Archive for the ‘Stop Motion Movies’ Category
Special Movement effects in Stop Motion
Today I decided to research some special movement effects in stop motion. Did you know that a sheet of glass can come in very useful when shooting special movement effects in stop motion movies. For instance how did the penguin fall through the sky in in Nick Park’s Wrong Trousers? Did the animators use strings and change the position after each shot, which would have been very tedious or did they use some other technique? Believe it or not they used a sheet of glass. In the movie the penguin is shot up into the air and then falls to earth against a background of blue sky and fluffy clouds. So what they did was quite ingenious. Instead of having the poor penguin falling against a fixed background, they photographed him on glass with a parallel sky positioned behind him. The penguin was then held still except for an occasional movement of his sack and the position of his feet. The illusion of falling comes from the sky which is moved slowly from side to side between frames.
This glass technique, an ingenious example of special movement effects in stop motion has also been used by Peter Lord in his filming of Adam, which was released in 1991. Adam won Ardman an Oscar nomination and is another fantastic example of stop motion with clay or claymation as we like to call it. In this stop motion the character Adam ran around the circumference of the world without falling off. How did Peter Lord do this ? Well, he used a sheet of glass of course. They measured the circumference of the globe they were using in the stop motion and then cut a circular hole in a large sheet of glass which fitted exactly round the globe on a north-south axis. They then took their shots looking down from above the set. Adam was essentially lying with one of his shoulders and hips flat on the glass .Using the glass technique made it much easier to animate than if they had tried in some way to suspend him on wires.
Tips when using glass for your special movement effects in stop motion.
If you use glass to help with your special movement effects in stop motion you will need to take into consideration the colours in the glass and any extra reflections. When you move from the scene before the glass effect to the next scene with the glass effect, some colour differences are likely to occur. To over come this all you have to do is shoot a group of scenes with the glass whether or not it is actually needed and then colour differences will not be discernible. Then you should shoot at 90 degrees to the glass to offset any reflection thrown by your character lying on its side.
For those of you who want to see this great technique and other special movement effects in stop motion then, check out, Peter Lord Adam 1991, on youtube.
Stop Motion in Star Wars
Stop Motion in Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back Featurette:
I came across a really interesting featurette of an interview with Dennis Murin talking about “How Walkers Walk with Dennis Murin using stop motion in Star Wars.” I have transcribed the interview here for you.
At one time, there was, like, no decisions how to do any of this stuff and all there were were these wonderful color artworks that Ralph had done of the big walking machines. So we had to figure out how we were going to do this and one of the thoughts was to make a robot. We were going to make a complete robotic one that would actually kind of move by itself – a walking machine maybe five feet tall or something like that. And in that scene, like, it could get very complicated and very expensive to do, but my background before Star Wars was really in stop motion animation and I’d seen King Kong when I was a kid and all. And, so I pushed to do it in stop motion because they’re machines anyway and if they move sort of, like, a little staccato-like, it would just make them look more like machines. So we did it in stop motion and we did it with models that were as big as a person could animate, which is about the size that a person can get their hands in to move it a frame at a time. And we did it in front of big paintings that were, instead of blue screens pausing, paintings that were done to look like sky, but painted so realistically, you thought they were actually outdoors.
The sets that were built were baking soda and with trap doors in them so the animators could pop up, animate the figure and go back down, and you could shoot a frame of film. And at twenty-four frames a second, we could sort of… sometimes, we’d get a shot a day if we were doing real good, which is only, like, a five second shot. So we had scales that were like five foot to four foot tall one for scenes when it sort of blew up, some part of it blew up or it had to fall over.
Those were done with high-speed photography. And we had some photo cutouts that work in the backgrounds or sometimes, when you see about six or seven of them and the ones in the background are just Polaroid photo cutouts that are sort of animated. And then, we have little tiny ones that we used for the very opening shot, I think, when you see them… or some of the speeder shots when you see them off in the distance. Real tiny ones off in the distance there and we just made them as small as we could possibly make them to do it. So we had lots of different scales that we mixed and matched depending on the shot.
I came across a very interesting interview with Art Clokey (1921-2010), who died this year. Art was the creator of gumby and pokey, the claymation character animated with stop motion animation that was so popular with a generation of children growing up in America in the 70′s and 80′s. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on July 19, 2001 for the Archive of American Television. Copyright goes to them, I reproduce excerpts from the interview here for your interest.
Interviewer: Ok we’re talking about the Gumby series in the 80’s and how things were different. Has the audience changed at all? Have the kids become more sophisticated in their viewing? Do you notice any differences?
Art: Well our stories were a little more sophisticated. We brought in historical things and Don Quixote. I’m always wondering about. They say kids are getting more sophisticated watching television, they’re getting more hyper. I don’t see that happening here. When my son shows his children Gumby and pokey and I show it to other children here, it’s still complete engrossment, as though they’re hypnotised and can’t get away from their screen. Fantastic babysitters! Up until around 7 years of age, I really don’t care much about reaching the older children. The Catholic Church used to say ‘give us your children until they’re 5. You can have them afterwards.’
Interviewer: In 1995 you produced ‘Gumby: The Movie’ That was the first feature that Gumby and Pokey was in. How did that come about? Why did you decide to do a feature?
Art: I wanted to do a Gumby feature for many years and we suddenly got the opportunity and the money. With that too we put much of the money was made from doing the series from Lorimar into the movie and Lorimar had bought the equipment for us, camera and lights and space and they were all there ready to go after 1988 after we stopped producing the series. So we produced the movie at a terribly low price. It should have cost at least 6 million dollars but we did it for less than half of that. The animators were working for half salary actually, instead of $1200 a week they were getting $750 a week and then they went right over to Disney and James and the Giant Peach and they got $2000 a week.
Interviewer: How did the film do?
Art: It never had a chance to do anything because I foolishly gave the film to a distributor in New York who was a crook. He didn’t have sense of ethics so he told us he was going to advertise for so much money and he didn’t advertise. He got it in 20 of the top markets of all the big cities and he didn’t advertise. It was in San Francisco and Los Angeles and nobody knew it was there. Except people who would se the little notice on the movie page but no other advertising.
Interviewer: Now today in 2001 Gumby is being used again on ABC
Art: ABC yeah. And Disney, we just finished negotiating a contract with Disney, they want to do a movie with people and Gumby. They also wanted to do a new series with me as an Executive Producer, that would be interesting.
We got them to agree to do most of it in clay animation. We use computers for special scenes because computer animation, no matter how refined, looks artificial. Like in cartoon and clay animation the artist is hands on, he has his paintbrush connected to his nervous system, though hi hand, through his heart and his brain but not in a computer. When you go through this electronic network with a button, you push a button here and a click there, the artist has nothing to do with it. His nervous system is not involved.
Interviewer: Why do you think Gumby and Pokey remains popular after almost 50 years?
Art: Well, Hans Christian Anderson wrote some stories and they’re still popular. I think it’s just because they didn’t do it really to make money, they did it because they loved doing it for art and they loved children I suppose and people. As I’ve said Gumby started out not to make money but to give the children something of value on television. I didn’t need the money in those days I was making television commercials for Coca-Cola and Budweiser. Doing clay animated Gumby was an interesting challenge. And I had my two children.
Interviewer: Were your children influential in the series? Did they watch Gumby?
Art: Oh yeah. I told them stories every night before they went to sleep. That was an act of love for your children so I considered every Gumby story was an act of love for children. Love, love, love as the Beatles said.
Interviewer: What is your philosophy regarding merchandising and character toys?
Art: Oh I didn’t tell you that. I bought the series and all the right from NBC back in 1959 maybe and NBC hadn’t gotten off the ground as far as merchandising was concerned. I decided that because we had such a good rapport with the parents at the station that I didn’t want to give the parents the impression that I was trying to exploit their children for products or make their children buy our products. So for 7 years from 1957 to 1964 I didn’t allow any merchandising. Then in 1964 some people told me that a lot of children were asking for little Gumby and pokey dolls that they could hold while they were watching Gumby and pokey on TV. So we decided to form the Gumby Toy Corporation and put out the first Gumby and Pokey bendable and I got such good response from people I was so glad I was putting them out. That was very idealistic, I studied for the ministry so it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Interviewer: What advise would you give to an aspiring producer, what would you say to them?
Art: To inspire a producer?
Interviewer: For someone who as just starting out as a producer
Art: It all came about so naturally with me, I don’t know, just if they want to be a producer I thin they should search inside themselves to see why. If it’s just to make money, that’s not good, if it’s to do something for their fellow man or fellow woman or serving society in some way. Service to society, that’s why I’m still keeping myself alive and as young as possible so I can service society more so that new Gumby films maintain their integrity.
Interviewer: What do you consider your biggest career highlight, what are you especially proud of?
Art: Some of the films I’ve written, stories. I don’t know, they all came out of my subconscious so it was like I’d go into like a daydream and I’d write a story and it would come from somewhere, some news would come. I remember Joe Clokey people would ask him about his compositions of music and he would say ‘It’s just the muses I don’t know where it comes from’ it comes from cosmic consciousness. I don’t believe we’re the doers, we don’t do these things, we’re not the real directors of our life. Our true self is the director, which is, I believe part of the overall cosmic consciousness or god so I don’t take any credit for it.
Interviewer: Did Joe Clokey live to see any of your accomplishments.
Art: Yes, yes. I remember he was traveling on a freighter traveling across Europe to Paris and to sent him a telegram that I’ just gotten the contract signed for the David and Goliath series, we got the NBC series before that. So that was a great pleasure to him.
It’s been a big miracle.
Interviewer: The last question we ask our interviewees is ‘how would you like to be remembered?
Art: As a lover of children, a server of society. I’d like to be remembered as someone who cared for everybody and tried to act that out in whatever I do. Love, love, love. At the Hard Rock Café, Isaac Tigrett, he’s also a devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and he had pictures of Sai Baba in his new House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard and he has the sayings ‘Help ever hurt never’. Don’t worry be happy, what are the other sayings? I can’t remember them right now
- End of Interview -
The photo is of Art’s father. He died in a car accident when Art was 9 years old. This photo inspired Gumby’s bump on his head. Art fondly remembers his father and always noting the quif in his hair shown in the graduation from high school photo.
I recently came a across a very informative Ray Harryhausen interview done by HTV West production for Channel 4 UK – the stop motion animation genius of the forties and fifties. I have reproduced some of the Ray Harryhausen 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 heightens 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.”
I hope you enjoyed this Ray Harryhausen interview as much as I did when I heard in back in 2012.
How to Train Your Dragon from Dreamworks animation will be in theaters March 26, 2010. Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller are the voice actors in the film. It’s directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. The trailer is below for your enjoyment. I hope they improve on the graphics for the main dragon, as it currently stands it looks out of place with the other characters and background. While it may well be worth going to see if only for the 3D experience it does not look as good as Pixar’s recent offerings.
I don’t like reading film reviews normally because the authors drag out the conclusion to the review until the end. So here is my conclusion on UP 3D the movie.
It was excellent. Well worth going to see (expecially in 3D). Suitable for all ages. Our group ranged in ages from 8 to 44 years old. All agreed it was brilliant. Everyone took something different from it. Now read on if you would like to know a little more. Otherwise just plan a night out and go and see it in 3D.
Synopsis of the story
Carl Fredricksen, the main character is introduced in the opening scenes as a young boy watching a black and white movie in the cinema about a heroic adventurer called Charles Muntz . He dreams of going on such an adventure as he follows his balloon in to an abandoned house some days later. It is here he meets his future wife..Ellie who shares his sense of adventure. They marry later and the first few minutes of the movie runs through their life together in montage form up to the point where they are old and Ellie dies without every going on their adventure to South America.
So we are left with a 78-year-old balloon salesman about to be forced in to a retirement home by aggressive city developers encroaching on the once abandoned house ( as seen in opening of the movie) that he and Ellie renovated and lived in all there lives. But rather than give in to them he decides to go on that adventure to South Africa ( Angel Falls ) and bring his house with him by lifting it in to the sky with hundreds of helium balloons. Once in they sky floating over the city he discovers he has a passenger in the form of an 8 year old boy scout type character or wilderness explorer as he calls himself on the front porch. The boy “Russell” accompanies Carl to south America where they are joined by a talking dog called Doug ( and then dogs) and a twelve foot tall bird which they name Kevin. During their adventure they meet with Charles Muntz, Carl’s boyhood hero. Charles soon disappoints as a hero. It quickly becomes evident that Charles Muntz has become obsessed with capturing this mysterious bird “Kevin” in order to rebuke an earlier humiliation by his peers and the scientific community who claimed such a bird never existed. In his relentless 50 plus year search , Charles now discovers that Carl and Russell know where the bird can be found. Needless to say Carl and Russell try to hide and protect the bird from Charles Muntz and his shotgun.
The adventure picks up pace in these scenes which result in Muntz’s timely demise and the return of Kevin to his family of baby birds! Carl get’s Russell back home in time for his senior Wilderness Explorer badge presentation and all is well.
While this animation seems like a very well executed adventure for children it has very deep threads running thr0ughout. From the first ten minutes you are left in no doubt about the animations deeper messages on life and meaning. Sounds like I’m getting heavy here.( or even worse ..”arty” lol ).but it is surprising to find this depth in a 3D animation. And I, as all of our adult members in our group where taken back by its sophistication. Themes such as “loss – as we see Carl loosing a childhood sweetheart after 70 years of marriage” , “not seizing life , adventure and opportunities”. “Being dissappointed by lifelong hero’s” when Muntz turns out to be a self centered mean spirited egomaniac. Phew..that’s heavy going alright.. but its real.
Anyways..enough..go see it. It’s real.
Cuppa Coffee studios the company behind the stop motion series, Glenn Martin DDS, Life’s a Zoo, Rick And Steve, Celebrity Deathmatch and a number of other very amusing series has struck a deal with foul mouthed celebrity Gordon Ramsay to create a series called “At Your Service”. Adam Shaheen ,executive producer and president of Cuppa Coffee believes Gordon Ramsay’s larger than life personality will be a recipe for success when combined with stop motion animation and it’s classical characterization. They are in the process of finding writers for the proposed show at the moment. The show will be touted to distributors and channels at Mipcoms International TV Sales expo in October. While exact details are not available yet, the show is likely to be 30 minutes per episode and will focus on the wilder side of Ramsay’s outrageous outburst on his shows such as “Hells Kitchen”. It will be interesting to see what characters they bring in to the series to put up against Ramsays outrageous tongue.
Toronto based Cuppa Coffee animation studios houses 42 shooting stages and employs over 200 artists. In house facilities include prop and sets wardrobe, animation and post-production. They produce roughly 145,000 seconds of animation per year.
They have won over 150 international animation awards.
So whether you are a fan of Gordon Ramsay or not Cuppa will no doubt come up with another very funny stop motion series. We hope they don’t take too long to get it up and running on our TV screens.
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