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Interview with Norman Yeend – Director, Animator, and Co-Producer of Ident for "Aquaman" Director James Wan’s Production Company, Atomic Monster

Atomic Monster logo. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.



“At the time he made contact, he was working as an assistant to James Wan on the film Aquaman,” Norman Yeend—a thirty-year veteran in the stop motion industry as a director, animator, and model maker—tells Stop Motion Geek, describing a moment towards the end of 2017 when he got the call from his friend, coworker, and fellow Australian, Craig Sinclair, a producer, who pitched to Yeend what became his next labor of love—one which checked all the right boxes for him to stoke his passion for classic, practical-effects movie monsters and their delightfully fun flavor of mayhem. “James had mentioned to him that he was keen to re-create his company logo using primarily stop-motion and miniatures, and Craig figured he knew just the guy for the job.”

For Yeend there isn’t a pivotal moment he can pinpoint when his passion for stop motion was first ignited, his love for the medium instead one which slowly grew from his youth, the earliest roots of which began with his childhood fascination with dinosaurs—one that’s carried into adulthood. “As a youngster I was fascinated by them,” he comments. “I was always drawing dinosaurs or attempting to make models of them from modelling clay. I would place them in crudely made dioramas or have them battle in the primordial landscape I imagined in our backyard.”

Atomic Monster ident set. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

However, it was only after watching televised screenings of films like 1933’s King Kong and Irwin Allen’s 1956 film The Animal World that Yeend really became aware that there was a craft to bringing these surreal beasts to life before the camera—one he soon wanted nothing more than to learn.

From that point on, Yeend, then in his early teens, began to devour what information he could find about the effects used in these films and the visionaries responsible for them in the pages of soon dog-eared copies of behind-the-scenes film magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland and Cinefantastique. “Not only did I learn that a process called stop-motion animation was responsible for bringing those dinosaurs to life, but loads of other fantastic creatures as well,” says Yeend. “Needless to say, I was hooked!”

A still from the final Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

Several decades later and now a thirty-plus-years professional in the industry, the secrets of which he dreamt about as a child, and the momentous films of his childhood still stay with him, continuing to make an impact on his future by providing him with a constant source of inspiration. “While films such as Isle of Dogs, and any number of recent, short stop-motion works are of course brilliant,” says Yeend, “I find that it’s the older films that I still return to for inspiration. Films such as King Kong (1933), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), or my favourite feature length stop-motion film, Mad Monster Party (1967), are timeless works that have gone on to inspire many others in one way or another.”

These films are also what Yeend imagines as being the primary reason Wan, who Yeend describes as being “a real monster kid at heart,” decided to reimagine the ident for his company—Atomic Monster Productions, whose recent work includes The Nun, Annabelle: Creation, and The Conjuring 2—saying, “I think it’s this same fondness for the old monster movies we grew up with, films like It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), that inspired James to want to re-create his logo using the same or similar techniques.”

Rocket-Man puppet from the Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

The revamped Atomic Monster ident—helmed by Yeend as director, animator, and co-producer—still sports many elements from the company’s original, black-and-white, CGI ident: a massive, tentacle monster wreaking havoc on an urban city, only to be defeated by a rocket-man, his identity masked as he dives down from the dark skyline to blast the creature with laser rays shooting from his gauntleted hands, with which he ultimately comes to form the company’s logo upon landing.



“While the original concept of ‘rocket-man vs monster tentacles in the heart of the city’ would essentially remain the same, James was also after something a bit different,” says Yeend, noting, “Even though he already had a serviceable logo, he was keen to use old school techniques combined with digital technology to create something new and fresh.”

The final result—through brief—is quite astounding, immediately awakening nostalgia for the “creature features” of the days of special effects pioneers Ray Harryhausen and O’Brien, the premise lending itself perfectly to stop motion, its short runtime only leaving one craving for more: A rocket-man—now a fully three-dimensional, silicone puppet, tinted silver and cast over a mostly ball-and-socket armature, his arms and legs modified from an action figure and his head a reworked ping-pong ball—stands out amidst the night sky as he soars over a blazing cityscape and swoops in to do battle with a five-armed tentacle monster, silicone rubber spotted with dozens of tiny suckers built over armatures made of aluminum wire and resin discs, menacing a laser-cut city, through which runs a disorderly stream of traffic, above which the hero to eventually lands to form the Atomic Monster logo with his laser rays.



In our interview, Norman Yeend tells us about his journey into the stop motion industry and ultimately attaining the career he has today. He also gives us an in-depth look at the making of the Atomic Monster ident, discussing everything from pre-production to post. Moreover, he gives his advice to creatives aspiring to craft their own career in the stop motion industry—in everything from tips to finding and sustaining creative energy to how to best interact with coworkers to methods of analyzing the work of the masters of stop motion and applying lessons learned by them to one’s own style.

You can read our interview below in full.

A.H. Uriah: Hello, Norman! Thank you so much for doing this interview! It’s a pleasure to feature you and your work on the blog!
To start, could you tell us how—and why, exactly—your passion for the stop motion medium was sparked? Could you give our readers, in brief, an overview of the steps you’ve taken since that springboard moment to reach the place in your career you now find yourself—a thirty-year veteran in the stop motion industry as an animator, model maker, and director, whose work spans an award-winning documentary, as well as numerous commercials, short films, and music videos, many of which have received prestigious accolades?


Norman Yeend: Hi A.H. My pleasure. Thank you for your interest.

I think my passion for stop-motion all started with dinosaurs. As a youngster I was fascinated by them. I was always drawing dinosaurs or attempting to make models of them from modelling clay. I would place them in crudely made dioramas or have them battle in the primordial landscape I imagined in our backyard. I don’t recall the pivotal moment, but it was most likely a screening of King Kong (1933) or perhaps Irwin Allen’s The Animal World (1956)—which I seem to recall watching on television—which got me to thinking that there was a way to bring them to life somehow. I also found information, and some great pictures to do with stop-motion and the men who were responsible, in the pages of good old Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which I discovered in my early teens. Not only did I learn that a process called stop-motion animation was responsible for bringing those dinosaurs to life, but loads of other fantastic creatures as well. Needless to say, I was hooked!

When I was 14, I began making short stop-motion films on Super 8. My very first attempt was of my plastic Aurora Allosaurus kit battling my Aurora King Ghidorah. The showdown took place in broad daylight, near the creek that ran across our backyard. I recall squeezing the trigger on my camera in short bursts. Sometimes I’d get two frames, sometimes four, sometimes three, etc. But when the film came back from being processed, there they were. They were alive!!... albeit somewhat jerky.

Set for Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

Realising that I needed a more reliable way of capturing single frames, I invested in a simple cable release mechanism, after which I embarked on making a couple of highly ambitious Super 8 short films. One of these was a Sinbad-type epic called Colossus, while the other was a science fiction effort I called, would you believe, Atomic Monsters.

While I honed my model-making and animation skills, I was bewildered as to why most of my footage was out-of-focus. Because my weekly allowance would only allow me to buy so much modelling clay, my figures were quite small, maybe only a few inches in height. No one had ever mentioned anything about scale or depth of field, so of course the closer the camera, the blurrier the result.

Undaunted, I knew that a career in stop-motion was what I wanted to do. I still recall the day in High School where students would see the careers advisor about the type of occupation they might be best suited for. While most students had either not given it much thought, or wanted to be something more practical like a doctor, a nurse or mechanic, for example, I had no hesitation in saying I wanted to be a stop-motion animator. Of course I had no idea how to go about it, especially in Australia, but I was somehow buoyed by the fact that the advisor seemed to actually know what is was.

From there it was a matter of perseverance. I enrolled in an evening college to hone my drawing and painting skills, only to meet a fellow who worked in an animation studio in Sydney where they needed a layout artist. While I knew that cartoon animation was not really what I wanted to do, I saw it as a stepping stone to my goal, and so I applied. I must have seemed keen because I got the job, despite the fact that the work I initially presented was not very good.

A still from the final Atomic Monster Ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

Several months later the studio went bankrupt and I was out of a job, however a friend knew a fellow named Yoram Gross (Blinky Bill, Dot & the Kangaroo, etc.) who had a successful animation studio. As it happened, Yoram wanted to make a stop-motion film about prehistoric Australia. Ultimately that film never happened, but my time there allowed me the opportunity to further hone my sculpting and model-making skills. It was also there that I later met a like-minded fellow named Graham Binding, who made fabulous ball-and-socket jointed armatures, and who I would later work with on our own stop-motion dinosaur film, Muttaburrasaurus.

After Yoram’s, I worked at a company called Mirage FX, which was sort of the Weta Studios of its day. Any time a job that required stop-motion would crop up, I’d put up my hand. There, I worked primarily on commercials, although I was originally hired to sculpt and make models for a film called The Time Guardian which had Carrie Fisher in it. After my time at Mirage I went freelance, and have been ever since.

For a while I was also represented by a few production companies in Sydney as animation director, which allowed me to have more of a say in the creative process.

A.H.: Can you tell us a little about how you became involved with your most recent project: the recreated, stop motion ident for Atomic Monster—Saw, Furious 7, The Conjuring, The Nun, and Aquaman’s writer-director James Wan’s production company?

NY: Towards the end of 2017 I was contacted by a producer friend named Craig Sinclair. I’d worked with Craig on a number of stop-motion jobs in New Zealand. At the time he made contact, he was working as an assistant to James Wan on the film Aquaman. James had mentioned to him that he was keen to re-create his company logo using primarily stop-motion and miniatures, and Craig figured he knew just the guy for the job.

From there it was a matter of liaising with James and his business partner, Michael Clear. A meeting with James on the set of Aquaman answered a few questions, and helped get things rolling.

Rocket-Man puppet for Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: What was the turnaround and workflow like on this project?

NY: I’d originally estimated 12 weeks from start to finish, however it went a little bit beyond that, primarily because of James’ commitments on Aquaman.

One of the first things needed was to have a 3D previs made and approved. The previs would determine such things as the timing of the fairly complicated camera move, the flight path of the rocket-man, etc. Originally there was also meant to be a rocket in there as well. The rocket was to zoom in, and our rocket-man would fly out to do battle with the monster tentacles, but we couldn’t make it work within the ten-second-or-so timeframe. It was James who made the wise call to lose the rocket which made sense, especially as our rocket-man was, after all, a rocket-man.

One of the first people I contacted to help out was Guy Jamieson from guy@pokethebear.tv. I’ve recently joined with Guy to try to push for more of this type of work. Guy oversaw all the VFX, while an artist named Jason Morice was the compositor. I also contacted a terrific DOP I’d worked with in the past named Simon Higgins. Simon was responsible for the lighting and motion control using Dragonframe and his own motion control system. All these professionals did amazing work!

While the previs was being worked on, a model-maker friend named Warren Barnard was going above and beyond, making the laser-cut miniature city, complete with the stream of traffic that’s visible in the background. Meanwhile, I worked on the rocket-man puppet and liaised with James and his business partner. The construction of the rocket-man puppet itself proved to be more difficult than I had first imagined.

We filmed the wide shot of the buildings and tentacles first, using the information from the previs for our motion-control camera. The rocket-man from the previs was isolated and used as a line-up movie to help with the animation of the puppet, specifically his flight path. The rocket-man himself was suspended on a custom made flying rig.

Set for Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: How did you and your associates develop the concept behind the ident, ultimately adapting and updating the ‘50s-esque, monster-movie style seen in the finished piece, reminiscent of the work of Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, and Phil Tippett, as well what I’d pin as a bit of the The Rocketeer and Ultraman (which, perhaps not accidentally, is a character you’ve work with in the past on Ultraman: Towards the Future)?

NY: Yes. Ultraman was great fun! Lots of miniatures, monsters and destruction, although not in stop-motion.

The logo was actually based on James’ existing Atomic Monster company logo which was originally done several years ago in black-and-white using CGI. It showed a city being menaced by gigantic tentacles which were defeated by a rocket-man who zooms down from the sky and blasts them before landing and forming the words ‘Atomic Monster’ with his laser ray.

Funnily enough, I already happened to have the same number of animatable tentacles which I’d made and animated for a Jeep commercial several years prior. Being made of silicone rubber, they were still in good condition. They were about 2 feet long, and perfect for the job.

While the original concept of ‘rocket-man vs monster tentacles in the heart of the city’ would essentially remain the same, James was also after something a bit different.

A still from the final Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: As a follow-up to the latter question: much of your work is clearly inspired by the work of Harryhausen and O’Brien. Can you tell us how you became acquainted with their work, and—if you had to say—how it’s influenced your own? From your own experience, how do you suggest animators examine the work of their creative inspirations with a critical eye to learn from them?

NY: I probably would have been introduced to the work of Ray Harryhausen, Willis O’Brien, Jim Danforth, and stop-motion in general, via screenings of their films on TV, although I wouldn’t have known the names of the men responsible at the time. As I said earlier, it all started with dinosaurs, so films like King Kong, One Million Years BC and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth were eagerly anticipated events. This was long before the internet, DVDs or videos, so the only real access to these films were infrequent screenings on television. My fascination was reinforced by reading Famous Monsters, Cinefantastique, and anything else I could get my hands on with even a snippet of information.

As far as influencing my own work, undoubtedly the work of these past masters was, and still is, a huge influence. While I entered the field of miniatures, practical effects and stop-motion hoping to make my own ‘Harryhausen-esque’ type films with dinosaurs, aliens and other fantastic creatures, but by the time I made my first real dinosaur film computer animation was starting to take over. I still remember watching Jurassic Park, knowing that we still had a few stop-motion shots left to do, with a mixture of awe and a kind of sinking feeling.

Since then, the type of animation Ray Harryhausen is best known for has pretty much become the realm of the computer animator. No longer do you see dinosaurs or monsters done in stop-motion, unless it’s used in odd, low budget, independent films.

As far as mainstream films are concerned, stop-motion has for a long time now been relegated to either the more stylised, family friendly films such as the Wallace and Gromit series, Nightmare Before Christmas, or Isle of Dogs, etc., or some of the more ‘arthouse’ type film such as Anomalisa or a film I worked on some years back called $9.99. Having said that, I see that Force of the Trojans, a film that Ray proposed after his last film, Clash of the Titans, may be resurrected using the stop-motion process, which is great news. It may just pave the way for a resurgence of these movies.

Another of my inspirations are the wonderful old Warner Bros. cartoons, especially the work of Chuck Jones, etc. I’ve often tried to apply the same brilliant comic timing to some of my own work, where appropriate.

As for how animators can examine the work of their creative inspirations to learn from them, try to watch as many of their films as you can. Learn how they were done. If possible, study scenes you admire frame-by-frame to get an idea of the flow of the movement. This goes for not only stop-motion, but all animation. Also try to learn from live action films you may have been impressed by, in terms of timing, storytelling, even characterisation.

Set for Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: What materials and processes did you and your associates utilize to build the puppets and sets for the Atomic Monster ident?


NY: As mentioned earlier, I already happened to have the tentacles for Atomic Monster from a commercial I did many years prior. For these I firstly sculpted one tentacle (without the suckers on it) out of modeling clay. I then made a two part mold from fibreglass. The suckers were sculpted and molded separately and applied later. For the armature, I used a number of thicknesses of aluminum wire over a series of resin discs. The wire was of a heavier grade towards the base of the tentacle, while a finer grade was used towards the tip. I repeated the process five times to make all five tentacles.

As for the rocket-man, he posed a number of challenges. As he had already been designed and was central to James’ logo, I had to adhere to the design quite closely. The main body was sculpted from modelling clay, and a silicone mould taken. It was then cast over a ball-and-socket, jointed armature from a different silicone which was tinted silver. For the head I actually used a large ping-pong ball, while the arms and legs were modified from an action figure. The hands were silicone rubber, while his gauntlets were custom-made. The attachment of the arms to the shoulders, and head to neck were quite tricky, especially the shoulders which were balls with the arms jutting from them. To use regular ball and socket joints in those areas would have meant that any extreme movement of his arms would have exposed a hole or slot. The same would have been true of his head, so it was clear that ball and sockets, or even wire, was not the way to go for those areas. After much trial and error I came up with a method of using magnets.

As mentioned earlier, the miniature city set was built by a model maker friend named Warren Barnard using a laser cutter machine. He built it to a scale of roughly 1:160, or N-scale in model railroad terms. Single-handedly, he designed and built the entire miniature city, complete with internal lighting and the animatable line of traffic visible in the background.

Because of a number of constraints (time, budget, space) it was necessary to create the rest of the city, as well as the dramatic night sky, using a digital matte painting created by Jason Morice.

Rocket-Man puppet for the Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: As your showreel and YouTube playlist featuring much of your work over the years testify, you’re no stranger to working very closely with many top ad agencies—both international and domestic—to create commercials, idents, and other such material to promote and represent a myriad of brands and companies. Undoubtedly, such a responsibility can prove difficult at times...especially when one has a particularly short amount of time—both in production time (you mention having less than two days to animate “almost a full minute of single frame, stop-motion footage” on a commercial for the international supermarket chain Aldi) and in screen-time—to accomplish such a task.
Broadly—although specifically concerning the Atomic Monster ident—when it’s your job to develop a commercial or to otherwise represent the final “look” of an already-developed idea, what is your process for making certain you’re representing a company as best you can? Have you developed any criteria to measure these ideas by?


NY: When contacted about any job, big or small, it’s always good to find out as much information as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for any creative material that might be relevant to your involvement in the project: script, designs, storyboard, etc. Find out how much time they’ve allowed so you can best work out if you can actually do the job to the level they expect and in the allotted time. Also, if possible, find out if they have a budget in mind, even if they ask you for a quote. More often than not a client is quite guarded about this information, but there’s no harm in asking.

With regard to Atomic Monster, at first I was liaising with James and his partner, Michael, via email, but because James was so busy on Aquaman at the time it soon became apparent that I’d actually need to see him so that I could ask him those questions personally. I went up to the Gold Coast where Aquaman was being filmed. My friend Craig introduced me to him, between takes. We managed to chat for a bit where I found out, among other things, what a cool guy he is. He’s a real monster kid at heart.

Even though he already had a serviceable logo, he was keen to use old school techniques combined with digital technology to create something new and fresh. From our meetings I learned how much how much freedom I had for interpretation, and how much he wanted kept close to his original logo (the design of the rocket-man, for example). He was quite open to suggestions, but ultimately it was his logo, so it was nice that we were pretty much on the same page throughout.

As I mentioned previously, when I was in my teens I made a stop-motion film on Super 8 called ‘Atomic Monsters.’ When I mentioned that, and the fact that I already had some rubber tentacles ready to go, his response was that it must have been ‘kismet’. :)

Set for Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: Having worked in the stop motion profession for as long as you have, I can only imagine you have a thing or to say about sustaining a career in this industry.
Firstly, how do you live your life in a way—in everything from the day-to-day to a thirty-year span—to find the emotional and creative energy to pursue your creative passions, full-time? Secondly, what skills—specifically people skills and non-artistic skills—have you found are the most beneficial to crafting a sustainable career in this industry?


NY: That’s kind of a tricky one. Being a creative type can be a bit of an emotional and financial rollercoaster at times, especially when you work freelance in such a niche occupation as stop-motion, and in a country that’s not particularly known for it like Australia. It becomes even trickier when you have a family to support. My wife is also in the arts, being an illustrator, so it’s not like one of us has a steady job to support the other.

I have a number of my own projects that I’m working on, some more developed than others. Some are animation projects and some live-action, while others I hope to have published in the form of either novels or picture books. Sometimes it can be difficult to sustain the enthusiasm for a particular project by yourself, especially when times are a bit tough. Experience has shown that something always comes up, which then allows me to be able to concentrate further on developing my ideas.

Living where I do, in the Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney, is a great place for inspiration and creativity. There are also many other artists of all disciplines in the area, so I appear to be in good company.

Rocket-Man puppet for Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: Next to your work as an animator and director, you’ve also taught the craft of stop-motion at the University of Technology, Sydney, the Design Centre, Enmore, and at other schools.
If you had to distill your lectures into a short-an’-sweet summary, what are the most essential pieces of advice for an animator to learn and kinds of experience to get, and what resources do you recommend to learn such skills?


NY: I guess everyone has their own way of learning, and at their own pace, but for me, observation and practice are key. Practice, probably goes without saying, as it’s important no matter which discipline you are trying to master, be it music, painting, writing or whatever. Observation is also an important factor in disciplines such as drawing and painting. As an animator, though, I think it’s important to be observant and to study, not only the work of other animators, but also the movements of people, animals, even objects in motion, so as best to get a sense of overall timing.

Ray Harryhausen, for example, took life drawing lessons to better get a sense of the human form and how to apply it to his creations. His pre-production artworks show his skill and understanding of anatomy.

There are many valuable resources available to the student, and even the veteran animator: certainly a lot more than when I was starting out. A lot of online material is available on places like Youtube where you can find tutorials on almost any subject.

Set for the Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

A.H.: To draw our interview to a close: what stop motion or model-making work have you seen in recent years that you’ve found the most inspiring? Why?

NY: To be honest, I still tend to draw inspiration from discovering, or re-watching, some of the older effects films. There are still so many old movies and TV shows I’ve yet to discover, that I tend to not go and see the latest movies so much any more. While films such as Isle of Dogs, and any number of recent, short stop-motion works are of course brilliant, I find that it’s the older films that I still return to for inspiration. Films such as King Kong (1933), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), or my favourite feature length stop-motion film, Mad Monster Party (1967), are timeless works that have gone on to inspire many others in one way or another. Aside from stop-motion, I’m also a big fan of the Japanese kaiju films. Some of the miniature work in the Godzilla or Gamera series is simply astonishing. Even some of the smaller budget, b-movies of the fifties are not without their charm. What they may have lacked in budget, they more than made up for in creativity. I think it’s this same fondness for the old monster movies we grew up with, films like It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), that inspired James to want to re-create his logo using the same or similar techniques.

Norman Yeend animating on the set of the Atomic Monster ident. Photo courtesy of Norman Yeend.

You can explore more of Norman’s work by visiting his Google Plus, LinkedIn, Flickr, IMDb, and YouTube.

You can watch the new Atomic Monster ident by going here. You can watch the black-and-white Atomic Monster ident by going here.

You can find more behind-the-scenes information concerning the project by going to the ident’s VFX producer Guy Jamieson’s Poke the Bear Animation website. You can watch the animation time-lapse for the ident by going here.

You can stay tuned for upcoming interview articles by subscribing to the Stop Motion Geek email newsletter via the “subscribe” button at the top right corner of our homepage, by following us on Facebook @StopMotionGeek, or by following us on Instagram @stop.motion.geek.blog.

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Interview with Samuel Lewis - Animator, Character Designer, and Sculptor on Stop Motion Short Film, "Lost & Found"

“If I had to pick a starting point for my career as a stop motion animator I would have to say it was my obsession as a six year old with a book called ‘Playing with Plasticine’ by Barbara Reid,” Samuel Lewis – a London-based stop motion and 2D animator and director, whose most recent labor of love can be seen in his contribution to the Australian stop motion short film, Lost & Found – tells Stop Motion Geek. Upon reflection, Lewis explains that his love for the medium of stop motion began very early in life, and has merely managed to burn ever brighter in his fervor to master the craft.

“I would spend countless hours fixated on sculpting tiny snails, fruit bowls and dinosaurs to the point where I would stay inside on family holidays sculpting a surfer in a beach scene rather than going to the actual beach that was only a short walk away,” Lewis recalls wistfully. “Eventually this, coupled with a healthy interest in Sesame Street, Trapdoor, Pingu and Wallace & Gromit lead to …

Interview with Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter, Directors of Oscar® Nominated Stop Motion Short Film, "Negative Space"

Across the Baltimore-based director-duo Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter’s Oscar® nominated short film Negative Space’s 5 minute runtime, rooted in the profoundly emotional soil of the film’s essence, an extraordinary spectrum of deep themes are explored – death, grief, what one’s childhood means once one has “grown up” – yet perhaps none are as front-and-center than that which binds all of the film’s themes together: that of the relationship between father and son.

Negative Space, a film inspired by a 150-word poem of the same by Ron Koertge, is, at its heart, the story of Sam, a young man, as he internally processes his relationship with his father throughout his life as well as the grief and emotion that come with the loss of his father as he travels to his recently-passed father’s funeral.


Undoubtedly the primary visual motif as well as the crux of the film – both visually as well as thematically – is the practice and veritable art of packing a suitcase. The film begins, appropriately,…

Aardman Senior Model-Maker Jay Smart Reveals Aardman's Puppet Materials and Plasticine Techniques for "Early Man" to Adam Savage of Tested

Along with the usual humdrum of press ranging from critic reviews and interviews with voice actors regarding British animation powerhouse Aardman Animation’s latest feature film – Early Man, a “prehistoric underdog sports story,” in the words of the film’s director Nick Park – has come by the way of the YouTube channel Tested something really exceptional and especially meant for stop motion enthusiasts – a deep-dive into the materials and plasticine techniques Aardman uses for their puppets presented by television personality and special effects aficionado Adam Savage and Jay Smart, a senior modeler at Aardman.

During Savage’s tour of the plasticine department, Smart gives Savage a demonstration of a system Aardman began developing for Chicken Run, their first plasticine-driven feature film, to methodize a system for mixing large batches of plasticine to produce a particular, standardized color of plasticine. The technique developed, it turns out, was to amalgamate several different …

Interview with Gavin Strange (aka “Jam Factory”) – Senior Designer at Aardman, Director of Aardman’s “Masters of Merry” Fortnum & Mason Christmas Ad, and Author of Motivational Self-Help Book, “DO Fly”

“There are a million and one reasons to not do something, to not start something,” Gavin Strange—a Bristol-based, ten-year veteran at Aardman Animations, where he works as a director, most recently having directed the Christmas ad campaign Masters of Merry for London-based, luxury department store Fortnum & Mason, as well as a senior designer in the studio’s digital department, whilst also pursuing his passion projects on the side under the alias Jam Factory—tells Stop Motion Geek. “Life, work, family, health, time, space, location, mood, emotion—all of these things can throw you off your game.”

“So, I think you have to do anything you can, use anything you can, to get and to stay motivated,” Strange continues. “Pick the lowest hanging fruit, set yourself a goal that’s easy, really easy. Because it’s all a step in the right direction. It can be so overwhelming when you’re trying to plot and plan where you want to go, or who you want to be. I think it helps to just take it a step …

Interview with Heather Colbert, Filmmaker Behind The Music Video for Tom Rosenthal’s “How Have You Been?”

“After talking with Tom, I just let the track play, while I drew or noted down ideas that came into my head,” Heather Colbert—a Bristol-based animator and filmmaker—tells Stop Motion Geek about the origins of her newest project: creating, almost single-handedly, the music video for English singer-songwriter Tom Rosenthal’s “How Have You Been?”—a haunting and beautiful acapella piece off his latest album, Z-Sides. “He told me the album was about sleep and so the images that came to me were of nocturnal and natural things. I also saw a connection in the beautiful lyrics to a character living with mental health issues, especially in the line ‘I woke up, but it didn’t go away’. So I began to see a creature trying their best to get on with their task, but being hindered by the fear of the world that they inhabit.”


The third music video she’s directed since graduating university in 2016, How Have You Been? sees Colbert reach new heights in her ability to craft subtle performances that tell…