Friday, August 11, 2017

Jellyfish Life Cycle Animated

I am pleased to present Jellyfish, the latest animated life cycle for Anim8Nature. This project in development is designed for kids 5 to 9 years old. My mission is to spark curiosity, explore science with art, get kids outside and inspire environmental stewardship. A tall order, but every aspect of these goals is very important to me.

Like many of you, my first experience with jellyfish was as a kid and it wasn't so positive. There was a twist. They were stinging my sister when we'd vacation at the Chesapeake Bay or in Ocean City but not me.


My next exposure to jellyfish was as an adult kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Seeing them out of the corner of my eye, I thought they were plastic sandwich bags floating in the water. On more careful observation I realized what they were and was mesmerized. I find jellyfish very beautiful creatures.

Each of these animations is a journey in and of itself. I am learning some important lessons that will frame how I continue working.

To Save Time
Over 17 years ago, when the germ of this idea to do a series of animated life cycles was first taking hold, I animated a jellyfish life cycle. I have vast archives of my illustration/animation work over the years and I retrieved those save time. I think you know what is coming. I am much more particular today about not misrepresenting any organism while still not being a slave to photo-realism.  There was the case of the peas growing in the ground with cute little faces. I would never do that now.

Original illustration of moon jellyfish

I am doing lots of research online, of course. How did I do? Were my illustrations of jellyfish, specifically moon jellyfish, accurate and not misleading? This is what my science advisor, Dr. John Styrsky had to say on reviewing my first pass at animating.

You've got the components of the life cycle correct.  Aurelia aurita is unusual in its class in that fertilization is internal.  In most other species of Scyphozoans, the sperm and eggs meet randomly in open water.  The planula larvae develop on the four oral arms of the female and then swim off to the substrate where they transform into a polyp form called the scyphostoma which then matures into the strobila.  At that point, individual baby medusae bud off and eventually mature into adult jellyfish.  That all looks good, as does the way they move in the water.

However, there were too few tentacles and the shape of the oral arms was not right. He explains below.

Updated moon jellyfish

"All the Aurelia aurita I have seen either preserved or in zoos/aquaria have much thinner, shorter tentacles, whereas the four oral arms (technically not tentacles) are considerably longer in the shape of wide ribbons.  There is, of course, variation in nature but this particular species tends to have very fine, short tentacles along the margin of the bell.  If possible, revising the size of the tentacles, would more closely resemble the tentacles of a moon jellyfish, but I understand that your animation represents an artistic representation and not a textbook illustration.  So, no criticism from my perspective, just a thought."

I want my artistic representations to be accurate.  I am most indebted to my advisors and experts for their guidance. John is currently looking at my art and storyboards for my fungus animation.

To Save Money
This effort to expedite my process was more successful. It is always humbling to me as an animator to realize how important the audio track is in "making it come alive". I love music and finding the right selection is important to me. I have found a great resource in my efforts to keep production costs down while I am finding funding. has been a great help in that regard. Not only was I able to find and edit Champ de tournesol by Komiku, I could communicate with the composer to express my appreciation and confirm that it is in fact in the public domain.

Stay with me on this journey as I explore a variety of organisms, collaborate with educators and scientists and inspire kids and adults to explore art and science.

No comments:

Post a Comment

5•7•5: Science, Art and Poetry

To Script or Not Script: I have produced 8 short animated documentaries for kids and families about life cycles and I found no necessity f...