“What Had Happened Was” is an animated mini-series created by Pigeons & Planes, a subdivision of Complex Media that focuses on underground music. Different artists share humorous anecdotes onscreen, which are enhanced with distinctly styled motion graphics.


Art Director


The series required graphics that would compliment artists’ stories, elevate humor, and make each moment visually compelling enough to be printed and framed. Rather than the smooth, clean look of commercialized animation, the desired aesthetic was raw with an underground feel to match the Pigeons & Planes brand.


The design process began in the studio during the artist’s recording session. As they told their stories, I noted moments that had the potential to be enhanced with animation, sometimes having them re-tell certain moments to obtain the gestures needed for a smooth edit. I then produced character and scene lists, image references for character designs, and treatments. Following this, I created storyboards and animatics.

I worked with the creative directors and graphics team to produce each story based on these animatics and design references. Since we had the opportunity to create all of the episodes prior to airing the series, multiple review sessions were held to ensure all videos were cohesive in regards to timing and tone. We rolled with a heavily magenta color treatment to complement the Pigeons & Planes brand. We also made sure all videos maintained a street art and nostalgic feel – grungy, colors bleeding outside the lines, posterized timing.

Challenge: Finding an illustrator with the right style

The vibe for the show was very specific and it was crucial to find an illustrator who fit the bill, while meeting deadlines. With the wrong artist, the series would come off as too young. We hunted down an illustrator that proved capable of this rawness, and then fine-tuned his style to lay the foundation for our ultimate look and feel.



Challenge: Defining the number of scenes needed during pre-production without wasting resources

Limited time with the illustrator and the motion graphics team made it critical to storyboard the precise number of elements required to tell the story. Surplus scenes would lead to unused assets and wasted time; missing scenes would slow progress by having to step backwards to create more assets. An efficient process was achieved early, and we were able to meet all deadlines.


What Had Happened Was was a 6 episode mini-series that premiered on July 12, 2017.