Archive for August, 2010
I recently came a across a very informative interview done by HTV West production for Channel 4 UK with Ray Harryhausen – the stop motion animation genius of the forties and fifties. I have reproduced some of the interview here for all to enjoy.
“The skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts were quite an ambitious thing to bite off because I never animated multiple figures. And we wanted to have seven skeletons fighting three men. We had seven stuntmen each portraying one of the skeletons and the actors would rehearse with the stuntmen, so that would give them a chance to count their moves and see just where they had to stop their movements in order to give the impression that they were fighting with the skeleton.
I had to take about four and a half months on that particular sequence which only lasted for five minutes. It took four and a half months in the front of the animation camera to animate seven skeletons because many times I would only average thirteen frames a day.”
Ray goes on to talk about the history of stop motion and how he was inspired by Willis O Brien..
“The combination of live action and animation goes way back to the silent days. We use models of course unlike Roger rabbit and some of the other cartoons we see today. We used a dimensional model which blends much more closely with the live action than a flat drawing such as you saw in Mary poppins.
Then of course Willis O’Brien on the last world combine of live action with animation. And King Kong was the really his highlight of the combination. I wandered into Grauman’s Chinese theater in Hollywood boulevard some years ago in 1933 when I was the tender age of thirteen. And I haven’t been the same since. I just found that this picture haunted me so, so I had to find out how it was done.”
Harry then talks about how he created his own first series of stop motion animation shorts..
“ And when I found out about the glories of stop motion animation, I started to experiment in my garage and after that it gradually developed from my hobby to a profession. I had the great pleasure of working with George Pal for a while, before the war he was doing a series of puppetoons of the time. But they were very stylized figures and they were not the same type of drama that I was really interested in.
Mother Goose Stories.
After the war I made my own series of puppet films. I made a series of five films. I called them Mother Goose stories. I funded the films myself. They were very easy to make because I didn’t pay myself a salary. It was sort of one man job. My family helped me out very much. My father became interested in it, my mother dressed the figures. So it was more or less a family enterprise. The plaster heads were all extreme expressions. They, I made one placid expression and then carved maybe to make ten casernes and carved each one slightly different into extreme expressions. And then I’d dissolve into eight frames from one head to the other.
Of course in red riding hood, the wolf was very dear to my heart because it was the type of thing I wanted to do. Later on, when I got involved with dinosaurs and pre-historic animals, of course they are all creatures of fantasy and I found them much more enjoyable to work with than just a normal character.
We found the melodrama was very useful for the medium of dimensional animations and of course it is always been used with dinosaurs. Willis O’Brien, my mentor, he used the dinosaur and the gorilla animations. Well after king Kong, he was my hero. And I called him up with MJM one time, he was very courteous and encouraging and we became friends and later on when he got involved with Mighty Young (1949), he chose me his assistant. Again a gorilla, a nice kind gorilla, very sympathetic and it didn’t have the same impact of course that King Kong had.”
Ray Moves to the UK.
“Both Charles Schneer and myself came to England originally to make two films and we’ve been here ever since. This was way back in 1960. After the seventh voyage the studio had an old script called Mysterious Island.
I took the shell of the crab, made a mechanism that would go inside specifically for animation. Then you can make the crab to do what exactly you want him to do. We wanted to do some close ups of all the intricate mechanisms in the mouth. So, we got six live edible crabs and when we put them under the lights, of course they got very languid, and they all fell asleep I think. I wondered how you know when a crab is asleep. And that evening we ate our actors. I think Hitchcock would have been pleased.”
Ray talks about how Sound and Music in Stop Motion Animation brings it to life
“The music is very important. I, I have always felt 50% of the success of a fantasy film is the music. The music hightens the emotions and makes the whole thing bigger than life!
You see, medusa is quite a complicated figure. She has twelve snakes in her hair and each snake has to be animated. You roll her eyes by using a pencil eraser, and each frame of them you move them slightly until you get them into the position you want. And inside her lips, she has little levers that give her a chance to have some sort of mobile features.
These types of pictures are not a directors picture. They have to be laid out ahead of time in a very careful way so that they can be made for a reasonable cost. The pictures laid out many times before the director is even brought on to the scene. He has to handle the actors naturally. But the actual film is laid out by Charles and myself and the writer.
I’m retired from making films because it does take too much of your life. We spent three years on the clash of the titans, and there’s long time in preparation and long time in, after everybody goes home and they go on another picture on rest of the crew, maybe do two pictures but I am still putting the first one together. But I’m in hopes that one day that there will be a viable museum that will house all the materials because it is actually is the bridge between Willis O’Brien’s work and the work of today. I have had a great success practically, say 90% in doing what I wanted to do I did. I’m told the stars of my films were my creatures because most of them received the best write ups.”
- Stop Motion in Games – Cletus Clay
Cletus Clay is a unique computer game that uses stop motion animation techniques. The clay characters in the game are all handcrafted by Sarah Webb of TunaSnax – home of Tuna, developers of Cletus Clay.
Below is a transcribed interview with Sarah and Alex Amsel talking about Cletus and the stop motion design behind the game.
Sarah Webb: Cletus Clay is cool and interesting because we made it.
Alex Amsel: Yeah, pretty much.
Sarah Webb: and We’re cool.
Alex Amsel: Yep.
Alex Amsel: Yeah Cletus Clay is homage back to the 1980’s, 1990s arcade games. And this time we’re doing it as we are doing it with clay. And the ?? Is that those games were really really entertaining. They had a set of humor about. They didn’t take themselves too seriously. And I think that is one of the nice things about Cletus. When you hear Cletus talk you know he doesn’t takes himself seriously. He’s the funniest game character that has been for many years. Hi, I am Alex Amsel. I’m the managing director of Tuna.
Sarah Webb: I am Sarah Webb. I am the stop motion artist here at Tuna.
Why stop motion game?
Alex Amsel: We wanted to do something that looks a little bit different, more original. And so we started working with guy called Anthony Flak. He is a stop motion animator.
Average day of Cletus Clay team?
Alex Amsel: Anthony is based in New Zealand and that means he has an eleven hour time difference. So my morning starts talking to Anthony. And as he so starts motor making with Sarah. What we are doing is actually, doing the interesting which is how the game plays. So my typical job is to generally coming and speaking to Anthony, get Cletus running around and beating up aliens and finding new ways to make the aliens die.
Sarah Webb: Anthony does a load of level designs, which is what we base our model designs upon. So there are these really long sketches that he does using Photoshop. So we go through those and work out what models need to be made for each level. And for me, I tend to go to make another sketch, particularly if it’s a big model , just so that I can firmly establish in my head what kind of model I’m trying to make. And then I can send them back to Anthony, and he can say that’s really good or no no no, that’s totally not I wanted to for that level.
Sarah Webb: This is chicken house mark II which is a model I built for level 1 of Cletus Clay. It took about 12 hours to make.
Sarah Webb: It’s all squishy!
Alex Amsel: I kill stuff. that’s my day, mainly aliens.
Why your game is unique?
Sarah Webb: I guess it is its tactile nature. It’s like when you watch a film like Coraline or Fantastic mister fox, because what you’re looking at are a set of still images. It has its own little em, idiosyncrasies. And so people can pick up on that ,as you can’t really mimic that with any medium which is why clay is quite special.
Alex Amsel: And the interesting thing for me is I’m a pro ??. I have to work with all the art work produced by the artists. As he gets, you never quite know what you’re going to get. And because you never catch your way and look at it at anytime and they can take a slight different photo of it. You put it in the actual game and you can see the thumb prints, when you are actually playing the game and that’s really different from doing CGI. CGI is really really dull in comparison and lifeless.
What was the first feedback so far?
Alex Amsel: There are people who didn’t like it. We don’t have to lie.
Sarah Webb: No, we don’t have to lie. There was a very little negative feedback from we trying to both the scenario came out. And there was one Japanese who called, who played the same level for about 10 times, over and over again because he said he can’t stop playing it which was really awesome.
Alex Amsel: He kept playing over and over again.
Sarah Webb: Yeah
Sarah Webb: Mark hid one of my clay models and said that it had been squashed and there was a moment of gullibility where I did think he was serious and there was this model that took me 12 hours to make had been squashed and the evidence has been swept away and it can’t be produced and it was cake and that was pretty bad.
Alex Amsel: Anthony had a very bad day all playing to making all the clay models. This was supposed to be the first previous game of Cletus. And we got back home and his house was burning down with all his discs and all his models, everything he’d been doing back for back two years. And, luckily he’d been showing the game to a friend, and his friend had the discs. So he didn’t lose all his works completely, just his house and his belongings.
Sarah Webb: I am gonna be with one of the bunnies. The bunnies were cute. There were really cute clay bunnies so it might be a bunny. And you could be the really cute gun terror.
Alex Amsel: I can’t be the gun terror because it’s destructive.
Sarah Webb: The most exciting moment for me the first time I saw was something I had created actually in the game. It was just a little test level. Cletus running back and forth and I was “that’s my tree!”
Alex Amsel: And there’s been a lot of things on Cletus. But a friend of mine Betamin Weirs, the first game I ever made that was so commercially was going to the shop and seeing it, in the shop in like a top 10. And of course it wasn’t a no. 1 but what I did do is picked up all the copies and moved into no. 1. And I did that in every shop I went in to and so all around Sheffield as well.
Alex Amsel: There’s been a lot of learning on the way because there is no model to follow, no one has ever done this before in the way we are doing it. So, some deadlines we’ve met but other deadlines we missed badly I have to admit. But it’s inherent when you’re trying to do, when you’re doing research and development. We’re doing new things therefore, some objects just go wrong and we have to do it differently.
Alex Amsel: 14 years worked on platforms from the older Amiga days, and now working across onto the IPad, the latest platform we’re working on. And I think the experiences we had across all these different products and all the different platforms, working with a wide range of clients and licences and now we work with clay. I think it makes us interesting and I’ve got experiences that so varied that we have a lots of things to table.
Sarah Webb: Yes, it is really good to see the clay graphics on the ipad. I think they were really well. I know we’re still developing the actual mechanics of the game but even playing upside down and backwards. It’s still pretty fun.
Alex Amsel: Something I think is interesting, that is happening more and more now is more and more people playing games on facebook or console or on their iphone, I think there’s a quite a lot of scope for new products to be created or appetised by creating a game around those products instead of traditional boring advertisements, which tended to speak – 30 seconds adverts on tv or a boring flash ad on the web. I think creating proper interactive, interesting adverts, which is our base of the game. I think that’s the move we really would like to get involved with.
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