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An Introduction to Craft- The Art of Visual Storytelling

What if you could have access to the art books of all your favourite animated movies at once? Where you could find concept art, backgrounds, storyboards and all the other elements you'd find in your average coffee table 'art of' books?  It sounds like a dream, but that's pretty much the idea behind Craft a new membership site that gives subscribers a look at behind the scenes of some of the most exciting animation studios working today.

Craft doesn't feature the big names like Disney, DreamWorks or Ghibli but instead features work ( what the site describes as "raw material") from some of the top independent studios and creators working today. Some of the projects will be very familiar to our readers- Song Of The Sea, The Secret of Kells and Ernest and Celestine (the TV series)- while other may introduce to you to new productions to keep an eye on.

AFA were very kindly given the opportunity to get to try out the beta version of the site, and we can vouch that while it's still very early days, it's already a very impressive resource. Whether you're an animator looking for inspiration, a student of the art, or merely a passionate fan wanting to get a closer look at how animation comes to be, it's worth checking out.

You can browse the site either by film or type of material. As well as access to exclusive material such as backgrounds, early sketches and character designs, the site also has advantages over a print book in that it can feature video and audio material. The Cartoon Saloon films, for example, feature rough animation and dialogue excerpts.  It's a bit like having an artbook and DVD extras rolled into one.

The material available varies between projects, and more will be added over time. There's currently more than 50,000 files available. The selection of projects is currently -understandably- a little limited but this should improve considerably in future.

The archive contains a mix of features, shorts, TV and even games. There's currently a distinct bias towards 2D animation and art (not that we're complaining) but again this may well change as more material is added. Graphic novels will also be joining the line-up.

Alongside Song Of The Sea, Secret Of Kells and Ernest and Celestine the other current projects are Leonardo, The Reward,  Spirit Seeker and Jazon and The Dead (an indie video game). More content is lined up including more material from Cartoon Saloon productions including their shorts Somewhere Down The Line and Old Fangs.

The site is offering an early bird discount at $6.00 a month open to the first 1000 beta users only. After that it's $9.99 monthly or $7.99 per month if you take out an annual subscription. As we have said, the current selection is a bit on small side, but this is still a very impressive resource with huge potential. It's also another way to help you support your favourite creators. So if you want to see the service continue, it's worth considering getting in on it early to show that the audience is there, and help it reach its potential.

The site also offers a shop that sells prints and digital files from featured projects, whether you're a member of not. They also aim to offer 3D printed models in future.

If you want to get a sneak peak at the site or find out more, head over to Craft now.