3: ‘Pig Tales’, India

Poverty is no picnic’: drawings, photos, sketches and video animated using 2D animation, cut-out puppet Stop Motion and rotoscoping techniques in Rough Animator, Procreate and/or TVPaint composited as a narrative in Adobe After Effects/Creative Effects and Premiere. Draft Animatic September 2021.

Pig Tales Overview

‘Poverty is no picnic’ : concept

The animation narrative contrasts a rather romantic ideal of tribal Santhal life, with the realities of looking after livestock and poverty. 

Santhal women work in the fields, forest and with livestock. Lives of ‘tribals’ are very much romanticised by upper caste Bengali culture – partly because Santhal communities are seen as a much freer/separate place for Bengali men to drink and mix/sleep with women. Tribal communities in Bengal and neighbouring Bihar are also very politicised by left wing movements on wages and communal rights to the forest. But for the women themselves, issues of poverty, lack of access to education and income and sexual exploitation are key issues. So the stories they told about goats and pigs fighting are often for them life and death issues affecting food security and independence. 

My translations aim to contrast this romanticism (evident also in my own photos) with the reality of loans for ‘exotic’ foreign goats and pigs that cost a lot to house, buy and feed, that get diseases, fight and die because of lack of veterinary services.
The drawings, photos and video are from a participatory business planning workshop for a US-based INGO giving grants for livestock development to very poor women in disadvantaged communities. The local NGO had had difficulties communicating with the women because staff do not speak Santhali, except for some volunteers from the community. The power relations were very evident from the body language and interactions during the workshop. 

The nature of the participatory empowerment process whereby drawings are placed on a collective diagram for discussion and analysis meant that the names of individual artists is unknown. 

The narrative is bound together by the beautiful Santhali song that one of the participants sung for us just before we left. Unfortunately leaving was rushed and there was no way  of finding out the meaning of the song, who wrote it (I think it was traditional) or the name of the singer.

Pig Tales: Experimental Vignettes

‘Romantic visions’
Goat Idyl/Goats with Attitude. Cartoon-style narratives animating women’s coloured line drawings with occasional goat/rural sound effects to add. Lighthearted/ colourful inspired by Gottfried Mentor’s allegorical sheep and goat CGI animation.
(Jan 2021 draft iPad Rough Animator.)
Pig Mother.
Santhal women obviously like the nurturing ‘maternal’ role of caring for livestock – contrast with men’s commercial role in on-line training. Romantic Stop Motion puppet cut-out from watercolour sketch from photos. Inspired by Nuri Yorstein. (Jan 2021 draft iPad Procreate. )
Pig Fight
Pencil effect

Clash of Titans
Clashing shape animation makes the rotoscope more ‘real’ and dramatic.
Inspired by Peter Millard colours.
(Jan 2021 draft TVPaint animated line and shape rotoscope with After Effects Creative Effects added.

Pig Lament
Pig Lament 1 charcoal.

Pig Lament 2: Watercolour Grunge. Inspired by Peter Millard colours.
(Jan 2021 draft TVPaint animated line and shape rotoscope with After Effects Creative Effects added.

Creative Translation Overview Padlet

Made with Padlet

These drawings were the most expressive in terms of line styles. I started with these as my first animations as they were very simple and relatively easy to animate on iPad. Selected also because of photos and video for rotoscoping and evocative sound track.


  • Different possibilities of linear and/or non-linear narrative sequence eg starting with the women’s fight – explanation of woman on woman violence or picture of Tupa Tupa all alone, rejected by his family.
  • Earlier animation experiments simply animating the pig and goat line drawings on my iPad were another possibility, if I can make the animations longer and inject some tragic humour like ‘Oh Sheep’ by Gottfried Mentor.

Illusion of Life: realism/magic balanceThis animation combines different styles to contrast the message. But how can I increase the contrast between:

  • the dreamy romanticism (eg adding more of the mistiness of Norstein’s puppet animation, even adding vaseline diffuse overlay?) 
  • the violence of the pig fight? (eg combining Jonathon Hodgson’s varied rotoscoping in ‘Dogs’ with jagged line work and the camera work of the boar fight scenes in Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke?
  • the documentary envelope – should this have a colour overlay. I understand the Bengali discussion of plans for the shop, but how to make the meaning of the drawings visually clear to a non-Bengali speaker?

Future steps

This animation is still a draft, rotoscoping from the video in TVPaint is still rough, as are manipulating photographs in Procreate on my iPad and  final compositing in Adobe Premiere. 

I am aiming on the one hand to showcase the raw artistic power of some of the drawings by women who never held a pen before, as well as the contrast between romantic views of outsiders and women’s dreams for use of the grants – that they have costed – and the realities of vulnerability and food insecurity, even with grants, in an area with very few services and that has been neglected by government.

Technical quality:

Painterly section: Procreate was a good initial RSI-friendly software to start to develop the ideas, making cutting out the characters and draft backgrounds easy. For this short and simple clip, Procreate is probably a good option for further development with smooth in-betweens and cleaning up the artwork. But the animation is aiming to be romantically dreamy and does not need to be in sync with the audio.
Rotoscoping: The rotoscoping of the pig fight could be more dramatic using Disney techniques of squash and stretch, follow through etc. But is aiming to be fiercely poignant rather than cartoon -like. I could use camera moves to change the viewpoint, but this needs redrawing in TVPaint because it is pixel-based. Rotoscoping of the video of the singer needs to be redone to be in sync, but I like the way some elements are missed and the rotoscope fragments, adding to the romantic illusion overlay.

Fidelity to community voices and context? The narrative is constructed from my workshop notes, and shortens issues from my original workshop video. 
Visual magic and creativity?
The painterly effects and pig fight are introduced for dramatic effect for a global audience, and well received by Western viewers if the technical issues are resolved. These would aim to be much more dramatic, drawing inspiration from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

In taking it further in response to audience feedback, I would consider a bigger range of narrative options and ways of intensifying dramatic impact. Continuing using puppet animation in Procreate and/or TVPaint, refining the rotoscoping with final compositing in Adobe Premiere. Possibly using creative effects in After Effects.

Evolution of Animation Experiments

The account below gives my notes and more details of my initial animation skills development till March 2021)

Jamghoria Sevabrata: Community Drawings

For these experimental animations I decided to focus on the distinctive use of line by tribal Santhal women in West Bengal who had never held a pen before. Although the community drawings from ANANDI were potentially more interesting in terms of the views of empowerment, they would take much longer than the time frame of this module to animate well – something planned for future. West Bengal, and Santhali culture, was part of the research for my PhD and so I felt more comfortable trying to ‘translate’. I also had some photos, video and music I could use.

Unlike caste Hindu or Muslim women, they do not have such a strong tradition of handicrafts that give them an immediate facility for drawing. Like older women in ANANDI, they tended to use very abstracted stick figures but add symbolic elements and gestures. Some of the drawings were the most expressive drawings I have seen, in many ways more artistically interesting than the more figurative drawings of people with more education or the line drawings I have from Africa.

In addition to the drawings I also had photographs and some video footage (badly shot while I was facilitation or in a hurry in bad lighting).

Singer and Santhali song
woman feeding pigs.


Pig Tales_Sketchlog page
Pig Tales_Sketchlog page

Romantic Visions 1: Goat Idyll

My first translations were very early animation experiments with line on my iPad, for a very simple playful effect, inspired by sheep 3D animations by Mathias Klein from FilmBilder.

Inspiration: Gottfried Mentor, comic social parody

Oh Sheep: FilmBilder Directed by Gottfried Mentor with animation by Matthias Klein


A tragi-comic political parody of two shepherds who do everything they can to distinguish and keep their two flocks of sheep apart. Every time the sheep manage to meet and mingle. When finally the shepherds think they have found the solution through branding, the sheep see themselves as different and fight to the death.

An amusing tale about youth rebelling and teaching old goats how to survive in a new world.
The lamb’s parents are shocked, because their little lamb doesn’t sound like the other sheep: It’s making „moo” instead of „baa”.

I used these line drawings to do a series of animations in Rough animator on my iPad, exploring effects of frame rate, duplicating and mirroring layers and creating quick story-lines.

Goat idyll 5: Goats with attitude. Rough animator. I started to make a story of flirting goats. Colouring the background. Duplicating the layers again but flipping vertically and altering opacity to create reflections. I like the general feel and pastel-type colours. I could develop this much further into a series of comic encounters – drawing more inspiration from the different Mathias animations.

Rural Idyll 1: Goat goes for a walk. 6FPS gives strobing. But for this animation I like the awkward, tentative child-like effect.
Goat idyll 3. Two goats passing. Rough animator doodle. Duplicate and flip layer than offset movement to create interaction between two goats. 24FPS focuses on the passing.

Goat idyll 2. When two goats meet. Rough animator doodle. Duplicate and flip layer than offset movement to create interaction between two goats. 12FPS. Slower frame focuses on the meeting.
Goat idyll 4: If goats could fly. Rough animator: Quick animated doodle replicating the style of the community line drawing and using cheap sketchbook background. Duplicates and mirrors the same goat, then adjusts the movement of one goat to make it jump over the other one. 12FPS.

Romantic Visions 2: Pig Mother

This second set of experimental animations aims to project a dreamy, romantic vision of happy caring women ‘mothering pigs’. Very unlike the harsh, cold commercial realities of sterile concrete pig pens and sending pigs to slaughter.

I take a painterly approach, using texture, colour and shape as well as line.

Inspired by a mix of Japanese hand-painted watercolour animation, monochrome puppet stop motion of Nuri Yorstein, animated watercolour (based on rotoscope?) of Ryan Larkin and integration of the very varied whimsical 2D, rotoscoped and cut-out styles of Gasparovic’s Satiemania.

clearly shows the mix of line styles for different moods. Colouring strategies from flat for characters to watercolour. And very sketchy fluid animation for dramatic flight and high emotion.
Ryan Larkin ‘Walking’ 1968. Uses a variety of techniques–line drawing, colour wash, etc.–to catch and reproduce the motion of people afoot.
‘Tale of Tales’ by Yuri Norstein uses Stop Motion puppet animation, drawn by his wife and very smoothly animated on a multiplane frame to produce a really evocative fairy-tale look about cycles of life.
Satiemania - Wikipedia
“Satiemania’ by Zdenkó Gasparovich 1978. The subject matter is somewhat inappropriate. But I am very inspired by the mix of a wide diversity of line and colour styles and mix of handrawn, rotoscoped and cutout images for different emotions and effects.
iPad photo to Procreate to Rough Animator

I start by manipulating one of photographs on my iPad.

I started with full colour overlay in Procreate, replicating the colours from the photograph. Then I took this into Rough Animator for a line, and then coloured crayon version. Much finer

Pig Mother iPad 1: Photo overlay in Procreate, replicating the colours from the photograph.
Pig Mother iPad 3: Crayon fill of iPad 2 in Rough Animator. This Japanese-style pastel crayon work has a lot of potential for the dreamy effect I am aiming for. If redone with better drawing and animation in TVPaint.
Pig Mother iPad 2: Line version from iPad 1 imported and drawn over in Rough Animator.
iPad video to sketch to Procreate

I then used the video to get more realistic keyframes that I printed out as jpgs.

From these I made a series of sketches. Taking these into Procreate I cut out and recoloured the drawings, overlaying and compositing them into a picture.

I then manipulated these to make a short animation. The second version has more perspective and less saturation in the background to give more depth. This is still too jerky and needs more in-betweening.

But I think the style is quite effective and many possibilities for further development as a longer and somewhat smoother animation – depending on whether I am trying to copy Stop Motion or handdrawn watercolour. Puppet animation would be more professional using Photoshop to create the puppets, then using puppet animation in After Effects.

Pig Mother watercolour 1: Procreate using photos of the watercolour drawings. I quite like the dreamy effect of the background close-up and it makes the figure stand out. It would be interesting to split this into 5 camera layers with front pig, woman, back pig, front trees and back trees.
Pig Mother watercolour 2: Procreate. Gives more perspective and less saturation in the background for more depth – attempting rather unsuccessfully to respond to feedback from Howard Wimshurst. Has more ‘realism’ but less dreamy. Somehow falls between the two – possibly could be improved by longer smoother animation, but probably needs completely re-doing either by hand or digitally.
Pig Mother watercolour 3: A first attempt to get a more uniform blending of the woman and background as if in a dream. After Effects with Creative Effects Filter Vector Blur 3. The blurriness has potential, but needs quite a lot of prior edge and tonal work to make images clearer eg Procreate or TVPaint.
Pig Mother watercolour 4. Monochrome in the style of Nuri Yorstein, could potentially create a more romantic and distanced effect. Pig Mother1 adjusted using curves and pentatone filters in After Effects to blend the woman, pigs and background more as a cohesive image.. I think this approach has a lot of potential to take further. But the original file from iPad needs to be cleaned up with better tonal balance between the woman’s face and the white pig. It would also be more interesting as a multiplane camera animation.

Realities: Pig Fight

Inspiration: aggressive ‘boil’

This third animation ‘Pig Lament’ has a lot of creative potential – the furious purple pen drawing of pigs was what first attracted me to drawings from this workshop as a source for translation.

I wanted to animate the pig fight drawing, rotoscoping a real pig fight video clip, using aggressive line like the Santhal drawing. Drawing also some ideas about violence and final death scene from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. Adding either pig fight sounds and/or the haunting song.

This could either be a simple ‘boiling line drawing’ like Jonathon Hodgson’s ‘Dogs, or a bold colour animation like those of Peter Millard. Or I could use energetic coloured strokes like ‘Layman, Shamam, Daydreaming’. This last would probably be best done in natural media painting onto acetate over printouts of the rotoscope.

In order to get a feel of the fight and possible keyframes, I selected video keyframes edited in Premiere. Then did some quick pencil gesture drawings from printouts. These were very useful, but it would be better next time to do these while watching the video, not just from photos.

‘Dogs’ from Jonathon Hodgson: partly rotoscoped animation in which all elements are constantly in motion but at different paces of boil to show different moods – energy, waiting and anticipation. Sometimes the colour shapes pulsate and shift more than the lines, sometimes figures, shapes and lines all move energetically and dissolve into chaos.
Princess Mononoke is a much more violent and dynamic animation, with very dramatic scenes of a wild boar (see right). The dead skeleton is something I could try to add as a ghost image at then end. But this might be too cliche.

Rotoscope ‘Kadiri Pig Fight’ video and Creative Effects

Rotoscoping over an edited version of the Kadiri pig fight video in TVPaint. These are not so successful and not as dynamic as I would like them to be.

The line drawing would be better as a gesture drawing from live video. The coloured version would be more interesting painting into that digitally or on acetate using printouts from the line animation as underguide.

Pig fight 1: Line rotoscope of edited version of pig fight video. TVPaint. This would be more dynamic as a gesture drawing from live video.
Pig fight 2: Coloured version of line rotoscope. TVPaint. This would be more dramatic painting into the gesture line digitally or on acetate using printouts from the line animation as underguide.
Pigfight Rotoscope 4 Pencil
Pigfight Rotoscope 5 Vector Blur 4
Pigfight Rotoscope 5 Rough Sketch
Pigfight Rotoscope 8 Vector Blur 5
Pigfight Rotoscope 6 Charcoal
Pig Fight Rotoscope 9 watercolour grunge 1
Pig Fight Rotoscope 10 watercolour grunge 2 original colour
Pig Fight Rotoscope 11 textiles original colour

Developing Narrative

Narrative formats

Narrative Format 1, song thread: Pig Lament

The song in the video I find really haunting. Though I have no idea what it means – maybe an interesting point about translation.

But I think that adding a rotoscope of the singer for at least part of any narrative would add a degree of realism. I like the way the line drawing in the version in the right dissolves because I accidentally omitted some lines towards the end. I am planning to experiment a lot more with different rotoscope effects like the variations in Jonathon Hodgson’s animation.

Singer: original video footage. Shot in a hurry at the end of my visit and batteries running low in poor light.
Singer rotoscope 1 charcoal. Stylising the original video in After Effects Creative Effects charcoal 1 filter. To work well there needs to be a bit more contrast and sharpness in the original video without losing the dreamy stylised effect.

I like the way the line drawing in the version in the right dissolves because I accidentally omitted some lines towards the end. I am planning to experiment a lot more with different rotoscope effects like the variations in Jonathon Hodgson’s animation.
Singer rotoscope 2 Watercolour grunge. Stylising the original video in After Effects Creative Effects watercolour grunge filter. To work well this needs the original video to have higher contrast and sharpness.

Animatic 1: Pig Lament

First attempt to composite as a narrative with sound. I need to redo the rotoscopes and rethink this – colours, line, style and technique. I was aiming for something much more expressive and emotive.

Adding Creative Effects goes some way towards this. I particularly like the charcoal version and the watercolour grunge version. But I need to experiment more with settings. And possibly layer with different elements eg singer and pigs in different but complementary styles to signify different roles in the video.

I could also experiment more with framing, again separating different layers.

Pig Lament 1Charcoal

Pig Lament 2 Vector
Pig Lament 3 Watercolour Grunge natural colours
Pig Lament 4: Textile effect. Links the idea of Indian women’s handicrafts as romanticisation and beautification by outsiders.
Pig Lament 5: Watercolour Grunge coloured. I like the angry flaming red colour effect on the pigs. But need to work out how to control the effect more. Inspired by Peter Millard colours. (Jan 2021 draft TVPaint animated line and shape rotoscope with After Effects Creative Effects added.

Format 2: Documentary envelope, Pig Tales

Could ‘envelope’ the animation between short ‘reality context’ introduction and ending using some video footage of women drawing and the workshop process, with examples of drawings.

This first version attempts to put the different styles together. But this does not flow. This was the version sent to my tutor i Assignment 5.
This first revised version just uses the goat clips with the song, As the most faithful rendering of some of the community line drawings. This could be further developed as a humorous narrative.
This final version focuses just on the pigs. Although it brings in more ‘creative elements’ and documentary from other sources, it reflects the community narrative and angry feel of the pig drawing better.