Animation Director of Netflix’s Hit “BoJack Horseman” Fuses Art and Storytelling to Create Poignant Characters

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Anne Walker Farrell is an animation director for Netflix’s award-winning series, “BoJack Horseman,” which premieres its fourth season September 8th. She combines art and storytelling to create poignant characters—most notably, a sad, sweater‑wearing horse.

Photograph by Kyle Monk

The former Laguna College of Art and Design student oversees the show’s animation process. The Netflix hit features an anthropomorphic horse (voiced by Will Arnett) and his aimless life as a washed-up ’90s sitcom star living in Hollywoo (the d was stolen). From script storyboarding to animation revisions, Farrell and her team of animators bring the show’s nuanced characters to life.

Farrell was a third-year animation student at LCAD when she landed a job for a show that would appear on Cartoon Network. With the promise of two weeks of work for “Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi,” she gave notice at school, packed her car and cat, and moved to Los Angeles. She had no idea if the show would last or if she was going to have to live in her car at some point. But her gamble paid off.

In 2014, Farrell was brought on as a lead animator for the first season of “BoJack Horseman.” “I love the freedom that comes with working on an adult animated series on Netflix. There are more opportunities to work with different camera angles and emotional beats. Netflix trusts its artists to put out a good product. I don’t get a sense that there’s a lot of hand‑holding, and it’s totally liberating.”

“The show is based on the cartoons of our production designer, Lisa Hanawalt. It is very stylized and playful with lots of fun textures and colors. Oftentimes, we’re faced with the challenge of making sure the characters move and have weight while maintaining the flat, surrealist design.”

Through the facial expressions and mannerisms of the characters, Farrell aims to show their inner monologues. “One of the things the writing of the show does really well is showing that we all put on this social armor and there’s always vulnerability under the surface that we’re hiding, overcoming, or trying to fight against. BoJack tries to be this cool, indifferent guy, but inside, he’s very nervous.”

After reading the script for season three, Farrell knew she wanted to storyboard the final scene personally. “I can sometimes picture scenes in my head while I’m reading the script, and I saw this one crystal clear. As BoJack is leaving Hollywoo, he sees these wild horses running on the side of the highway. It’s a silent sequence, and I wanted to do something sweeping, grand, and beautiful, with lots of aerial shots. I was interested in the parallel between BoJack and the human‑like animals of Hollywoo and these animals who have gone rogue.”


Watch Farrell’s original storyboard versus the final cut below:

 

 

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