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Sad Clown Paradox

If laughter is the best medicine, why do so many comedians experience mental illness? In this 2D animation, we explore the relationship between humor and mental illness as well as its possible link to cyclothymic temperament. 


General public


Prof. Nicholas Woolridge


Roles and Responsibilities

Character Design 


2D Assets Production




Abeeshan Selvabaskaran

Jenn Shao

Amy Zhang


2D animation 


June 2022


Adobe Illustrator

Adobe After Effects

Adobe Audition



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Process work 

Research & Script 

As we were looking for a mental health topic, we came across cyclothymic temperament or cyclothymia. This is a mental and behavioural disorder characterized by periods of depression and periods of elevated mood. A short script was then developed based on our research of cyclothymia, including scientific studies, pop culture references, social context and the famous Pagliacci joke. 

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Character Design 
& 2D Assets Production

Our main character - Pagliacci - was born after hours of brainstorming! Inspired by the Italian opera with the same name, Pagliacci lives with cyclothymia and uses humor to cope with difficult situations in life.

By following Pagliacci in the story, the audience has an opportunity to learn about different aspects of cyclothymia and see the world from his perspective. 


2D assets were created in Adobe Illustrator. 


Storyboards & Animatic

The story opens with a stage scene between Paggliaci and a doctor to introduce the topic of the sad clown paradox. The science behind cyclothymia is illustrated differently from the rest of the story using simple graphical elements (right), while Paglacci's experiences with cyclothymic, interactions with other characters are animated in more detail (left)

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Color Design 

Inspired by our mood board, we selected a desaturated color palette to match the themes of our story. As part of the first colour test, we experimented with using different colored backgrounds (orange and blue) to distinguish different topics in the animation.

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For the final version, we decided to go with the grayscale old film look for the science section (below), while keeping the beginning and the end of the animation coloured to achieve visual consistency.

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Animation & Rigging 

This animation was created in After Effects. Character rigs were created using Joystick & Sliders and Rubberhose. The sound design was completed in Adobe Audition. 

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Meet Our Clown Family! 🤡 ❤️

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