*Post by Graeme Campbell
Everyone loves stop-motion animation. Fact. There is so much character inherent to the medium. I’d credit my own love to hundreds of hours in my youth spent parked in front of the TV, watching any and every “Making Of” featurette I could find. For it was not so long ago that finding a movie (on VHS of course) with a solid “Making Of” was extremely rare. Today, I don’t think they release a DVD or Blu-ray without at least 7 or 8 of them, thrown together at the last minute. But back then, I would devour any insight I could get my grubby little hands on: how they made King Kong battle dinosaurs in 1933 or Luke Skywalker evade the terrifying Rancor’s clutches in Return Of The Jedi (1983). Stop motion’s rich and storied history is not simply reserved for fully animated pieces. It was the principal method of making the impossible seem possible in live action films for almost a century. That’s really the direction from which I approached “Waste Escape. It wasn’t so much an animation but more an extremely out of date special effects piece.
When I first came on board, the concept had been more or less fully developed by Alanna. My job was mostly figuring out its execution. Thankfully we brought in Bonnie early on to oversee the art direction (check out some of her other projects!). And for the first week or so, it was just the two of us trying to figure out how to bring a pile of garbage to life. After a number of fruitless (pun intended) attempts to animate actual food waste through wire frames, it became pretty clear that we needed to create something a little more user friendly. So we started sourcing and building the puppets you see in the finished piece (although that fish was as real as it gets). I think that the initial, failed experiment really cemented our approach, in that we really wanted something that looked real. From there, the rest of the process was fairly self-evident. We used a real piece of fence, real garbage cans and real gravel (mostly borrowed from the crew members’ homes) and keeping with our old-school approach, Bonnie painted up a fantastic backdrop that blends into the scene pretty seamlessly. Then all we had to do was bring in our small but talented film crew to light and shoot it just like a live action scene, only one frame at a time.
In the end, I hope the result speaks for itself. We are all pretty happy with it. I think in some ways it’s easier to appreciate a piece like this than a live action scene. With live action, admittedly by design, a lot of the work blends into the scene and generally goes unrecognized. But with a stop motion piece, the audience is much more acutely aware that every element of every frame is painstakingly manipulated and controlled. And I think that’s really the biggest draw of the art… or maybe I’m just a control freak.