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BlizzCon 2013: Making the Burdens of Shaohao artists panel

Yesterday evening toward the end of the day at BlizzCon, this quiet panel took an in-depth look at the creation of "The Burdens of Shaohao," a six-part animation that tells the tale of Emperor Shaohao and how the mists were formed around Pandaria. The panel featured Lead Story Developer Micky Neilson, Art Director Doug Gregory, artist Laurel Austin, and cinematics editor Lucas Merino, but didn't begin until 6 o'clock, so attendance was fairly sparse. This is a shame, because the story behind the animation's creation is fascinating.

If you couldn't attend the panel, you can check out this in-depth interview our own Anne Stickney conducted back in August with Micky Neilson and Doug Gregory about the animation. The panel was fairly similar, but the addition of Laurel Austin and Lucas Merino added some extra depth and perspective that's always interesting to hear.


In particular, they discussed the way the art had to be composed in order to facilitate the simple animations for the story. Each moving part of the animation was drawn on a different layer in the artistic software, so that Lucas -- the animator -- could move it around and put it together. Laurel discussed the way different parts of the artwork reflect visual symbolism of the story's events: when Shaohao climbs the mountain to ask the Jade Serpent what he should do about The Sundering, the serpent floats over him in the shape of a question mark. Each time Shaohao faces a manifestation of the sha, it comes from himself in some way, so that the sha is emphasized to be to be a reflection of himself.

Of all the parts in the animation, "Anger" was the most difficult, because of the battle scene. Figuring out how to display that sense of action within the purposefully simple animation style was challenging for the art and story. The music ended up being a crucial part of tying that section of the story together, and for conveying the sense of action and realization, so it was interesting to examine the way different aspects of the composition could help pull the story along when the creators were limited in other respects.

For those of us who enjoyed Blizzard's first foray into this type of animated storytelling, the panelists unfortunately weren't able to confirm whether or not there will be more like this on the way, but it is something they're looking into. The response to "The Burdens of Shaohao" has been very encouraging, and they hope to have the opportunity to produce more works like this in the future.

Filed under: Lore, BlizzCon

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