Saturday, November 09, 2019

That Stop-Motion Lifestyle

There was a Seago adventure afoot. We started off at the St. Louis Nicaragua spot: Fritanga.

Soulja Boys were out on account of this being Veteran's Day weekend. I hope they really Superman that parade.

We started with a little lunch at Fritanga, the local Nicaraguan joint. It's a fun place because not only do I get to eat delicious food but I can reminisce about one of the worst trips I've yet experienced, complete with a bout of what I believe was dengue fever.

The art on the walls reminded me of something similar we picked up in Nicaragua.

So I like the St. Louis International Film Festival a lot. What I don't like about it is that a lot of it costs more than zero dollars. I was scanning the free section and I saw something that sounded pretty rad: a master class in stop-motion animation with Brad Schiff. Brad is a native St. Louisan, Oscar nominee, and animation supervisor of Laika Studios. One of the early bullet points on his rap sheet was a stint working for MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch. I used to love that show.

Man this was a really cool talk. He's worked on several stop motion films, and I think Laika might be the only company, or maybe one of two that are doing stop motion. Anyway so they are really setting the standard and having to figure out how to do things themselves. Their earlier films were much rougher around the edges but then he showed their progression, with each film getting better and better. I had no idea the movies worked like this, but they would 3D print out a zillion of each character's face that would then snap onto the puppet's head in order to show expression.

The facial plates came in a set of two, so the characters' eyes and mouths could be animated independently. The seam between the two plates of the puppets' face was then removed in post production.  This one was for Coraline.

As the studio got more and more sophisticated it seemed that they were able to handle animating more and more characters on-screen concurrently.  These guys are from The Boxtrolls.

The puppets got more and more sophisticated culminating in their latest release: Missing Link.

The skeletons of the puppets were super cool: they pull a knob or tighten a screw to make a character get slightly taller or fatter, such as the normal wobbling around your body does when you walk. Jumping or falling was especially interesting. If a character jumps off a cliff they have to use rigging to suspend the puppet in the air then animate its descent. 

At first they were just using their imagination but one of the insights was to have the puppeteers or whoever else was around act out the scenes and act as models for the puppets. It sort of seemed like a no-brainer in hindsight.

The talk ended with questions from the audience. It was around this time that I realized everyone in the crowd was legit animation students, not just knowledge tourists. They had a bunch of really specific, fun, and technical animation questions.

Me and Mr Link.

After I was thoroughly confident that I had mastered stop-motion animation it was time to celebrate all of my accomplishments. Gezellig in the Grove was a new one for me. It was cool because it had lots of beer cases open to patrons. I could grab my own cold one. We did a taste test thing so I grabbed something classy: the champagne of beers in a champagne bottle.

Just as I suspected, all of the beers had a taste. I will continue to test this hypothesis.

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