This is a puppet movie. I know that. There’s one right here on my desk, watching me as I write this. When I’m animating I’m surrounded by all manner of tools, coffee cups, clay, paper towel, paints, wire, tape, pens, paper, yogurt cups filled with screws and bolts, clamps, and on and on. Nothing at all special. But when I look through the lens, when the lights are hot and the camera’s rolling, a world exits, it’s alive, it’s real … and it’s getting bigger.
Puppets are a lot like people; you never know which one’s gonna be a jerk. Take this guy for instance. I really like the design and I had no problems building him … but OH MY GOD is he a tough one to animate. Why? I’ll give you several reasons. The coat is long which makes it very difficult to get to the legs. The lower part of the coat (right below the belt) is made of a thicker rubber than the rest of the puppet. It’s much stiffer and doesn’t always want to get the hell out of the way. Because his waist is so high I incorrectly placed the back joint too low so he’s a pain to bend and twist. Having said that … he looks really cool on film (which is all that matters) and watching him move you’d never know I had any issues. Actors….!
I animate fast. My animation is nowhere near the best you’ll ever see but I can really crank out the frames. I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years so I don’t really think too much (it can only hurt the ball club) I just go. It’s not that I’ve lost my patients for this, far from it; I’ve just had a lot of practice. On HIVE I switched from shooting 24 fps to 15 fps which made things a lot easier. 9 fewer frames a second is a huge time saver and truth be told, the average viewer really can’t tell the difference. I’m not trying to compete with computer animation here for god sake; I’m just a guy making a film in my basement. I no longer look beyond that fact and I’m much happier for it. Now if you’ll excuse me, my lights are warmed up and I’m going to whip off a couple of shots.