Course Syllabus


Digital Arts / School of Art
Bowling Green State University

COURSE 3211: Story and Concept Development
3 Credit Hours
244 Wolfe Center
Tues/Thurs 2:30pm - 4:50pm

FINAL EXAM Monday May 1, 3:30-5:30


Bonnie Mitchell
Room 109 Fine Arts Center
Office Hours: Tues 9am-11am, Wed 12pm-1pm


Students will learn the essential animation pre-production concepts and techniques. Based on procedures used in both commercial and independent artistic animation studios, this course will provide information and experience in creating: animation concepts, narrative stories, non-narrative animation, scriptwriting, layout and blocking, concept art (environment, props, color charts), character design, as well as cinematic language and storyboarding.


  • Students will learn brainstorming techniques as well as divergent, lateral and experimental techniques to come up with animation ideas that are meaningful and emotive. They will explore developing ideas for different types of animation: poetic, narrative, metaphoric, and abstract.
  • Students will create a number of different scripts in an effort to learn proper writing for animation techniques
  • Students will learn how the art and design principles affect meaning through a series of short animation and design exercises
  • Students will create blocking diagrams, and concept art depicting various types of animation styles
  • Students will do a series of short character design exercises and will ultimately end up creating character model sheets.
  • Students will create a number of storyboards showcasing what they have learned about story, cinematics and layout.


Students will be expected to demonstrate a level of expertise, through in-class work and assignments, in the following areas:

  • ideation and concept development
  • story structure, both literary and experimental through scriptwriting
  • the application of art and design principles to create meaning and emotion
  • blocking and layout based on theatrical models
  • concept art development through the application of drawing and painting techniques
  • use of color to convey meaning
  • creative character design
  • cinematic language including camera moves, transitions and continutity editing
  • storyboarding which ties together cinematics, story and continuity editing with drawing skills


This class employs active learning strategies thus involves a number of individual and small group research projects and presentations, hands on exercises where they design, draw or paint concept designs, characters or storyboards, and writing assignments to create scripts. There will be lectures which focus on concepts, contemporary practice, and other artists work. There will also be critiques where students are given feedback on their work from the class as well as the teacher.


  • Firewire External Drive (formatted for both Mac and PC), or Flash Drive.
  • Sketchbook, drawing supplies and paper
  • 2 packs Note (Index) cards - 3" x 5" plain (not lined)
  • 6-8 report covers capable of having a printed cover (avoid the solid colored covers)
  • Sheet protectors (optional)


  • Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts Second Edition by Nancy Beiman


*** We will have reading assignments from Ideas for the Animated Short:  BUY it if you can.  
- Ideas for the Animated Short by Karen Sullivan

To access an online version from home or school:

  1. Go to the BGSU Library site and in the menu on the left, click Safari Books Online
  2. Login with your BGSU account
  3. In the search bar in the top right type: Ideas for the Animated Short 
  4. Click the picture of the book


  • Timing for Animation by Harold Whitaker and John Halas
  • Animation: From Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane
  • How to Write for Animation by Jeffrey Scott
  • Basics Animation: Scriptwriting (Basics Animation) by Paul Wells
  • Storytelling through Animation (Graphics) by Mike Wellins
  • Animation Writing and Development, : From Script Development to Pitch by Jean Ann Wright
  • Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell


Attendance is mandatory. We will be covering a variety of materials throughout the semester. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility meet with a classmate or make an appointment with me to get the information.

  • 1 unexcused absence = no penalty
  • 2 unexcused absences = attendance grade lowered by half a grade letter
  • 3 unexcused absences = attendance grade lowered by a full grade letter
  • 4 unexcused absences = fail the course; dropping the course strongly recommended

Being 15 minutes or more late to class three times will count as one unexcused absence.

Leaving class early (15 minutes or more) three times will count as an absense.


Each student is expected to complete all projects, exercises, in-class exercises, readings, research projects, and the final project. Details of the various assignments will be discussed in class.

By the end of the course, all projects should become part of the art portfolio.

During class time, students are expected to engage in meaningful classroom participation.

No Facebook, game playing, texting or other non-class-related activities are allowed during class time.


The outcomes of the class will be assessed as follows:

  • ideation and concept development through active participation in brainstorming activities where the student shares insightful comments and also through transcending the literal and using creative and innovative juxtapositioning and recontextualization.

  • story structure, both literary and experimental through following formal scriptwriting projects as well as more informal writing assignments where students demonstrate knowledge of and can identify exposition, conflict, rising action, and resolution as well as plot, story beats and genre.

  • the application of art and design principles in all design work including character, concept art and layout as well as color charts. Students must be able to talk about why they used specific elements and principles during critique.

  • blocking and layout should effectively communicate the idea

  • concept art development should be skillfully rendered, emotive and conceptually strong as well as avoid clichés

  • color should be used effectively and students need to be able to discuss why they made specific choices

  • character design relies on good drawing skills as well as creative ideas that deviate from existing styles and characters. Students need to use exaggeration, shading and unique design and demonstrate they understand and can employ proper anatomical structure to their work.

  • cinematic language will be demonstrated through the script and storyboard development. Students should avoid dead center, never brake the 180 rules, maintain continuity in action and not repeatedly cut from and to the same character in inappropriate ways.

  • storyboarding skills will be evaluated on the creative idea, the drawing skills, the use of proper cinematics and the creative nature of the overall animation visualization.


Turning in Projects

Projects are due in the Homework folder prior to the beginning of class.

Revised projects are due exactly one week from the critique date. I do not accept late revised projects and you will receive a zero on the revised project if it is NOT turned in on time.


If you miss a regular critique, the project for that critique will be lowered by one letter grade.

During critiques, I expect each student's full attention and respect and monitors will be TURNED OFF. Critiques begin promptly at the beginning of the class.

Final Critique

Attendance at the Final critique is mandatory. Missing the final critique will result in an F for the Final Project. NO late Final Projects will be accepted!

Grades / Evaluation

A (100-90)
Excellent - Above and beyond, artistically, conceptually AND technically

B (89-80)
Very Good - Beyond requirements, artistically, conceptually OR technically

C (79-70)
Average - Basically met the basic requirements - not great, not bad

D (69-60)
Did not meet requirements

F (59-0)
Project not turned in or completely insufficient


  • No food or drink in the lab.
  • Remember to turn off (or silence) your cellphone before class. No talk or texting during class.
  • No sleeping during class.
  • Any problems with hardware or software must be reported to a digital arts professor, preferably by email. Report should include Barcode number of the workstation and the exact details of the problem.


Projects created in any Digital Arts course may be used by the ART department for the purpose of promoting the student, the department and/or the university in general. These materials may also be used by the ART department for instructional purposes in future courses. Please inform the instructor if you do not want your projects used. 


Any student who wishes to discuss accommodations on the basis of a disability, please come talk to me after class or during office hours. The goal of the Disability Services for Students Office is to help provide equal access and reasonable accommodations to BGSU students with disabilities. Students wishing to discuss their eligibility for such accommodations are encouraged to contact their office at 372-8495 (413 South Hall).

Course Summary:

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