Bad Tuna was my senior film completed upon graduating from the University of Southern California. The final film, as well as a taste of the process, can be seen below.

Initial Designs

From the start, I knew I wanted to animate a chase scene, and I wanted it to take place in a vaguely 1920's-ish world. I researched art nouveau and art deco designs, architecture, and German expressionist films as a starting place. Here are some sketches and a selection of reference images I scrounged from online and books.


Bad Tuna's story changed up a lot throughout production. Originally it was going to be about a young girl who happens upon a sinister tuna cult, but I simplified things to make the animation feasible under my time and budget constraints. Here's some thumbnails as I planned out my shots.

An early sequence (eventually cut from the film): Ethel sneaks up on a tuna cult meeting and witnesses a horrifying, eldritch ritual. Her elder brother (he was also cut) scolds her for running off.

The final storyboards can be seen here.

I put together an animatic as the film started to take shape. The animatic changed constantly throughout production, but here's one version of it. The password is badtuna.

Designing Ethel

My main character, a young girl named Ethel, had to stand out against the detailed backgrounds but still fit into her world.

Designing Tuna People

The inhabitants of Mumu Island are strange, squishy fish people. I decided to give them a Lovecraftian vibe and had them wear capes.

Background Design

Designing "Mumu Island" was lots of fun-- It's an Italian coastal city, designed by a city planner who ignored the laws of physics.