So here's the plain story...

In a distant planet, a long, long time ago... well maybe not so long time ago (how about twenty years ago?), and maybe not in a distant planet, but in the middle of nowhere in the Roman suburban Appian road...

I was in high school at that time, and me and my buddy Marco Grassi were sitting at the bus stop after school, and there was no soul in sight. There was a shiny coin in front of us, right in the middle of the road. That coin must had been there forever, there was no way somebody would try to pick it up, it was quite a dangerous road. But while we were watching it (with nothing else to do besides waiting for the bus to come), Marco, in one of his usual bursts of comic creativity, said:
- Wouldn't be funny if we go to fetch the coin, but at the last second a big limo would come, stop, open a door, with a fat hand full of big rings get the coin and then the limo take off and disappear? -.
We had never seen a limo in Rome, except in movies: it was as ludicrous as having the millenium falcon stop at an intersection in Mongolia and having Chewie asking for directions.

I recall I couldn' stop laughing. I'm still laughing if I think about it

20 years later, I found myself looking for an idea for small gag to use it as an animation exercise to improve my skills as a Character Animator, and I recall Marco's gag...
Almost immediately I found myself nagged by story questions (mostly by my fellow animators): who's this guy sitting there? What is he doing in the middle of the desert? Where does the limo come from?
These are the questions that I tried to answer with the short "The Coin", which transformed before my eyes from a simple 10 seconds animation exercise to a 3 minutes and a half HDTV and 35mm film short.

Production officially started in January 2001, and ended in June 2002.
Since then, "The Coin" has been screened at Arcipelago (Rome), Siggraph 2002 (San Antonio), artFutura (Barcelona), and more is on the way
(be sure to check the SCREENINGS page)

We used motion capture at the beginning as a previz tool, and later I used the mocap data to drive the main character face and body.
"Birdy" was all keyframe animated instead.
The visual style of the short is inspired largely by the french comic books artists also known as "Les Humanoides Associes", and in particularly Moebius and Caza.
The choice for the "cartoon look" was choosed at the beginning to focus on character performance, but it later proved to be not the case... Shading has been more challenging and also rewarding that we expected. Also, the first HDTV screening proved that this format rules, and is outstanding for cartoon look.

It's hard to tell all the adventures I've been trough while trying to get this short done...
September 11 deeply affected this project too: I suspended production for two months after 9/11, and I killed a gag about an airplane in the short and totally rewrote the end... I just couldn't find anything funny about airplanes at that time.
At some point, for reasons too long to explain here, I found the production of the Coin scattered all over the globe: I was stuck in Italy for months, while some animators were still working on the short in LA, and some others in Munich (and someone even in Honolulu: you know who you are!). Thanks to the Internet, I was able to manage to keep producing the short in spite of all the distance and difficulties, and finish it in time for Siggraph 2002

I would like to thank all the dedicated artists who worked on this project: the CREDITS list wont be enough to express my love and gratitude for all of you.


Giancarlo Lari