Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Please feel free to follow along on my public Facebook page for these 13 original short stories:

Here's my twisted little tale for the month of March.

By Darren Webb

Wiloughby was a very healthy, pink toddler. He loved playing with his spotted eared puppy, even though the puppy was much steadier and sure footed than he. Wiloughby loved playing catch with his father, even though his manual dexterity was far from being perfect, since he was only 11 and 3/4 months old. He loved being bathed by his mother while she sang sweet songs of the alphabet and whistled like a bird. But most of all, Wiloughby liked to eat. Everything.
Whatever came into Wiloughby's pudgy grip was consumed. The more Wiloughby ate, the more rapidly he grew and he was not a fussy eater, he was a constant eater. Occasionally, as babies do, he would eat something that would not be considered food under the worst of circumstances. The odd button, ceramic nicknack, and pine cone would go down with as much ease as a bowl of porridge or a piece of ripened fruit, without the slightest of ill effects.
Wiloughby's parents were both happy to know that their son had a healthy and fairly iron clad constitution, while being understandably concerned about the vast quantities he ate and the speed of his mountainous growth. All without the aid of any teeth. For it was well past the time in a child's life that teeth would have made their much heralded and painful entry. Still, their absence did nothing to deter Wiloughby's advancing appetite, for his gums were as hard as steel and provided him the ability to grind the toughest of sirloins to bits. For this, Wiloughby's mother was notably grateful that he had never taken to allowing her to nurse him, for it clearly would have taken a terrible toll.
Wiloughby's parents had an assembly line contraption set up for feeding him throughout the day. Since they couldn't simply spend their days perpetually cooking themselves, beyond providing the 3 square and healthy meals plus snacks each day, a conveyor belt with a slow and steady moving track was installed that gradually transported food from the kitchen, through an opening in the wall, along the dining room and finally deposited food into the parlor where Wiloughby's play enclosure was located. This seemed to work for a while and allowed father to keep working at his job and mother some much needed time away from the constant feeding.
However, the first time the Wiloughby ate his dinner plate, cup and silverware, his parents immediately called the doctor, something that they had not done since his birth, despite it being a wise parenting move to have one's baby checked regularly, especially in their first years of life to make sure all growth and progress was progressing as it should. 
The doctor arrived as Wiloughby's father was administering the Heimlich maneuver to his son in hope of making him spit up the flatware, but no matter how hard they tried, Wiloughby would cough up nothing. The doctor was stunned at what he saw in front of him. Not that Wiloughby's father was doing what he needed to do in order to save his son's life, but that Wiloughby not only seemed to be perfectly fine and in no need of assistance, but that he sat approximately 6 feet tall! The doctor staggered toward Wiloughby as father unwrapped his arms from around this 6 foot tall toddler. With a fleeting glance to the doctor and a giggle, Wiloughby took hold of one of the dinning room chairs and promptly devoured it. Chomping down on the hard oak wood frame, his steel strong gums splintered the chair into bite sized bits. To the amazement of his parents and his doctor, Wiloughby finished off the matching set of chairs and the oak and cherry inlay table that mother had received as a wedding present.
The doctor cautiously examined Wiloughby while father distracted him with a game of catch, his spotted eared puppy jumped up and down with its tail wagging and mother sang her songs and whistled like a nightingale. The examination showed no ill effects of Wiloughby's ravenous appetite and despite the enormous 6 foot tall frame of this massive toddler, the doctor gave Wiloughby a clean bill of health. He did however suggest that despite Wiloughby's cast iron digestive tract, that it would indeed be best that he only consume food. Aside from being a disturbing sight to watch a 6 foot tall toddler devour an entire setting of knives and forks, plus chairs and tables, it would simply be too costly of a habit to keep having to replace all of the dinning room furniture after each meal.
Mother and father were relieved to hear that Wiloughby was in fine health and they hoped that eventually his all consuming appetite and abnormal physical growth would come more in line with other children they'd seen. However, it was not to be.
Wiloughby's appetite continued to grow as voraciously as his physicality did. At 7 feet tall he was up to 24 meals per day. At 8 feet tall, he ate 34 complete meals. At 9 feel tall, his parents had to widen all of the doorways and knock out ceilings so that Wiloughby could actually remain within the house.
He ate constantly. Now, even as he slept a table of food was placed next to him so that he could feed all through the night. If there was a lapse in time between feedings, Wiloughby would eat his bed linens, toys, teddy bear and even the floor boards. Even during his favorite activities, playing catch with father or with his spotted eared puppy, food would have to be added to the activity. If not Wiloughby's tantrums would threaten to bring the entire house crashing down around them all.
The only thing capable of soothing his famished outbursts was mother singing songs and whistling like a bird. But though they loved him, caring for Wiloughby was taking a terrible toll on his poor parents, for they were becoming exactly that, poor. His obsessive appetite consumed their money, time and their lives.
One day when mother was having problems getting the stove lit in time for Wiloughby's 3rd lunch, he sat in his room in a hunger frenzy, wailing aloud like a injured elephant. His spotted eared puppy heard his beloved Wiloughby crying and came in to comfort him. The dog slowly approached Wiloughby, who now exceeded 12 feet in height, gently crawled up onto him and began to lick the salty tears from his gigantic cheeks. Wiloughby stopped crying, looked down at the sweet puppy wagging its tail and in a single move, shoved him into his mouth.
Mother walked in with Wiloughby's 3rd lunch just in time to see the spotted eared puppy's tail disappear down her son's throat. She wretched in horror as Wiloughby giggled then let out a loud belch. As he began to tear the room apart in an attempt to satisfy his all consuming appetite, mother called the doctor to inform him of what had transpired with the dog. Then she called her husband and begged him to come home from work. The doctor was the first of the two to arrive and rushed right in to evaluate Wiloughby, but he had become impossible to control. As the doctor tried to place his stethoscope upon the monstrous toddlers chest to ascertain his health after eating his spotted eared puppy, Wiloughby grasped the doctor with his gigantic baby fingers and devoured him whole.
Mother screamed out in horror just as father burst into the house having run home all the way. Father jumped up upon Wiloughby and grabbed at the doctors foot still sticking out of his son's mouth and tried to pull him free, but with a lunging gulp, Wiloughby swallowed his fathers head, then like some nightmarish reptile, threw his massive head back and choked the rest of him down into his gullet as he flailed wildly until both father and the doctor were gone.
Wiloughby's hunger, still unabated, he began tearing the house apart, devouring everything. Wallboards, floorboards, family portraits, antique wardrobes, oriental rugs, all of it food for the insatiable toddler, including his mother. As Wiloughby made his way toward her in the corner where she stood in shock, she could think of nothing else to do, so she began to whistle and sing Wiloughby's favorite song in desperate hope of calming her giant man eating child. But his ravenous appetite had taken over. As he crawled closer her voice wavered and the sweet bird whistles she'd made so lovingly began to break into a sad weeping plea, until she was gone.
Wiloughby spent the rest of the night devouring every inch, every corner and stone that had once been his home, until he found himself totally alone and exposed. No more spotted eared puppy, no more games of catch with father, no more songs of the alphabet and whistling like birds with mother.
As he sat in the vacant patch of dirt, alone, he began to cry. Buckets of salty tears streamed down his soft, pink, gigantic face and ran into his mouth. He wiped away his tears, briefly tasting his own salty flesh. He pondered silently for a moment, then placed his foot into his mouth and began to eat. Then his leg, his arm, his hand until there was nothing left of Wiloughby. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


With SING releasing on home video in the next week, I thought I'd post about the development that the 3rd Act underwent during production and my little part in shaping the version in the final film.

As I've stated many, many times and everyone in the industry knows, these films go through any crazy number of iterations during production.  Sometimes the gender of characters switches, then switches back again, heroes become villains, dogs become cats, human giants become giant geese.

Many people get very attached to their story work on the films and I understand that sense of ownership, but over the years, I've finally managed to develop a healthy detachment from my sense of artistic self worth and whether or not my story boards are used exactly as drawn, 'cause in most cases they won't be, because...well see the above paragraph.  Changes.

SING was an interesting film to work on.  Garth Jennings, the director was from live action and had never worked in animation, but he was infinitely fascinated by the process, which was great.  Like live action though, Garth, who had also written the screenplay, was determined to stick to what was on the page, at least initially.  I get it.  Draw up what he envisioned in his script and then have a good look to see how that played out.

The normal process for animated films, in my experience, is there is a lot of room for experimentation and I think it was something that became much more comfortable for Garth as production went on.

Now, I only worked on the film for about 6 months, but after a screening I'd seen of the in-progress story reels, Garth asked me what I'd thought of the film in it's current state, which was probably around early 2015, almost 20 months before the film would hit theaters.

My only real notes involved Buster Moon, the main character that was voiced by Mathew McConaunghey and his character arc as the story moved into the 3rd Act.  Initially, as you'll see in the boards in this post, Buster held the singing competition in the ruins of his theater and IT WAS STILL A CONTEST.  There would be one winner among the group of main characters that we had been following and invested in, and the rest would be losers.  Also, Buster was still trying to make money at this point to save HIMSELF financially.

For Buster to still be in it for himself at this point, just felt off to me.  I really wanted a kind of redemptive moment for him, since he'd been knowingly misleading the other character throughout the film.  I didn't feel there was much that needed changing, just a slight adjustment to Buster Moon's self awareness and a new turn that led him to become a Self-less character in contrast to his Self-ishness.

So, I emailed my notes to Garth: (-here's the pertinent part..)

Buster has to go to the unknown masses to find new talent, which really IS his talent, thought he doesn't yet realize this.  

As the story unfolds, Buster reverts to his same pattern of trying to force the talented characters we meet into his bad ideas.  Things fail as they do, the talent he finds is unhappy with his direction,  he destroys the theatre in his attempt to put on an over the top show, it's his lowest point, because he keeps focusing on the wrong thing.  

It gives more focus to what Buster is trying to undo, trying to live up to his own expectations, but he needs to understand why his approach is the wrong one. 

It's about Buster realizing that his true talent is finding and giving others an opportunity to shine without all his crazy set dressings, less about him and more about them, the talent. 

It's what makes the American Idol style show that he ends up putting on so perfect. 

The satisfaction of finding and giving talent a platform to succeed and in doing so he making amends with Nana so that she comes to his rescue financially, at the end when all seems lost.

I don't ever try to dismantle the films I work on, there is no point to that.  I  always try to find a way into the heart of the story that maybe hasn't been looked at.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but I always look to be additive to the story, not dismantle it.  

Garth was super grateful and complimentary for the thoughts and insights.  It really is the most satisfying part of the job to me, finding solutions to stories that make them more complete and satisfying.  It's thrilling.  Like suggesting on PUSS IN BOOTS that the giant be the actual GOLDEN GOOSE, or helping to redefine the character of DRAGO, in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2,  the story telling ideas and solutions are at the heart of being a story artist.  

Seeing SING! at the premiere in December I was SO, SO happy and grateful that my ideas were of help on the project and that Garth found use for them in telling his story.  

The 3rd Act of the film is about Buster giving his group of talented unknowns their shot to show the world their talents with no benefit to him.  He just does the right thing, and Nana seeing that, buys him back the broken down theater and at the very end it is rebuilt and all the characters are together and celebrate a new beginning for all of them.  

Oh, AND we got to meet Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service/ Eddie The Eagle) at the premiere, who asked me to do a drawing of his character, Johnny for him!  Someone's an animation nerd...and just the nicest guy.  SO COOL!

Here's the first part of 3 postings of boards for the original ending.