A fairy­tale pro­jec­tion

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - [email protected]

In 1918, May Gibbs pub­lished her beloved book Snug­gle­pot and Cud­dlepie. Gen­er­a­tions of Aus­tralian children have since grown up lov­ing the two in­trepid gum­nut ba­bies and the many char­ac­ters they meet dur­ing their var­i­ous ad­ven­tures — from the evil Banksia men to the kindly Lit­tle Ragged Blos­som.

To cel­e­brate the book’s 100th an­niver­sary, Vivid Syd­ney ac­quired the rights to pro­ject the im­mor­tal char­ac­ters onto the fa­cade of Cus­toms House.

“It’s quite an ex­er­cise to get per­mis­sion to use May Gibbs’ work. We are the first team to have been granted per­mis­sion to an­i­mate her work,” says Lucy Keeler, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Am­ple Projects, who are over­see­ing the pro­ject.

Am­ple Projects is a Syd­ney­based col­lec­tive run by Keeler and Ni­cholas Tory who cre­ate pub­lic art ex­pe­ri­ences within ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments. They have cre­ated sim­i­lar an­i­mated in­stal­la­tions like this be­fore, and have had work at three pre­vi­ous Vivid Light fes­ti­vals.

To pitch for the May Gibbs pro­ject, they put in hun­dreds of hours of work.

“We were given ac­cess to the State Li­brary where they have all of her orig­i­nal works on file, so we spent some time re­view­ing (that) to make sure that we had all of the specifics of her work cor­rect, her colour use and her line weights,” Keeler says.

“But we also spent some time at her stu­dio and recorded the sounds that we heard, in­clud­ing all of the things in her gar­den. We have had a won­der­ful time.”

Their Vivid in­stal­la­tion will last 10 min­utes and fea­tures just un­der 15,000 draw­ings that faith­fully cap­ture Gibbs’ charm­ing, old-fash­ioned sto­ry­telling style. Their key ref­er­ence was the cur­rent pub­li­ca­tion of Snug­gle­pot and Cud­dlepie, which has three main sto­ries in it.

“What we have done is taken her three works Lit­tle Obe­lia, Lit­tle Ragged Blos­som and Snug­gle­pot and Cud­dlepie and jour­neyed through her body of work, with a nar­ra­tive arc, so you get to meet all the key char­ac­ters that she in­tro­duced,” Keeler says.

“It’s al­most like turn­ing it into a mov­ing, an­i­mated, sculp­tural ver­sion of the essence of May Gibbs,” Tory adds.

They gath­ered a team of around 25 peo­ple to put it to­gether, in­clud­ing 2D and 3D an­i­maters, and a dozen sec­ond year stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Syd­ney’s an­i­ma­tion de­sign de­gree.

They also used a com­poser who is draw­ing on the mu­sic of the era in which it was writ­ten.

“So, it’s flapper and it’s Charleston,” Keeler says.

All the text used was writ­ten by Gibbs her­self, with Noni Ha­zle­hurst nar­rat­ing the voiceover, while children help make the sound ef­fects.

“So, when it rains, we have lit­tle peo­ple go­ing ‘drip, drop’ and when the char­ac­ters dive into the sea we have lit­tle children go­ing ‘blub, blub, blub’ to make the sound of the bub­bles com­ing up from be­low. And that’s all in­te­grated with a sound de­sign of those real ef­fects as well, so it’s a bit of both and it’s all seam­lessly in­ter­wo­ven.

“It’s a bit like an old silent movie,” Tory says.

Work­ing on the fa­cade of Cus­toms House is an in­cred­i­ble chal­lenge be­cause it has so many win­dows and pro­trud­ing ele­ments — all of which Am­ple Projects has had to take into ac­count.

“Of all the build­ings we’ve used be­fore, Cus­toms House is the hard­est one to use for nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling be­cause it has al­most no flat sur­faces, it’s in­cred­i­bly com­plex. But once you nail it, it is ab­so­lutely superb and it can trans­form like no other build­ing in Syd­ney,” Keeler says.

VIVID SYD­NEY RUNS MAY 25 — JUNE 16. CUS­TOMS HOUSE IS ILLUMINATED EACH NIGHT 6- 11PM

Vivid Syd­ney will pro­ject May Gibbs’ trea­sured children’s book Snug­gle­pot and Cud­dlepie onto Cus­toms House.

JO LITSON ARTS WRITER

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