When a player-controlled unit is activated, the UI animates into place. When the unit is deactivated, the UI elements ease back off the screen. In this test, the UI consists solely of the animated character portrait and 2 test action icons. The icons aren't "hooked up" yet; I haven't implemented any hit-testing code yet, so it's still all hotkey driven. This is just a proof of concept of sorts, for me to see if the idea works for me. It needs a lot of polishing, but I think the core idea of it is sound.
I like it so far, to be honest. I think the concept has merit, and it's certainly simple enough to do. All of the various elements are just sort of piled up in locations off-screen in the overlay scene manager, hooked up to ease-in/ease-out animators that swap them into place as needed. The character portrait eases in from the side, the icons swivel up from the bottom. I'm thinking I would probably animated the icon platforms as well, since there is really no need to have them on-screen when the AI units are acting. I imagine they could ease in from the bottom, perhaps stair-stepped by giving each a different offset, so that they animated into place sequentially from left to right; similarly with their associated icons. Add some bounce, make it jolly. I think it could be fun.
It's something I'll need to iterate on, but I think the core idea is pretty good so I'll run with it and see how it goes.