Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Nightmare Before Christmas - Beyond Halloween Town

Nooooo! This October 2023, will be the 30th Year Anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  It feels like, it was only recently that I attended the 25th anniversary year reunion (that was 5 years ago). This is like the Twilight Zone, an altered state of time, another dimension, transporting us into the future at warp speed. I do not like 😕 ... but ... I digress!

2018 Reunion, 25 Year NMBC Anniversary - Mike Belzer, Lionel Orozco, & Anthony Scott

SF Studios was a general commercial studio for many years. Later it became the studio for Nightmare Before Christmas and renamed Skellington Productions. This building, including the pink one next to it, no longer exists. That location is now an elementary school.

In the past years, there has been a variety of books about Nightmare B4 Xmas. Just released in August, is a fresh NEW book. The Nightmare Before Christmas - Beyond Halloween Town: The Story, Characters, & Legacy ... EMILY ZEMLER is the Author.

This is not exactly a behind the scenes about the technical stop motion effects, but more about the production process from the beginning incentive of the story and interviews with some of the original crew & key players involved. Also it goes into the enduring impact & cultural phenomenon that it still has, even in 2023, in spite of the current mind-numbing excess of CGI movies and its onslaught & bombardment on the audience, perhaps getting weary of it. Maybe that is why the Guillermo del Toro Pinocchio was a refreshing change.

I found a few preview pages of the book at these links >   Page 23 - Page 24 - Page 25 - Page 26

Since we are on the topic of The Nightmare Before Christmas,  I am going to briefly and shamelessly promote myself. I just have a sense that Youtube's Search Algorithms seems to have been suppressing my channel for a long time.  After over 5 years since I posted the above video .... it has only received 64 Likes. I say What the F'k? If I was of the opposite gender and showed some 'skin' ... the videos would get a plethora of Likes & thousands of views in a very short time. This Social Media Game is insanity & illogical 😡
We now return to the BOOK 😁  I do not always like to refer people to the corporate empire entity known as Amazon ... but ... they have a good descriptive page about this new Nightmare book ... also some free preview pages and the price for a hardcover copy is reasonable.  As of this posting, it is under $27. (USD), it is about 168 pages. The link is here ....



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Saturday, September 2, 2023

StickyBones - High Performance Poseable Figures

I have not been current with these kinds of poseable figures. I recall from some years ago, there was a line of poseable very small toy figures called Stikfas. This one, is another brand known as Stickybones. They are not the action super hero figure types, but instead, these are designed with ideal human anatomical proportions. Stickybones figures are produced as a reference poseable figure for artists & illustrators. It is a more sophisticated version of the old school Artist Manikins (Link). From what I see, these figures can be very expressively posed, similar to what a real human person can do, mimicking action poses of ... athletes, dancers, martial artist, etc.

One of my observations - I do not see any mention whether Male or Female figures. Stickybones just calls them 'human high performance poseable figures'. They are basically all the same anatomical form ... a somewhat androgynous design ... perhaps reducing manufacturing costs. Actual measurement is 8.5"(215mm) height. If an artist were using these figures as drawing / sketching reference of a female anatomical form, I suppose that you can add clay to the 'chest and hips', to give it a more curvy appearance.

The price is on the higher scale at $71. (US) for one figure. Stickybones are sold as kits, and so, you have to assemble them. If you are a drawing / sketch Artist, it would be a one time investment  ... a tool to aid in producing your art works. At Amazon (Link), there are various similar jointed figures at much less cost but quality maybe not so good, according to some of reviews. Also, the figures are small at about 6 inches (152mm).  

For Stop Motion: I have seen some reasonably good animation using these Stickybones. They are very useful for practice animation, but it might be restricted to more realism human motion. IMO, not ideal for stylized or cartoon-esque animated characters. It depends on the animators skill & talent if they can get some creative animation with these figures.

Some have also modified the look of the Stickybones and made miniature clothing or turned them into an action figure. Stickybones figures appear to be made from mold injected plastic resin. The joint tension relies on the plastic balls being pre-compressed by the plastic sockets ... the balls snap into the sockets. If the joints loosen, you can maybe use a heat gun to bend the plastic sockets for tighter tension, however there is the risk of damage ... or maybe use Tacky Putty (Link) in the Sockets.

 If you add clothing to the figures, the ball tension might not hold in certain poses. If you are animating the figure 'as is', just the bare figure form ... the joints seems to hold the tension during animation posing. It has magnetic feet, tie-downs and of course, you can use a simple animation support rig to hold and stabilize the figure.

Stickybones started as an Indiegogo Funded Campaign back in 2016 (Link). They received over $ One Million Dollars $ (Usa) in contributions 😮

You know ... searching briefly, I could not find that much stop motion use of Stickybones ... it is minimal. Mostly out there, it is from beginners doing only a few quick seconds of stop motion. The better stop motion examples are actually from the Stickybones Company. They hire experienced animators for their promotional ads! So, I'm guessing that the primary consumers are perhaps Artists who are using these poseable figures as human anatomical body form reference ... which was the original design & purpose of this product.



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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

HighRise (1980) - Mark Sullivan

About 3 years ago (2020) I originally posted this at the Stop Motion Works facebook page and also, at that time, uploaded Mark's HighRise short at my SMW Youtube channel.  Recently, some kind of glitch occurred where the video image had lots of lines and static. I had to delete that original Youtube post, and re-uploaded the HighRise video again. Here is the new one ....

Just paraphrasing my past commentary:

'HighRise' was one of Mark Sullivan's earliest indie personal project as a filmmaker. All filmed with a 16mm Bolex movie camera using stop motion, hand made miniatures & models, and matte painted scenery & backgrounds. Old school classic special effects.

Mark's career progressed, becoming a professional artist - creator in special effects work, contributing to many well known Major movies. He earned a reputation of being very talented & skilled in Matte Painting visual special effects. Also, he is an accomplished Stop Motion Animator and versed in puppet fabrication & other eclectic skills as needed, to create Cinematic Visual Magic!

Note - Some of photos you can 'click' to see larger size image

Setting up a shot ... Suspended from an 'aerial brace' rig, the miniature building is hanging in front of the large background sky painting.

Looking at the photos, it appears that there were Two miniature models of the high-rise skyscraper. For close-up shots, this was about 4 feet (122cm) tall and the small model for distant scenes, appears to be about 12 - 13 inches (30 - 33cm).

Mark Sullivan animating the alien UFO space craft, landing on the large miniature model of the skyscraper building.

This is a 'Multi-plane' set-up. The miniature building model is attached with wires to an overhead 'aerial brace' rig. The clear glass (in the window frame) was air brushed to create an atmospheric haze in front of the model. The glass, foreground, and other elements are animated frame by frame on the sliding base, creating the 'trick effect' that the alien craft is flying over the desert planet landscape.


Another photo with a clearer view of the 'Multi-plane' set-up. You can see the glass window frame and other miniature ground elements which  slide on top of the animation table surface, by way of stop motion animation. Each sliding element is calibrated to move a very small incremental distance for each animated frame.

So basically, the miniature building did not move much or only minimally animated. The illusion of movement over the desert terrain was mostly created from the moving foreground, mid-ground, and background elements. Mark said that he added timed exposure 'blurs' to the front foreground which moves faster than the other sliding elements.

On location: Mark mentioned that he used a home made Camera Matte Box (similar to this here & here) which was attached in front of the 16mm Bolex camera lens. I assume the matte box had a front clear glass pane. Looking through the camera reflex viewfinder, on the glass (attached to matte box), you 'tape off' the outline of the building rooftops to create a hold-out matte for later double exposure (film back winding).

In the Studio: A counter black matte is made using black tape, black paint, etc.. This creates a reverse hold-out matte for the bottom half of the film. Now the miniature high-rise building can be inserted into the top half of the film, again, by way of double exposure (film back winding).

The final composite ... achieved by 'back winding' the film a number of times in the camera, similar to the Harryhausen Dynamation technique of in-camera compositing.

I think this is a  'glass' pane set-up on location. I am not sure if that is the miniature skyscraper model or perhaps it is a 'painting' of the building on glass, and lined up above the distant real city skyline ... maybe a test. This shot was not in the movie.

A 'Location Glass Painting' of background, distant desert field, mountains, & sky ... the painted glass pane in front of camera ... blending the live action foreground with the matte painting ...  the actor is Mark Sullivan's father, Thomas Sullivan.

A perspective matte painting of the high-rise building ... smoke & slight orange flame-like glow was added by double exposing (back winding the film).

This is the Alien / UFO that has the bothersome addictive habit of stealing large buildings from the planet Earth. The bug-like miniature model was 'scratch built' by Mark Sullivan. The body was carvable, sandable rigid foam. It uses 'Wire' Armature for the slight movements of the leg appendages.

Additional information / links for you: 
'Making Of' story / interview, (PDF file)  -  CINEMAGIC #23, year 1983

Mark Sullivan's VIMEO channel

In depth 2013 article interview with Mark Sullivan - NZ Pete Matte Shot

Nominated for a few major awards  / Some of Mark Sullivan's credited film work


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Friday, August 18, 2023

Coming Soon - Ghostbusters 'Terror Dog' Homage

I cannot keep up with Justin Rasch! Recently, I posted about his behind the scenes He-Man project  ... and now .... he springs this on us 😀

Justin has referred to this as a 'Monster' or 'Creature' but of course it is the Terror Dog that made its appearance in the original Ghostbusters (1984). There were actually two Terror Dogs, a male & female. The shorter horned Terror Dog was the female.Only one stop motion puppet was fabricated ... they just switched the horns and optically cloned the puppet to make it appear that there were 2 Terror Dogs in the same scenes.

This Terror Dog stop motion puppet was constructed by the incredibly talented artist, Eduardo Oropeza who is a resident of the country of Mexico. At Eduardo's Instagram, he has posted additional photos of the Terror Dog puppet. Amazingly, from what I see, Eduardo does most of  his puppet construction using 'build up' method. His Youtube channel demonstrates some of the puppet fabrication technique.

The stop motion puppet has a Ball & Socket armature inside it.* The overall puppet size appears to be about 11 - 12 inches long (28cm - 30cm), head to tail.  The Terror Dog puppet in the original Ghostbusters was much larger and as many of us, may already know, the creature's final design was by Randall W. Cook and he also did the hands on stop motion animation.

*Update / Correction: It was 'planned' to have Ball & Socket armature but later, Justin preferred to have Wire armature in the Terror Dog stop motion puppet. Justin is still able to get smooth animation with wire armatures!

Okay ... here are some Teaser shorts that Justin Rasch has released ....




Justin Rasch  >>  INSTAGRAM     YOUTUBE

Eduardo Oropeza  >>  INSTAGRAM    YOUTUBE


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Thursday, August 10, 2023

Stunt Puppet Pictures - 'HE MAN' Behind the Scenes

This presentation is by Justin Rasch, proprietor of his family run, 'Stunt Puppet Pictures' studio. His Portfolio has accumulated, years of his showcased animation skills & proficiency. Justin started in Cgi (but I forgave him 😉) however later on, he saw the good side of the 'animation force' and experienced a Stop Motion.Epiphany!💥 He has done quite a bit of behind the scenes which I sometimes miss and not able to watch some of them. This one, is his most recent post update, showing you some of the production pipeline of a stop motion ad promo for Mattel Toys. It speaks for itself ...all of us can learn much!

You can choose the order you wish to watch. For myself ... I like to first view the 'finished product', then afterwards ... how it was made. This was originally released last year (November, 2022) ....


Behind the Scenes ....

The above is only one, of the many videos at Justin Rasch's channel ... an abundance of tips, advice & demonstrations, and of course, also entertaining! Links to his Youtube and other Social Media here ...



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Monday, August 7, 2023

5 Minute Hyper-crash Course: Making a Puppet to Animation

This was from about 7 years ago. Peter A. Montgomery & Nick Hilligoss collaborated on this as a behind the scenes promotion teaser for the indie feature 'Dark Earth', which has an H.G.Wells signature style ... Victorian period, and especially, a menagerie of animated creatures & other worldly life forms ... in the spirit of Retro Harryhausen. The release status of Dark Earth is still unknown. Hopefully, the wait will not be as long as 'The Primevals'! 😉

After you watch it the first time, and if you are on a laptop computer ... play it back again at reduced speed (slow motion). If you are really observant, this presentation amazingly shows you just about every step!

Nick Hilligoss (in the video) for most of the animation jobs he has done, he uses 'wire armatures' and the use of ball & socket armatures, not as frequent. I am guessing, due to the usual time pressure deadlines & lesser budget allowance. Over the years, Nick has developed his wire armaturing methods that has been successful for him.

I always wished that Nick had a more precision armature for this creature, but nevertheless, he astoundingly is able to execute reasonably fluid animation with a 'wire armature' which are Springy & can be difficult to exactly position & pose, frame to frame. Thank the GODS for the technology of 'Frame Grabbers' such as DragonFrame, Stop Motion Pro, and other similar software, which has revolutionized the quality of modern stop motion. Even with wire armatured puppets ... you can get smooth results. It just takes a bit longer to animate. 

I think  ... a fairly convincing, surreal creature design having high production aesthetics quality, created with an abundance of talent, skills & dedicated sweat effort, in spite of the restrictive budgetary resources!

StopMoNick Youtube

Peter A Montgomery / Dark Earth Youtube


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Thursday, August 3, 2023

Bad Ass 'Vermithrax Pejorative' - Making Of

I was aware of this behind the scenes some months ago. It is one hour long. Since your time is likely valuable 😁... I present to you here, a shortened 14 minute version, getting to 'The Technical Meat'... only for the hard core Stop Motion Enthusiasts 😎 Here you go ... and don't forget that you can go FULL SCREEN ... and Enjoy!

I do not have much to ramble about except for ... in the early 1980's, I attended an ILM* free show & tell talk presentation. They brought some of their special effects actual models, props, miniatures, including the Vermithrax Pejorative go motion puppet. The event was not at their studio ... ILM rented a bungalow where we met up.

*Industrial Light & Magic

Here is the Link to the full one hour documentary:

Dragonslayer 1981 - Making of & Behind the Scenes

Also, I added this 'Making Of' to my old Stop Motion Works website ... an  existing brief page about Go Motion:

Stop Motion Works - Go Motion Dragonslayer (1981)


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