Trailer Reveal for JACK + Behind the Scenes of Animation by Liesl Shurtliff

Hey Nerdy friends! Liesl Shurtliff here, author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. I can hardly believe my next book, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk, releases in SIX WEEKS! (April 14th) But today, right now, right here on Nerdy Book Club, we get to see Jack’s BOOK TRAILER!



*Clapping* I love it!

But wait! Don’t leave just yet. I’d like to introduce you to the creator of JACK’s trailer, Kendall Nelson, fabulous artist and animator. I tricked him into writing this blog post for me.


So Kendall, how did you get started with art, and more specifically, what drew you to animation?

When I was little I loved watching my dad draw for me. I guess I begged him to draw one too many times because he told me if I wanted a picture I could draw it myself. I started drawing that day and drawing became my favorite pastime.

We got the Disney channel (way back when it wasn’t a TV standard!) and I fell in love with old Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons. I loved watching Disney movies on VHS tapes, and back then they would often show a little bit of how they made the movies. I always wanted to be the guy who drew the characters and made them move!

I kept drawing as much as I could and after high school I started learning how to animate at Brigham Young University and later went on to school at the California Institute of the Arts.


I remember watching VHS tapes, too. Man, we’re old. When starting on a project such as this book trailer, what’s the first thing you do?

It’s very important in animation to do as much planning before you start working, because of how long it takes to animate. With the trailer for “Jack” I needed to decide what style of animation would best fit with the subject. Would the characters look cartoony or more realistic? I chose a cartoony approach because of how fun and exciting the book is. With that in mind I could start sketching out the plan for the animation. We call those sketches “storyboards” and they end up looking a lot like a comic strip but much longer. After all that planning you can finally get to the fun part: animating!

Here's what my screen looks like when I'm animating.

Here’s what my screen looks like when I’m animating.


That looks like serious business mixed with a lot of fun. 

When a writer (such as myself) hands you their script or vision for something to be animated, I imagine some of those ideas don’t necessarily translate well for animation. How do you address those issues? 

You’re right, sometimes an idea that looks great on paper doesn’t quite work as an animation.  Most of the time an idea doesn’t have to be completely thrown out, though. It just might need to be reconfigured in a more animation friendly way. With the Rump trailer, we had originally envisioned a more traditional trailer, where we visit different scenes from the book. After talking about it we decided to take the essence of each scene but show it on a blank page of a book. It was more simple and helped unify the trailer… and it made it more fun!

Some fun drawings don't end up in the final product.

Some fun drawings don’t end up in the final product.


And might I add, the solutions you come up with are better than what I originally imagined anyway, so win-win. 

Any advice for hopeful artists/animators? 

Unlike with some jobs, it’s easy for your audience to tell if you’re enjoying yourself while you’re making your art. So try to find what kind of art you like doing, and work really hard to make that your career. As long as you’re having fun it will shine through your art.  That’s what I’ve tried to do and now I get to animate for a living!


It’s certainly easy to see you had fun while animating JACK. Thank you for bringing him to life here!  

Kendall Nelson grew up in Bountiful, Utah. He and his lovely wife Jacqueline now live in Valencia, California with their two awesome sons.  Kendall studies animation at the California Institute of the Arts and finds time to make animated videos for among other clients. His goal is to animate at Walt Disney Animation Studios.  Check out more of his work at


Jack_front cover[1]Liesl Shurtliff is the author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin and Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk. She likes tacos, Cadbury Mini-Eggs, and fuzzy socks. She lives in Chicago with her family. You can visit her at or on Twitter @lieslshurtliff.