Night­mares in Stop Mo­tion

Adult Swim’s lat­est se­ries The Shiv­er­ing Truth is ev­ery­thing you might ex­pect from the in­sane stretches of Ver­non Chat­man’s bril­liant, twisted mind. By Ramin Za­hed

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

Noth­ing can quite get un­der the hu­man skin like stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion. That’s why The Shiv­er­ing Truth, the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Adult Swim toon mad­house, does such a great job of be­ing both weird and won­der­ful. The brain­child of Emmy-win­ning South Park writer-pro­ducer Ver­non Chat­man (who also co-cre­ated the in­san­ity feasts known as Won­der Showzen and Xavier: Rene­gade An­gel) and di­rected by Chat­man and Cat Solen ( Take My Wife), the seven-part quar­ter-hour se­ries is billed as a darkly sur­real an­thol­ogy fea­tur­ing sto­ries “that crawled out of the deep­est cav­erns of the un­con­scious mind.”

Dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view, Chat­man say he’d been think­ing about some of the ideas for the show for quite a while. “I’d been col­lect­ing ideas for short films and sketches for years,” he says. “They were all cin­e­matic and short, but they were also comedic. Cat and I had been look­ing for a pro­ject to do to­gether, and this just fit the bill, be­cause we are both drawn to im­pos­si­ble projects. We took the idea to Mike Lazzo [Adult Swim’s se­nior exec VP], who trusted us to de­liver some­thing in­ter­est­ing. Stop­mo­tion is very la­bor-in­ten­sive and ex­pen­sive, so we had to pro­duce a pi­lot to prove that we could do this.”

Chat­man and Solen reached out to the an­i­ma­tors at Shad­ow­ma­chine’s stu­dio ( Bo­jack Horse­man, Dal­las & Robo) in Port­land, Ore. to pro­duce the se­ries’ pi­lot, while the show’s post and sound was done in New York City. (About 80 peo­ple worked on the show in Port­land and 25 in New York.) They also man­aged to at­tract quite a voice cast — which in­cludes the likes of Maria Bam­ford, David Cross, Andy Daly, Janeane Garo­falo, Trey Parker, Jor­dan Peele, Martha Plimp­ton and John Reynolds.

Chat­man says stop-mo­tion has an amaz­ingly sus­tained mirac­u­lous qual­ity about it. Then, he jok­ingly adds, “I think we made the per­fect show to fin­ish tele­vi­sion for­ever. I’m lucky that Cat can do any­thing, and she has good taste. Our con­stant in­spi­ra­tion was the for­mat of stop-mo­tion be­cause it can carry so much tone, both emo­tion and com­edy. It’s re­ally vis­ceral, and you can have blood and guts fall­ing out of the char­ac­ters’ bod­ies, and it all feels tan­gi­ble. The show is tai­lor­made to max­i­mize that po­ten­tial. Our goal was to have no lim­its, and the only way to achieve that is to do this show ’til infinity!”

In­sane, Tal­ented An­i­ma­tors

Solen plays along. “I think there’s some­thing so post­mod­ern about let­ting your medium tell you what is im­pos­si­ble,” she points out. “You push back and make it go even fur­ther. There are lots of pre-es­tab­lished norms in stop-mo­tion, and I wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and show that the medium is ca­pa­ble of a lot more. You have to have a script that says some­thing wasn’t fea­si­ble to make, and then you try and do it. You need to find peo­ple who are open to try some­thing in­sane. You don’t have a guide­book, so you test out var­i­ous strate­gies. You also try to keep it beau­ti­ful, pre­cious and spe­cial.”

Fea­tur­ing sur­real mini-night­mares about nasty crea­tures that live in­side a hole in a char­ac­ter’s head or self-bleed­ing un­der­wear, The Shiv­er­ing Truth has a way of re­ally mess­ing with the viewer’s mind. “Cat is one of the peo­ple that I can

show the scripts to, and she doesn’t throw up,” says Chat­man. “Or she throws up for the right rea­sons.”

Chat­man brings up the fact that Port­land, which is also home to Laika Stu­dios, has emerged as the hub for stop-mo­tion. “It is a very spe­cial­ized medium,” he adds. “You just have to have the right gene for it. It’s amaz­ing be­cause you can ask them to make you a teeny tiny melon baller or a very tiny wa­ter bot­tle, and they’ll do it. They ac­tu­ally love it and don’t get mad.”

The Shiv­er­ing Truth cre­ators were also aim­ing for a spe­cial kind of “crude and rus­tic” stop-mo­tion. “Stop-mo­tion to­day in­te­grates 3D graph­ics so much, but we wanted the orig­i­nal love­li­ness of the medium,” says Chat­man. “When you’re a kid and watch­ing Ru­dolph on TV, it’s so en­gag­ing and draws you it. We didn’t want to get rid of the rough edges. We just didn’t have the pa­tience to get rid of them — they’re all or­gan­i­cally there!”

As Solen points out, “If you’re work­ing in a model shop of a big movie you have to paint the same one ob­ject for sev­eral years … and these are in­sanely creative peo­ple. So in a way, the time and bud­get re­stric­tions work in our fa­vor. It’s about find­ing the bal­ance of hav­ing enough money to do the work, and do­ing it an art­ful way.”

Hyp­no­tized by Pup­pets

The an­i­ma­tors worked with 10-inch-tall pup­pets with wire-based ar­ma­tures that are cre­ated with sil­i­con, wool, poly­styrene and resin. Chat­man says, “We were so lucky be­cause our an­i­ma­tors are in­sanely good, and they were also multi-taskers who were help­ing with other things that they were good at, be­sides an­i­mat­ing the pup­pets.”

Solen men­tions, “You can re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the real fibers that are used in the sweaters,” she says. “There’s some­thing about real tex­tures and ma­te­ri­als that re­ally grabs the back of your brain and mas­sages it.” Or as Chat­man ex­plains, “The ma­te­rial opens up your brain and takes you to a ter­ri­ble place, and we can ruin your child­hood retroac­tively!”

Chat­man says it takes about six months of ac­tual phys­i­cal pro­duc­tion, a month of record­ing and two and half months of post to make the six episodes come to an­i­mated life. “Cat and I have to get to­gether and mind meld be­cause ev­ery sin­gle de­tail is in­vented and a tiny thing can throw ev­ery­thing off,” notes Chat­man. “The con­stant thread in all the episodes is depth and pro­fun­dity, mixed with sad­ness, lone­li­ness and

Over the past decade, we’ve come to ex­pect great things from the dis­cern­ing an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion team of Michael Rose and Martin Pope of Magic Light Pic­tures. Fans of award-win­ning spe­cials such as Room on the Broom, The Gruf­falo, The Gruf­falo’s Child and The High­way Rat are fa­mil­iar with the kind of heart-warm­ing, witty and lov­ingly an­i­mated fam­ily fare they de­liver year after year

This Christ­mas, they are back with a new half-hour spe­cial based on an­other book writ­ten by Ju­lia Don­ald­son and il­lus­trated by Axel Sch­ef­fler, who also in­spired their pre­vi­ous spe­cials. “Martin Pope and I have pro­duced a num­ber of spe­cials based on Ju­lia and Axel’s books over the years, be­gin­ning with The Gruf­falo in 2009,” says Michael Rose.

“The first time we read Zog, we loved the char­ac­ters, story and the world and wanted to bring it to screen. Max Lang and Suzanne Lang found a great way to adapt the book, and we then asked Max (who had pre­vi­ously di­rected both Gruf­falo and Room on the Broom for us) and Daniel Snad­don (who co-di­rected Stick Man) to di­rect the film.”

Zog fea­tures the voices of Sir Lenny Henry (Nar­ra­tor), Tracey Ull­man (Madame Dragon), Hugh Skin­ner (Zog), Patsy Fer­ran (Pearl) and Kit Har­ing­ton (Sir Gad­about). It cen­ters on the friend­ship be­tween an ac­ci­dent-prone dragon and a young girl who patches up his bruises and grazes. Zog faces a big chal­lenge dur­ing his fifth year at Dragon School, when he has to cap­ture a princess.

Find­ing Their Bliss

Lang and Snad­don were in­stantly drawn to the book’s char­ac­ters and hu­mor. “Zog, Princess Pearl and Sir Gad­about are all strug­gling with find­ing their place in the world,” says Lang. “There’s a big gap be­tween what they and the world wants from them, and who they ac­tu­ally are. This cre­ates a nice con­flict and leads to a lot of char­ac­ter driven com­edy. The other strong pull for us was the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pearl and Zog which adds a warmth to the story that we were keen to cap­ture in the an­i­ma­tion.”

Rose also praises Don­ald­son’s clever, char­ac­ter-led sto­ries which take read­ers on imagi-

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.