Fender Pedals
At Gunner, most of the team happens to be musically inclined (on top of being all around amazing humans and visual artists), so we were all excited to work with Fender. And being a guitarist and animator myself, I knew that this job would be right up my alley. So when I was given the chance to lead the project, I knew I had been handed a dream job, a dream client, and a dream team to make it happen! This was a huge learning experience for me, and I'm so thankful for the whole team who put all their love and time into this one. 
The Journey
After the initial concept was set by Nick & Mike, I jumped in and started developing the storyboards and animatic alongside Mike. With 6 pedals to showcase, we crafted a modular narrative that could be shared as 1 full-length piece as well as a series of 6 short vignettes. 
Inspired by the best of Saturday morning cartoons and the spirit of rock n’ roll, we created a story where our hero is rewarded with a coveted Fender pedal after defeating 5 different bosses. Each boss’ vignette embodies the sonic feel of each pedal and is accompanied by original music featuring the sounds of the pedals themselves.  At the end, our hero reaches the Temple of Tone, where the final pedal is bestowed upon him by the Almighty God of Rock.
Illustration: Michael Burdick
From the beginning, Mike had sketched out this story map in black and white, and it really served as the backbone as we began to plot out each pedal's narrative arc.  We vaguely knew what each pedal sounded like and came up with a rough concept behind each "boss", but it wasn't until Fender sent us the actual pedals to play with that we solidified the concepts behind each vignette. The sonic qualities of each pedal really inspired the narrative in each scene:
1. Lost Highway Phaser  
fluid sweeping sounds/ reminiscent of the heat waves rising in the desert/ rattle snake  
2. Bubbler Chorus & Vibrato 
wet/warbly/ underwater vibes/ more mysterious rather than menacing/ sea creature
3. Pinwheel Rotary Speaker Emulator 
undulating pitch & timbre/ reminiscent of trees whooshing by driving through a mountain forest/ slow motion/ forest boar
4. Downtown Express Bass Station 
low bass frequencies/ underground/ lower in elevation/ cave/ plucking bass strings/ spider walking on its web
5. MTG Tube Distortion 
shrill/ intensity/ rock 'n roll/ pick screeching/ bats
6. Tre-Verb Tremelo & Reverb 
atmospheric / infinite space/ heavenly clouds/ zen/ temple in the sky  
Storyboards: Michael Burdick
Illustration: Andy Most, Michael Burdick
A personal sketch idea for the Temple of Tone
After we solidified the flow of the animatic, we all started experimenting with illustration. Mike led the charge along with some crucial support from Andy and Jay,  and we eventually landed on this super graphic, wonky direction. Throughout this process, Mike and I talked a lot about pacing and the importance of clarity in all the compositions. Each shot needed to read instantly. The animatic was moving at a fast pace, had a lot of quick cuts, and we needed to design 50+ shots in a few weeks with a skeleton crew. So we really tried to distill each frame into a few basic forms. At that time,  I was also heavily inspired by the work of Maurice Noble and his graphic approach to layout and design.  So we tried to take cues from him in terms of backgrounds, color, negative space, and only using what was necessary to tell the story. 
Illustrations by Michael Burdick, Andy Most, & Jay Quercia
Given that this whole piece was 80-90% character animation (along with some animals and monsters thrown in the mix!), we needed a ton of cel animation. At the time, we didn't have many internal resources to lean on, so I was excited to have an excuse to work with cel-powerhouses Ryan Boyes & Matthew Everton. Even though they're living in other parts of the country, we had a pretty good workflow so that we could collaborate remotely.  Their work really set the foundation for the feel of the whole piece, and then the rest of the team and I pushed it to the finish line with a lot of clean up, AE, and some bits of C4D.
Cel: Ryan Boyes
Cel: Ryan Boyes
Cel: Matthew Everton
Cel: Matthew Everton
Cel: Ryan Boyes
Cel: Ryan Boyes
Me looking ridiculous while *fake* shredding for some animation reference:
Some of my favorite shots, all animated by our awesome team
One of the best parts of this project was collaborating with our friends at Proper on the music and sound.  Not only was the music crucial to the success of the animation, but it also served a huge role in inspiring Fender's fans to try the pedals for themselves! So sonically we tried to represent multiple sounds and genres, but make it all feel unified. 
I set the pacing of the animatic up front using a click track, and Proper began laying down ideas one vignette at a time.  Structurally, the whole piece needed to feel like one cohesive composition, but at the same time, each vignette needed to sound distinct in its own way to showcase each respective pedal. Fender also wanted each vignette delivered as cutdown that could loop on Instagram/ Twitter, so we had to make sure each vignette stood on its own as a looping musical phrase.  
Directed by Gunner
Project Lead: John Hughes
Story: Michael Burdick
Animation Direction: John Hughes
Art Direction: Michael Burdick
Illustration: Michael Burdick, Andy Most, Jay Quercia, John Hughes, Collin Leix,
Cel Animation: Matthew Everton, Ryan Boyes, Rachel Reid, Andy Most, Jessica Rowden, Eli Watkins, James Noellert, Collin Leix, Michael Burdick, John Hughes
2D Animation: Marcus Bakke, Collin Leix, John Hughes, Ian Sigmon, Nick Forshee
3D Animation: Collin Leix, John Hughes, Marcus Bakke
Producer: Brandon Delis
Music & Sound:  Proper
Client: Fender
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