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8 Storyboard Examples to Inspire Any Animator

ben marvazi 2020

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"Storyboards in animation serve as a visual roadmap, guiding the creative process and ensuring a cohesive storytelling experience."


Animation is a captivating realm, bringing together art and technology to tell stories that resonate with audiences of all ages. At the core of this creative process lies an essential ingredient: the storyboard. 

Serving as the skeleton upon which the animation flesh is built, storyboards are the roadmap that guides each animator's journey. They allow for the visual conceptualization of ideas, playing a crucial role in the success of an animation project. But what constitutes a great storyboard? What can we learn from successful storyboard examples? 

In this post, we'll delve into eight exceptional storyboard examples from renowned animation projects. These examples not only serve as inspiration but also provide crucial insights into the process of effective storytelling through animation.

Cover GIF by Walt Disney Animation Studios via GIPHY

Let's Dive Into The 8 Inspiring Storyboard Examples

1. The Power of Simplicity: The Lion King

Video by YouTube

Simplicity can indeed be the ultimate sophistication, and one of the best storyboard examples to underline this fact is Disney's The Lion King. The storyboard for the Circle of Life sequence is a testament to how powerful simple sketches can be. Each frame is a mere representation of the final animation, focusing on capturing the essence of the scene rather than intricate details.

Despite its simplicity, the storyboard encapsulates the emotions, settings, and actions of the characters, providing the animators with a clear and comprehensive guide. This example stands as a reminder that storyboards don't necessarily need to be detailed; they just need to effectively communicate the scene's intent and direction to the animators.

2. Attention to Detail: Spirited Away

Video by YouTube

Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, helmed by the masterful Hayao Miyazaki, stands in contrast to our previous example. Known for its meticulous storyboards, Spirited Away boasts one of the most detailed storyboard examples in the industry. 

Each frame in the storyboard is a piece of art in itself, packed with intricate details that help the animators fully visualize the final outcome of the scenes. This not only leads to high fidelity between the storyboard and the final animation but also results in a highly immersive and visually breathtaking viewing experience. 

This example demonstrates how attention to detail in storyboards can greatly enhance the overall quality of the final animation.

3. Character Expression: Toy Story

Video by YouTube

In animation, bringing characters to life is paramount. A stellar example of emphasizing character expression in a storyboard is Pixar's Toy Story. Despite being populated by toys, the storyboard of this animation brings each character to life. 

This is achieved by putting a significant focus on character expressions in the storyboard, ensuring that each character's emotions are vividly captured. By paying attention to the smallest facial tweaks or body movements, the animators could accurately depict the characters' feelings, making them feel real and relatable. 

This approach underscores the importance of character development and emotional storytelling in animation.

4. Scene Transitions: Up

Video by YouTube

Pixar's Up presents an extraordinary example of utilizing storyboards to craft smooth and effective scene transitions. The film's opening sequence stands as a storytelling masterpiece, effectively narrating a lifetime of events and emotions without using a single line of dialogue. 

This was made possible by the meticulous planning of each scene transition in the storyboard, allowing for a fluid progression of events that captures the audience's emotions. This storyboard example showcases the power of visual storytelling, and the critical role effective scene transitions play in it.

5. Action Sequences: Avengers

Video by YouTube

3D animation, particularly in the realm of action and adventure, demands a high level of precision and detail. This is beautifully demonstrated in the storyboard examples from Avengers. Planning action sequences can be an intricate task due to the complex movements and fast-paced events. 

However, the storyboards for Avengers brilliantly communicate these details, providing clear guides for the animators and ensuring thrilling, high-stakes action scenes. These storyboards underscore the role of clear and detailed planning in successful action animation.

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6. Visual Comedy: The Simpsons

Video by YouTube

Animation offers a unique platform for comedy, and the storyboard examples from The Simpsons perfectly illustrate this. The success of this iconic series largely hinges on its visual comedy, the foundation of which is laid in the storyboard. 

The comedic timing and humor are effectively captured in the storyboard frames, paving the way for hilarious animated sequences. This shows the significant role storyboards play in planning and executing visual comedy in animation.

7. Abstract Animation: Fantasia

Video by YouTube

Disney's Fantasia stands out among storyboard examples for its representation of abstract animation. The storyboards for this film are unlike typical ones; they represent a blend of music and surreal imagery, rather than concrete events or actions. 

This approach allows animators to venture beyond the confines of traditional storytelling, creating unique, non-linear animations that are a feast for the senses. This example showcases the limitless potential of animation and the diverse ways storyboards can be used.

8. Effective Use of Color: Coco

Video by YouTube

Color is a powerful tool in animation, capable of setting the mood, directing attention, and even distinguishing between different worlds. Pixar's Coco presents a stellar example of the effective use of color in a storyboard. 

The storyboards use color to differentiate between the land of the living and the land of the dead, setting the tone for each scene. The effective use of color in the storyboard translates into a visually breathtaking final animation, demonstrating the significant role color planning plays in the storyboard process.

Turning Storyboard Examples Into Your Masterpiece

storyboard examples of a man conductor using a baton to direct music in a rough sketch format

GIF by Alex Boya via GIPHY

These eight extraordinary storyboard examples offer invaluable lessons for every animator. They showcase a variety of approaches to visual storytelling, character development, scene transitions, and more, highlighting the diverse ways in which storyboards can be utilized. 

The key takeaway here is that storyboards, while often overlooked, form the heart of any animation project. As such, it is crucial to dedicate adequate time and effort to crafting effective storyboards.

For those looking to refine their animation skills and take their career to the next level, the Animation Business Accelerator program offers a comprehensive range of resources, guidance, and expert mentorship. 

Join us and gain access to on-demand video lessons, fill-in-the-blank plans and templates, live mentorship calls, a bustling, supportive community, hand-picked resources, mini-courses, and more. Also, be sure to check out our blog post on "How to Start an Animation Studio"!

With the right inspiration from storyboard examples, the right resources, and the right guidance, you can go from dreaming about animation to living it. Let's embark on this journey together and bring your animation dreams to life!

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