Monday, 3 June 2013

Episode IV

Perhaps it was the creation of such a grand feat of design built in the side of an impassable cliff face. Perhaps it was the fine threading and comfortable lining that the skin tight uniform had to offer. Perhaps it was none of these things and was actually down to the ridiculous set of antlers sticking out of the side of his head; whatever the reason, the Elkboy felt impelled to drink his brew at the entrance of his magnificent lair, where he was gifted with a heroic but meaningful stance that struck fear into his enemies and admiration from himself. 

There was a strong wind. The Elkboy grinned with a smug approval at this and recalled the vindaloo dinner the previous night. As the two red suns gently set below the Jenga mountains the ambience was suddenly interrupted by a clumsy hullabaloo from inside. The Elkboy swivelled around, spilling tea over his new outfit (muttering in dismay) but with a stealthy posture that demanded an explanation. 

Unfortunately for the Elkboy, as this was record timing for such alertness and seemed a waste of such a performance, it was only his faithful droid servant Chester. A tray of custard creams lay strewn on the floor and a bucket shaped robot began to frantically pick them up with its mechanical arms. 
       "Chester you swine!" bellowed Elkboy, relaxing his body but quick to rescue the flailing biscuits. "I've just had this floor buffered with wax. Simply impossible to pick up all of these crumbs!"
        "Sorry Sir," Chester's monotonous voice, resembling (but not replicating) William Daniels, the voice of Knightrider's KITT. He did not sound as sleek, however, and with as much authority as a badger on a zebra crossing. "It's this new set of blast doors you've had installed. It leaves a raised edge that proves formidable for the set of wheels you built for me."
          "Do not doubt my engineering skills Chester," the Elkboy turned back to face the sunset, doubting his engineering skills. "Now take these damaged baked goods to the kitchen. I have plans for them later."

As Chester rolled away, the Elkboy rubbed his hands together in a plotting fashion, thinking of the custard cream smoothie he would cunningly devise soon enough. The two blazing suns were still prominent on the horizon, and as the Elkboy leant heavily on one leg he clicked his fingers twice. The sound activated music system switched on to the play the Force Theme score from episode IV A New Hope. The Elkboy gazed into the distance, a confident, handsome expression upon his face. Suddenly the harmonic moment was disrupted once again, but instead of hearing Chester's unapologetic sounding apology the Elkboy froze as he heard something a lot less remorseful...


Right then, back to the formalities. I wanted to begin by thanking a couple people for their hand in the music video I animated for local Birmingham duo 55 BPM. Uncredited but unforgotten, thank you to Drew Roper who forwarded the project to me after speaking with Charlotte Rose and Lydia Pickering (of 55 BPM). And thank you to Laura Morgan who helped with the camera work and making sure Pablo stayed on his feet. 

I have decided to revamp my CV once again. I feel that with the terrific experience Drew has given me at Yamination Studios I could hopefully take the next step into the stop motion industry. Don't worry Drew! this isn't an elegy, I'm not buggering off. The At-Issue project is by far the most exciting project I have worked on and has really given Birmingham, not to mention the West Midlands, a force to be reckoned with when it comes to home-grown talent. So the CV needs an update regardless, ummm, maybe by trying a different format? I do like creating comic strips that relate to the situation at hand (job hunting in this case) so I might draw up something using my handsome alter ego Electric Elkboy. I did create a short comic strip at University that I thought might look good on the ol' CV so it could be along the same lines as that.

I think my next comic strip would be better as it will have cunning,
master-of-disguise superhero Electric Elkboy.

I saw this video posted up on Twitter and wanted to share it once again. It's another one of those rare occasions to see the model making crew behind a stop motion production and the fact that it was a  Spongebob episode clearly elevated my interest. 

After watching the Spongebob animation I was reminded of a video that Drew had posted recently, involving another acclaimed 2D character. This guy is equally as successful when portrayed as a puppet as he is when scurrying around as a cartoon in Bedrock. Yes, Fred Flintstone has now become a stop motion phenomenon. The first time I saw my favourite cartoon characters become successful puppets was with the series of animated shorts by Robot Chicken, entertaining me immensely. I think the charming nature of stop motion is so overwhelming that applying it to anything 2 dimensional will only make you love the character even more. Because it's something real, that you can see and touch (boom, Jurassic Park quote - spared no expense!). So you can imagine how amazing it would be if you were helping to create the sets, build the props and sculpt some of televisions most beloved characters. These worlds can be real!

I undertook my second animation workshop at the Heritage Motor Centre this week and have come away with one undeniable truth (of which I need to reiterate to my fellow teaching buddies at the college I work at)... Teachers must be hard as nails. I had a moderately small group of eleven padawans, ranging from eight years old to fifteen, and I was verging on a nervous breakdown after lunch. I'm only joking, I think I managed the group rather well but there were moments where I lost control of the group and they didn't respect my authoritaaa.
          But I now know the reason to this (and it's a highly valid one). It's because I thought it was all incredibly hilarious. It felt relatively natural to sit them all down and commence with a few activities such as designing your own character, drawing up storyboards and finally modelling their characters. I wore my checked shirt with the brown elbow pads, blazer and brown leather shoes*, so immediately I felt at home because, to me, this was like fancy dress. And I was dressed like a teacher. I hope that doesn't come across as odd or disturbing, especially when there are children involved, but I can honestly say that it helped me act like an educator (albeit with a stereotypical appearance).

*this is an outrageous lie. They are not leather, but a tacky substitute that has been flaking off for months

One of the clips that had I decided to show the children was from The Trap Door. A splendid blast from the past, although I am certain none of them knew what it was. The strong (west country?) accent of Berk was what threw them I believe, especially with phrases like 'oh globbits' and 'corr sniff that'. I used this clip to exemplify how a simple looking character can still give a good performance and entertain the audience. Berk is essentially a blue blob of plasticine with stumpy limbs and a pair of cut-out eyes. Perfect! I thought. Even I can teach that. Little did I know the alternative use of small balls of plasticine. It was like a bloody paint-ball game.

There were some really interesting animations despite the madness. And I was amazed at the potential, given the age group. One chap, Sam, who was in fact a mute, communicated amazingly well through his knowledge of animation and photography. He was fully aware of shutter speed, frames per second, editing software, the animation principles and even flabbergasted me with a focus pull between two objects. This guy is in year 8. I am in year 21 (academically speaking, but don't quote me on that) and still fresh from learning these things. When I look back at my years at Southam College it's hard to comprehend the level we worked at in the art department compared to the level of students today. Their access to media related subjects is so readily available, via apps, Ipads and camera phones, that anybody can dabble in animation, photography, film and editing. Boggles the mind!

This clean and organised room barely lasted the morning. I think they're
still scraping off plasticine from the ceiling.

This was Sam's animation. Very unfortunate to 
stop him at this stage, as he had much more
to offer. 

The workshop itself could do with a lot of tweaking, but with a bit more planning and possibly another colleague of mine to help out I think it could be a very successful activities day. I have often thought about becoming a teacher, however, I don't think the stop motion workshop is enough to justify this. I may need to offer a broader range of skills. But hey! early days, I need to establish myself as a stop motion animator first. I might have a go at the E4 E stings competition for 2013 and get back to some plasticine animating. 

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