat Morris from School of Visual Arts. The eye-catching short, about the luckiest girl in the world, Ophelia Jackson, and her encounter with a Sea Witch, stands out for its confident drawing style and sophisticated sense of design.

Recently Kat Morris has contributed to the Adult Swim series Superjail. To see more of Kat’s work, visit her blog or check out this experimental short animated in Ralph Steadman’s style.

The filmmaker will be participating in the comments section so if you have any questions for her, feel free to ask. Here are some production notes about the film from Kat:

From initial concept to finished film, The Story of One-Eyed Ophelia Jackson took approximately nine months to complete. Everything was drawn with graphite on animation bond, then inked with a Kuretake brush pen, scanned, and composited in AfterEffects. The final look was achieved by assigning levels of grey to different layers in AfterEffects, and then applying a scanned texture (a book cover) over the entire composition. I tried to keep everything lo-tech to prevent the film from feeling too polished.

The script was both very difficult and amazingly simple to come up with. I knew I wanted a voice-over narrative that took place by the sea, but it wasn’t until I drew Ophelia that I knew the direction I wanted to go in. I think as an artist, I am first and foremost a storyteller, therefore I made it my primary goal to create characters I cared about. The characters dictated the tone of the story, which in this case resulted in a less quippy take on Fractured Fairy Tales. The story was further brought to life by Allan Todd, the actor I was fortunate enough to find to read the script.

Thematically, I wanted to explore the relationship between the Maiden and the Hag (like Vasilisa and the Baba Yaga) . I love and hate archetypal characters: on one hand they’re boring and cliched, but on the other hand, they can be much more efficient at conveying ideas and emotions, especially in short stories. With Ophelia and the Witch, I wanted to create two characters that were both archetypes and individuals –‚ Ophelia is young and naive, but also prideful and selfish, while the Witch is old and mean, but ultimately just a lonely woman who likes to play games.

Visually, my aim was to display as much of my personal aesthetic as possible. Ophelia began as a doodle on a scrap of paper, while the witch was designed after the soldiers in Raoul Servais’s Chromophobia. The secondary and background characters were all gleaned from pages in my sketchbook. I’m not a very strong animator, so I tried to design each shot to work well as a still image, which is probably why the film has a “comic book” feel to it. My advisor, Don Poynter, really kicked my ass to make sure those compositions were the best they could be, I owe a lot to him.

A selection of pre-production artwork from the film:
Ophelia Jackson artwork


  • http://www.jona.es/ jogarbel

    I loved it. Nice drawings and nice story

  • http://brokenghost.blogspot.com Robert Iza

    Wow, that was really fun and appealing!

    What would you say took up the bulk of the time spent making the film?

    Design? Animating? Compositing everything?

  • http://www.modsprocket.com Lee Cherolis

    Very nice! Loved the story and the pacing.

  • Charles

    Loved the style and everything! Great work!

  • http://siskavard.blogspot.com Corey

    Awesome!!

  • http://brentnewhall.com Brent P. Newhall

    That was awesome! Excellent work all the way through.

  • http://eggheadcheesybird.co.uk Alex

    Hello new favourite artist of mine.

  • http://www.joelstapley.com Joel Stapley

    Bitchin! nice work Kat. Love the character designs.

  • Blatherpuss

    I seriously loved this wonderful little film. The designs and story were great and the narration was awesome! I hope to see more from the artist! Very cool stuff, made my day.

  • http://www.forthebirdsblog.blogspot.com Michael J. Ruocco

    We just watched your film in Celia Bulwinkel’s 2nd year animation class here at SVA! What a great little film!

  • Pete

    that was great!

  • http://www.rohitiyer.com/ Rohit Iyer

    Smart short.

    I think it’s very well written and well-edited too. Hope we see more fro you, Kat!

  • http://www.restlessanimation.com Doug Anderson

    Very nice short, love the style!!!

  • Celia

    girl animators are the new boy animator.

  • Domagoj

    That was very enjoyable, I loved it. Everything worked well together and made a great atmosphere.

    I even laugh at the end and came away with a smile on my face.

  • Carol Armstrong

    Great story, drawings, design & music. I love the line, “I look really bad ass with one eye”.

  • paperplane

    I immediately recognised that drawing style when I saw the short!
    I used to love your ‘Return to Sender’ webcomic!!

    Too bad you didn’t finish the story but it seems you’ve moved on to bigger and better things. Ophelia is so reminiscent of that female character in your webcomic too <3

  • Saturnome

    Terrific! It worked great despite the limited animation. Great setting, the seawitch’s tongue is a great touch. And I was wondering where it was leading, but it ended in a fun way.

    I ask for more !

  • http://bobjinx.blogspot.com BobJinx

    If this is considered “limited” I prefer it over most of what I see coming out of most Flash studios these days. INCREDIBLY expressive drawings. The sea witch is a superb character design. Fully inspired.

  • Cory Bujnowicz

    Fantastic! It’s refreshing to see such a wonderfully designed and animated piece. Plus: the soundtrack makes me wanna go out and get in a good ol’ adventure. Also dance.

  • http://www.advertisingetc.blogspot.com André Breda

    Fantastic story and amazing drawing skills. However, my favorite thing about this animation is the “bad-ass” finish!

  • Jerome

    About the short in Steadman’s style… Did Ralph Steadman see it or participate in any sort of way ? Are the designs directly inspired by some of Steadman’s work or is it a reinterpretation ?

  • mouse

    I think I just fell in love. :)

  • brianc

    Well told young Kat!

  • http://ghostdigits.blogspot.com Kat

    Thanks to everyone who has commented so far! The support is really wonderful.

    Robert: Storyboarding/layouts were definitely the most time-consuming – I was still adding shots and fixing up layouts all the way down to the deadline. I hope to be more organized and decisive in my next endeavor.

    paperplane: You’ve confused me with Vera Brosgol, which is completely flattering, so thank you. You can check out her recent work at http://www.verabee.com, including her graduation film, Snow-bo.

    Jerome: the Steadman film was a project I did during my second year at SVA, without the knowledge of Ralph Steadman. Essentially, I chose a random artist (Steadman) out of a hat, and had to somehow integrate their style into a one-minute animation. I used one illustration of his as a layout, along with several character designs, but everything else is entirely my own. Maybe Ralph will see it one day…

    • cesar

      haha i always thought that ophelia was a guy with a awkward name hahahaha shit

  • http://www.antoniolinhares.com Antonio

    That’s very awesome!
    Congratulations Kat!

  • ITHIDET

    Amazing.

  • Falicon

    Beyond Hotness.

  • julian

    me likey a hole lotty-this was great and funny —more more.

  • http://erichosford.com eric hosford

    Fantastic kat! quite lovely!

  • http://theAMIGOunit.com Nate Milton

    F**K yes, very proud

  • http://chris.anidev.net digitani

    Wow! I found this by following a link from ZaneAsylum over at deviantArt. I am so impressed! This was such a great short. It kept my attention, had a pleasing resolution, and the final joke was absolutely hilarious. I truly love it. I wish you the best in your career!

  • umberto

    Wow!! was not expecting that…Great story line and interesting characters with a captivating music score.
    Wonderful drawings, well done! Did I sense a pinch of lugubrious tendency from the cast?
    Nice work, we need more life lessons via short films such as this.

  • http://www.tastyhand.com David Sheahan

    I was looking back through these, and I laughed to myself that you said “I’m not a very good animator.” How things have changed.

    But the story and the design were more than enough blow my mind. I love it when characters who capture the imagination graphically can transform from their initial impression to another in a surprising, moving way…through story.

    And of course, the tongue moment remains one of my favorites in animation. Burned into the ol’ cortex, that one is..