In the massive moving process, I came across several sealed postal boxes. Luckily, my past self was intelligent enough to label them otherwise they might have been ignored or, even worse, trashed. Inside were all of the clay characters I had built for my senior thesis at UARTs: What is Animation?
I’ll be the first to say it: What is Animation? is a flawed film. The editing is terrible and the sound is even worse. What I like about the film are the components: I’m happy with the character designs, most of the animation, the concept and the audio I collected. It’s just how all the components came together; that’s where it gets sloppy.
Fortunately, the film’s flaws didn’t stop it from being screened as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival. The flaws do, however, stop me from posting it here so, what I will post are some of the bits I do like. First off, the characters:
As you might be able to tell, the designs were heavily inspired by Aardman’s Rex the Runt and the short-lived cartoon Mission Hill with perhaps a dash of Picasso thrown in there (but maybe that’s just me being hopeful).
All the characters were made of clay. If the shot called for a bit of squash and stretch or some motion in the hair, those elements were left soft. All other parts were baked and, unless you like your characters ‘well-done’, always for about ten minutes less then the packaging instructs.
The mouths and eye blinks were done with a set of replacements for each character. Vaseline was applied to the white of the eyes to give it a ‘wet’ look as well as hold the pupils (cut from black construction paper) in place from shot to shot.
Each character was shot on a hand-made glass mount against the appropriate color for keying. All images were than dropped into Photoshop for clean up and then brought into After Effects for compositing with the video backgrounds and any further animation. Sadly, some great looking characters never made it to the final cut.
I’ve actually thought about going back someday and re-doing the whole film, adding extra characters, re-doing certain scenes and fixing the horrifying audio. In fact, I heard a great story a few weeks back from Richard about Tissa David that just about convinced me.
Next post, ‘the horrifying audio‘!