Ok, welcome back, this is the promised post about our latest stop motion project, which as of now is underway- in fact, there are shots in the can already!
This is a lip-sync project, and has involved making puppets with replacement mouth faces, and also working with wire armatures. It's been a very long time since I used wire, but I decided to go back to it - I'd seen so many good pieces recently using wire. I decided to try it.
It is planned that this piece is the first of a series featuring these characters, which will slowly expand and develop very long plot lines...we have various threads of this plot worked out, but we wont give you too many hints yet- spoilers! (As Riversong would say...)
But we plan to keep returning to these characters, and expanding their evolving stories.
What we can reveal is that this will be an episodic series of micro-shorts, about 1 minute or less in length each, featuring the dark comic adventures of 3 old ladies, Blossom, Barbara and Mary...
They will be voiced by the talented actresses Gilly Daniels, Tilly Edwards and Penny Layden...
This project marks the debut also of Penny as a creative director, for these characters were built specifically to Penny's designs, and it is her vision we are pursuing here...So what she said has gone, which has been a really positive process.
We designed the characters initially on graph paper to real world dimensions- and used these for reference against each part that was constructed-
Barbara's initial plan- note very basic plans for the wire skeletons and hip blocks also superimposed over the sketch- the plan with these puppets is also to work with really cheap replaceable components, just to see what kind of quality we can produce with simpler materials.
we started by creating the heads- these were made from a polystyrene block shaped roughly for the core, and golf tee sockets for the bead eyes- the polystyrene was then covered in milliput and the heads sculpted- we left the jaw area off for now, to accommodate the replacement mouths.
Blossoms magnet plate exposed- basically, Penny built an arch into which lower mouth shapes could locate- and then hand sculpted individual mouth shapes for phonemes and other tasks, such as eating, chewing and whistling- again, Blossom is wearing her original eyes here.
The magnets are neodymium as usual, but are really thin disc shapes- approx.5mm thick, but with a diameter of at least 1cm...they have the usual crisp 'grab' of a neodymium magnet, but the big surface area is really useful for sinking into milliput and ensures a very precise lock. They were not any more expensive than similar battery or thicker disc shaped magnets. I will definitely use them again.
The next task was to build their bodies, and I decided to go with cheaper materials as an experiment to see what impact that would have on the animation process- as well as budget.
You may also spot that the feet were actually sandwich plates, with a nut drilled for the toe- this gives the figures quite a strong foot, and clear ability to do subtle toe weight shifts when were are doing walks- the toe nut is also a tie down. The balls used in the sandwich plates are adapted stainless steel body piercing balls.
Arms and legs were then sculpted around the wire limbs, using grey Plastiline, which is really nice and firm...these were then popped in the freezer for a few hours, before being sunk into a bed of white, super soft plastiline- then walls were built also using the white plastiline, and a plaster poured into the mold. Spheres and cubes were pressed into the plastiline 'floor' to make sure the molds had a strong key. This picture shows the first side of the mold already cast- then the plaster was coated in Vaseline, a new plastiline wall built, and a top mold cast in plaster. Use plenty of vaseline, and check you cover all the plaster.
So the shoe area of the mold had to be 'pre-skinned' with the relevant shoe colour- here you can see the brown of Blossom's boots- when this silicone was dry, it had to be cleaned out of the leg area of the mold, and also checked to ensure it still could accommodate the sandwich plate for the foot and the nut for the toe.
The viewers phonemes transferred into a pill box- he makes a guest appearance by the way, in the first episode of the old ladies piece.