Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Goblin in my Basement - Part 1

There really IS a goblin in my basement!

It’s true. I have a little goblin in my basement. Don’t believe me?  Let me show you indisputable photographic evidence . . .

Charming lad, eh?

This mischievous chap is not particularly large (maybe 8 inches tall on a good day) and, to be fair, he’s not particularly mischievous, either.  I am inclined to believe that he is a sympathetic little creature, and that he may have once been a member of a royal family . . . the fact that I cannot understand a word he utters suggests he doesn’t speak English, and therefore is not a member of THAT royal family.

I really ought to know more about this green-skinned humanoid.  I am, after all, his creator, and he is the “star” of a short, animated movie I have been making in my basement for the last two years.

Yours truly and his houseguest.

Let me start at the beginning.

As a child, I saw the 1933 movie “King Kong” and immediately wanted to know how it was made.  I gradually became aware of more movies that had fantastic creatures that couldn't possibly exist.  They didn't seem real, exactly; there was a toy-like quality to them, as they lumbered through forests or stomped down the streets of ruined cities, that I found mesmerizing. If you read my August, 2013 post about "Little Wars" you will see that same fascination with miniature worlds.  In the end, the dinosaurs (and COWBOYS!) from “The Valley of Gwangi” and the poor Ymir beast in “20 Million Miles to Earth” grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. 


As a 6 year old kid, I knew these guys didn't live at the same time, but it didn't matter.

The poster says it all!

Thanks to a kids book on monster movie magic (NOT the real title) found in the Prescott Public Library, I learned that these creatures were brought to life by the use of something called “stop-motion animation”.  Articulated puppets were placed in a miniature set and photographed, one frame at a time, as they were ever-so-slightly moved from one pose to the next.  Played back at a rate of 24 frames per second, they seemed to be alive. I learned the names of pioneering animators Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen and to this day their work is every bit as important to me as Rembrandt or Rubens.

I used to drool looking at these pages . . .

We were too poor to afford the super 8mm movie cameras that Sears advertised  with “single-frame” options, so I never got a chance to try this out. I did, however, spend the next 40+ years learning how to sculpt and paint miniature buildings and figures, and for a number of reasons, it was time well spent.

So endeth my ancient history lesson.

Still frame from "The Wargame"

In October of 2011,  I discovered that I could make an animated movie in my basement using a simple point and shoot camera, my military miniatures and free image-sequencing software on my Mac. I stayed up several nights, carefully moving little tanks and shooting photos, until the sun came up. It was a blast (pun intended) and I was hooked.  Here’s the link to that first endeavor:

2 lavishly illustrated books about the work of my animation hero Ray Harryhausen suddenly appeared on the shelves at Half Price Books and my childhood dreams of fantastic beings in fantastic worlds seemed to spring to life once more. My imagination ran wild at the possibilities.  Dinosaurs?  Monsters? Fairy Tales?  Whatever should I do next?

Stay tuned – more “Goblin” coming soon!