|Left: Manny's clay modelling armature, Center: Manny's animation armature, Right: Celso's animation armature|
So, how are we going to dress up Manny and Celso? I keep pondering on that one. And, for Manny in particular, I have a problem.
Animation puppets can be padded with foam, then dressed up with puppet clothes, but fabrics tend to be messy for stopmo animation : It does not stay in place and move from shot to shot.
Ideally those animation armature would be dressed in molded foam latex: a flexible foamy material with a realistic (non porous) skin, think stress-balls. But the process to get there is long and tedious :
- First a clay-modelling armature must built with the same dimensions as the animation armature. This is what you can see in the picture on the left.
- Then master shape of the puppet is molded and sculpted around the armature.
- Then a 2-part mold of the clay-sculpted "master" is made in plaster
- Only then the animation gets placed, somehow in the middle of the inverted body shape of the mold, and some scary 5-part cocktail of chemistry is poured into the mold. The whole thing is placed in a oven (but given the toxicity of the stuff, NOT your kitchen oven) and after some curing, fuming and foaming the puppets can be released from its mold and
- finishing, imperfection corrected (i.e. bubbles), painted.
I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to John Ikuma from Stopmotionmagazine.com. John has made a serie of incredibly informative and well produced tutorial which make the whole process look almost easy. Most of what I know about the craft is coming from him. John, if you read this blog, a big THANK YOU! Your website and Youtube channel are best of breed.
So what's the problem about Manny?
Well... in the end of the movie, Manny undresses. He removes his reaper cloak to be revealed all his splendor in a business suit! That sequence is going to be very tricky. I need to make a black reaper cloak that can be undressed (that will have to be fabric, no choice) and have Manny inside wearing a suit (ideally in painted foam latex, but the process looks scary). And don't get me started on these pneumatic leg-extenders. How the hell am I going to build this?
Well I guess, time is on my side...