Saturday, 23 February 2013


Inspired by another b3ta Challenge, this time simply 'Pandas', I decided to have a crack at making a quick film incorporating stopmotion animation. Unfortunately I didn't manage to finish it in time for the challenge deadline (missing it by a day) but I felt that the concept was decent enough to stand alone anyway.

It was immediately apparent that the quickest thing to do would be to make a spoof monster movie trailer, which offers a lot of scope to nick clips from other films and cobble them together into something vaguely approaching a narrative. Add a few shots composed of stills made in Photoshop, record a corny voiceover and a couple of character voices, find a suitably dramatic piece of music, and all that was left to do was the animation. By way of tribute to the masters Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Ninth Wonder of the World!

If you want to see just the animation, check this out:

Why a half-panda half-octopus creature, I hear you ask (or not)? Well, I had a wire armature of a set of tentacles knocking around that I'd made a few years ago for an abandoned animation puppet and felt it would save time to use that; at the same time the schlocky sci-fi horror flick Sharktopus sprang to mind, which made Pandopus seem the obvious choice...

The whole thing took nearly a week to make, with Thursday afternoon and evening devoted to animating the puppet. Most of a day may seem a long time for only 8-seconds of animation but quite a bit of time was wasted going up blind alleys, in particular trying to do some green-screen compositing. I found that with the equipment and software I have it simply isn't practicable. Fortunately I still had the model building facade left over from Die Hard In 60 Seconds, and that was more than adequate for Pandopus to crawl up.

There aren't many photos of behind-the-scenes stuff, I was simply in too much of a hurry to get things done, but of the few images that exist these are probably the best:

As you can see the scenery was very crudely achieved by printing out what I wanted off my colour inkjet and gluing the sheets to card (in the case of the London Zoo background). Having, as mentioned above, abandoned the idea of green-screen compositing, I toyed with the idea of printing a London landmark such as the Big Ben clock tower, but in the end it was simply easier (and quicker) to use an existing prop (the larger-scale model skyscraper from Die Hard In 60 Seconds).

The Pandopus creature was made as simply as possible: a clay master was sculpted, a two-part plaster mould was then made from that into which liquid latex was sponged to make a skin. The armature was made from wire with a vertical piece 3mm thick for the 'spine' and a cross-piece of four 1.5mm wires twisted together for the arms, these being held together with Friendly Plastic (see previous post). Unfortunately I botched applying the Friendly Plastic, which also constituted a 'skull', to the extent that it was impossible to bend the body or turn the head (I also, in my haste, didn't bother incorporating any wires to animate the mouth), which is why the Pandopus is so immobile and inexpressive above the waist (this is why I tried to animate the arms doing stuff as well, to give it a bit more life). The latex-lined mould then had flexible polyurethane foam mix poured in to pad it out and give the body form.

Another (one-piece, open) mould was made of textured clay with suckers sculpted on to give the tentacles the requisite octopussy look (a technique swiped from the superlative Lone Animator, aka Richard Svensson - check this baby out for details) and from this mould several latex 'skins' were made. I made a complete horse's arse of applying these to the tentacles but fortunately I'd started on the tentacles at the back so by the time I got to the front I'd managed to get the hang of it and those ones are considerably better finished. With the tentacle armature constituting one unit and the upper panda body constituting another unit, they were very simply joined together with twisted wire, the 'skirt' of webbing between the tentacles hiding the join.

Colouring was achieved with the old standby of homemade PAX paint (a mixture of artist's acrylics and Pros-Aide No-Tack prosthetic adhesive). Despite the name it does remain a little tacky forever (but less tacky than non-No-Tack, if you see what I mean) but a dusting with talcum powder kills this off and dulls the glossiness too, which is a bonus.

And that, dear reader, is pretty much that.


amoebaboy said...

ha ha ha ha ha ha !
nice one todd

McTodd said...

Cheers mate!