Two and a half years is a long time, especially this past two and half years. And yet it has gone by in something of a blur here in my little workshop. I can remember just about everything about the creation of FROM HELL HE RIDES, from its humble beginnings to the exhausting finish, by far the most challenging film I’ve ever attempted. So without further adieu I present … FROM HELL HE RIDES.


After 14 months of prep I’m finally animating. I was all set to talk about the significance of the first day and blah blah blah … until I saw this picture. Animating is a slow process but it’s always been a blur to me. I often can’t account for the hours between the first and last frames of a shot. Over the course of animating a film I might have a dozen clear memories, usually of those killer shots but also those amazing moments when every frame is just right and you wonder why they can’t all be like that. After just 3 shots, I have a good feeling about this film.


After just 5 foam runs all the puppets for DRAIN have their final skins. It’ll take a week or so to clean them up and ready them for paint but the heavy lifting is out of the way. You may have noticed the dark spot below the nose and lower lip on the one puppet. I used brass in the skeleton in those areas. Ammonia and brass don’t play well together and even though I covered the skeleton, clearly the two substances made contact causing the brass to oxidize. A coat of prosaide will help seal it and keep the stain from bleeding through the paint but it’s one of those little things that can make you crazy.


You’d think after a few hundred models I’d be able to whip up a perfect puppet every time but you’d be wrong. It’s a finicky substance that foam rubber. There’s nothing more disheartening than pulling open a mould only to find a rubber mess inside. It’s happened once already after 3 runs this month. Then again, a perfect run is a thing of beauty. These puppets still need some seam work but the rubber is soft and the detail is good. A couple more runs and all the puppets for IT will be ready to paint.


I spent the last couple of weeks working on colour schemes. Being as I work alone I never felt the need to create character sheets with all that information. I find the colour choices always look different in three dimensions anyway so my preferred method is to pull liquid rubber skins from the molds which I assemble over basic wire armatures. Then I start experimenting until I get what I want. I like the dry run it provides me before committing to the final foam rubber puppets. They’re also very useful as stand-ins for lighting tests and camera set ups. The final puppets will suffer a lot of abuse during filming so anything that helps keep them looking polished is worthwhile.


I’m still waiting for the weather to get just a bit warmer before I foam up the puppets so in the interim I’m building miscellaneous props. I rarely built more than one set at a time, mainly because my sets tend to be on the large side but that hasn’t stopped me from building set pieces for future use. The window is for a 3 shot sequence of my main character spying on the neighbours. The TV and stand is for a single shot cutaway of a newscast. The image in the TV is a slug which will be replaced in post by one of my animated characters. Next week I’ll have the anchors news desk ready.


This set took 2 weeks to put together. Last week I posted the first half of the build, which laid out the broad strokes. This week it’s all about the details. When it comes to materials, there’s really nothing to it; foam core, Styrofoam, cardboard, balsa, dowel, glue and paint. For the stove, I shaped some Styrofoam then glued 3 separate printed images for the door, stove top and control panel over the foam. I made upper and lower door handles from balsa and glued them in place, then applied a glossy acrylic clear coat to give it some shine. I followed the same procedure for the microwave and range hood. The props are mostly holdovers from FROM HELL HE RIDES with some paint touch ups, although the tool box, curtains and carpets are new. A couple of minor adjustments still need to be made but for the most part this set is camera ready.


The puppets for IT CAME FROM BEYOND THE DRAIN won’t be ready for camera until sometime in late May or early June but that doesn’t mean the sets can’t start going up. I made a very conscious decision with this film to write something less epic. FROM HELL HE RIDES was incredibly labour intensive with regards to the sets and I wasn’t going to put myself through that again. This first set is for a standalone scene that opens the film and is proving to be a nice way to ease myself back into the building process.


I spend most of my time either in the workshop or at the animation table but for the past month I’ve been chained to my desk, working on storyboards, cutting the animatic, recording voices and laying out the production/shooting schedule for how I plan to attack this film. I now know that IT CAME FROM BEYOND THE DRAIN will run 9 min. 30 sec., that there are 4 major sets and a couple of minor ones, and that there will be about 300 shots. The logistics that go into making a film like this can’t be left to chance.  It’s certainly not as interesting as building stuff but the work I put in now will keep me from losing my sanity 6 months down the line.  


The more I storyboard the more pieces I realize I need.  Having multiple scales of things is absolutely necessary when it comes to stop motion and in this case that means many different tentacles. This film may be lighter in tone than my recent work but it’s in my nature to make the creature bits as threatening as possible.