Monday, 27 February 2012

Character Biographies

The Toymaker

Revered in the small, Victorian community he lives in for his toymaking abilities, The Toymaker grew up learning the trade of creating puppets, marionettes and ventriloquist dummies. He has spent most of his years running a toy store that has made many children happy. His latest creation is something of an odd one: a small, plain, wooden puppet with barely any features. Unusually, he has dubbed it to be his favourite creation to date, but it's unknown why.

Age: 86

Race: White British

Hair color: Grey/white

Height: 5'9"

Body type: Frail, thin, short.

Face type: Wrinkled, lots of facial hair, thick sideburns, looks to have years of experience.

Traits: Kindly expression, jolly, rounded nose, often has a pinkish hue in his cheeks, rounded, bottle-capped glasses hiding his eyes, hunched back from years of working over a workbench.

Best qualities: Gets along well with  children, imaginitve, skilled in woodwork.

Worst qualities: Doesn't want to retire. Won't move on from toymaking.

Emily Brennald (Li'l Victorian Girl)

A little girl full of life and energy, Emily Brennald has a fondness for dolls or anything doll-like. She is a regular customer at the Toymaker's store and has made a kindly old friend in the Toymaker. Recently, his 'best' work, his small, plain puppet, has caught her eye.

Age: 6

Race: White British

Hair color: Brunette

Height: 2'5"

Body type: Short

Face type: Rounded at the cheeks, large smile.

Traits: Full of energy, small, cute, rounded nose, large eyes, dimples in smile.

Best qualities: cutesy, energetic, likes dolls.

Worst qualities: Forgetful, often in a daydream. 

Andrew Johnson (Li'l Modern Girl's Father)

Running his great, great, great, great grandfather's toystore, Andrew Johnson has a fondness for old toys, model sets, and anything that can bring back a sense of nostalgia. A true big kid at heart, he can often be found using his skill in woodwork and model-making on various model sets or refurbishing old toys. Unfortunately in the modern day and age, many people aren't fond of these same types of toys and business has been harsh.

Age: 35

Race: White British

Hair Color: Blonde

Height: 5'8"

Body type: Tall, thin legs.

Face type: The 'average utopian dad' look. broad, angular, but healthy and wise features.

Traits: Spectacles, wears a store-branded shirt with a nametag, large ears.

Best qualities: Playful, good with kids, friendly

Worst qualities: Can sometimes be a bit immature for his age.

Lucy Johnson (Li'l Modern Girl)

Like the little girl before her, Lucy shares an abundance of energy and expressiveness that only those of a young age can. She's independent and outgoing and shares her father's love for nostalgic and old toys. She frequently visits toy museums.

Age: 7

Race: White British

Hair Color: Blonde

Height: 2'7"

Body type: Slim and tall for her age.

Face type: Rounded at the cheeks, large, cheeky smile.

Traits: Hair tied into bulbous pony tails, has two larger middle teeth with a gap. Blue eyes like her father.

Best qualities: Outgoing, confident, friendly.

The Puppet

Created by the Toymaker in Victorian England and longing for an owner to love and to be loved by, the Puppet is a lonely soul with a sad tale to tell. Though it can move, it keeps the fact a secret and only moves when nobody is around.

Age: 182 years since creation

Race: Puppet

Hair color: N/A

Height: 40cm

Body type: Stumpy, large head, thin arms.

Traits: Long, thin nose like Pinocchio. No carved fingers or toes. Metal ball bearings for limb joints.

Best qualities: Loving, caring.

Worst qualities: Lonely.



Little girl(s)




Andrew Johnson

The Toymaker

More Finished Characters: Modern Li'l Girl, Modern Li'l Girl's Father

"The Puppet" (Animatic)

I'll most likely compose my own piano piece for the final animation.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Walk Cycle...?

I have no idea why it's jerking like that. It's not showing up in the animation at all. :(

I guess this is what I get for being cocky and trying to animate the walk myself instead of following the tutorial... 

"The Puppet" Storyboard.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Finished Characters: The Toymaker, Li'l Victorian Girl, The Marionette

The Birds (1963)

Nowadays we see films based around the theme of ‘nature verses mankind’ as disaster movies such as ‘28 Days Later’ and ‘2012’, but little do most of us know that the original forerunner of such movies and indeed almost the entirety of the ‘revenge of nature’ genre spurned from a movie with a most peculiar idea of nature unleashing its wrath on humanity. ‘The Birds’ (1963) by Alfred Hitchcock is a somewhat stranger film, a different genre from the director’s psycho-thrillers. This film was one of the seeds that made disaster movies popular today.
The film opens up with our icy-blonde main character, Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedren, who meets with a young lawyer, Mitch Brenner, played by Rod Taylor, apparently looking for a pair of lovebirds for his daughter for her birthday. He asks her where he can find a pair, pretending to mistake her for a staff member in the shop. After an argument, she buys a pair of lovebirds to give to his daughter herself out of spite. After sneaking away from his home in a boat after delivering the birds, she is attacked by a gull, one of the first attacks to happen throughout the movie. She then meets Mitch’s mother who is clinging to her son’s company, lest she be left on her lonesome. In a way, this is almost the intended opposite of how birds take care of their young; as soon as they can fly, they’re fit to leave the nest and fend for themselves. This may be the film’s way of telling us how different we are from nature; a direct contrast of nature verses nurture. Like with most of Hitchcock’s films, he doesn’t present the concept of family and homely places in a friendly light. Instead, it’s an awkward, skewed vision of what we perceive them to be. summarizes this is their review of the film:

“The birds attack the most ordinary institution (school), but also most sacred ones (Cathy’s birthday party) Moreover, the Brenners become imprisoned in their own house. The house, a symbol of shelter and protection, becomes the birds’ target. The traditional meaning of other symbols is shattered and/or reversed.” (, <no date>)
The bird attacks continue as a flock of gulls attacks the children at Mitch’s daughter’s birthday party and a gull commits martyrdom, killing itself upon impact upon the door of the school teacher, Annie, where Melanie stays for the night. An enormous flock of sparrows swarm down the chimney of the Brenner’s residence and invade their home. Throughout the film, these birds seem to symbolize the wrath of women: most of these bird attacks happen when Melanie is around or when the main victim or spectator is a woman. The constant theme of women’s red fingernails can be compared to the blood-stained beaks of birds and both can be used as ‘weapons’ of sorts by vicious women and birds to leave scars.
                                                                                   Fig 1
Later, Mitch’s mother visits a friend, only to find that he has been savagely and brutally murdered by another flock of birds, his eyes pecked out, leaving two bloody eye-sockets. This amount of shocking body horror within a film of its time caused quite a stir. Additionally, the theme of harm coming to the eyes is shown throughout the film. When the birds attack, there are constant shots of them attempting to go for the victim’s eyes and in the scene when Melanie encounters a flock in the upstairs bedroom, there are many shots of only her eyes being seen through the forest of frenzied, fluttering feathers. Perhaps this is taking a stab at the suggested voyeurism of the audience and our natural fear of harm coming to our eyes.
                                        Fig 2
In the next few scenes, an attack happens on the school by a swarm of angry crows as they try to harm the children. Preceding this is one of the most iconic scenes of the movie that has been parodied many times in modern media: hundreds of crows perch on the school’s playground jungle frame, ready to attack and looming over the school like vultures. The fact that they even wait to attack despite they overwhelming numbers provides a sense of classic Hitchcock suspension. Before and after a large attack on the town, a crowd of people form in the diner who discuss what could have provoked the birds into attacking. This scene is our only form of speculative explanation as to why exactly the birds are doing this; the film never tells us why throughout its entirety, leaving the audience to take sides with any of the explanations given. Crowther states in his review, posted online:
                                                                                  Fig 3
“There may be no explanation for it (except that symbolic one, perhaps), but the fierceness and frightfulness of it are sufficient to cause shocks and chills. And that is, no doubt, what Mr. Hitchcock primarily intends.” (Crowther, 1963)

What this quote tells us is that even the safest place, according to Hitchcock, can be a place of danger and death, that we are never safe in this world even from nature We could fall down a hill and scrape our knee, get bitten by small mammals and injure ourselves on rock formations. This film personifies that a hundredfold in the form of living, breathing mother nature incarnate within swarms of angry, bloodthirsty birds.

After the attack, we see the villagers cowering in a secluded hallway as Melanie approaches them to see their horrified and frightened faces. Their piercing, hostile stares towards her indicate that they know that she is the cause.
After the final confrontation at the Brenner estate, now boarded up by windows and make-shift barricades, the family escapes, wading through a sea of subsided birds waiting to attack again to get to their car. The ending gives us no closure as they drive off over the hill, leaving the swarms of birds behind. This lack of closure unnerves the audience, keeping us at the edge of our seats.
Hitchcock uses a number of frightful and innovative narratives to make this film not only a flick about the revenge of nature, but also about what hostilities lurk within our everyday lives.



Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Life Drawing

Sorry for the bad quality. I had to take them with a camera since A2 sheets of paper don't fit in my scanner, then I had to turn down the contrast in Photoshop so you can actually see the drawings. >_O"

Vertigo (1958)

The basic premise of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' is a man who has fallen in love with a woman that never existed, then attempts to remake the woman that impersonated her in the imaginary girl's image. A creepy plot at first glance, but there is so much more to this film than initially meets the eye. It's interlaced with large, juicy amounts of subtext and seamless, sometimes surreal editing that evokes many emotions within the viewer. The story also does this to an extent, like with Hitchcock's choice of women as Roger Ebert states in his online review of the movie:

“The female characters in his films reflected the same qualities over and over again: They were blond. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerized the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps.” (Ebert, 1996)
                                                                                     Fig 1
Lets take our imaginary woman, firstly. Throughout Alfred Hitchcock's films, there seems to be a constant fascination with stark, ghostly blonde women (Fig 1). We can see examples of this in his past films, 'The Birds', 'Rear Window' and 'Mr and Mrs Smith' being but a few examples of one of the central characters being an icy blonde actress.

Madeleine Elster , our blonde character within this film, is thought to be possessed by a spirit and her husband, Gavin Elster, asks a cop in retirement after suffering from an accident revolving around his acrophobia, John Ferguson also known as 'Scottie'. Madeleine is a somewhat mysterious woman at first, visiting strange locations: a museum and a graveyard, both of which relate back to Carlotta Valdes who is later revealed to be Madeleine's great grandmother. She committed suicide. Later, Madeleine attempts to commit suicide by dropping into San Francisco Bay. The acquaintance they make after Scottie takes her home to look after her sparks a romance that would slowly spiral down into chaos and obsession after she throws herself off of a church tower. This obsession and romance with a girl that has already passed on gives Vertigo a strong, suggested theme of necrophilia and psycho-sexual frustration. At the time this film was made, these were risky and highly controversial subjects.

Scottie falls into a depression, guilt tearing his heart in two until he meets with the woman that impersonated Madeleine during their relationship, Judy (Fig 2). He begins to take her out to various shops in order to buy her the same clothes, style her hair the same way and essentially try to remake her in Madeleine's image. Bill Weber mentions this in his online review when talking about the scene when Judy returns home from the salon to remake her hair like Madeleine's:

“...the scene, echoing the Orpheus myth (plus a hint of Frankenstein) in its imagery of a man trying to revivify the dead, helps to qualify this morbid romance...“ (Weber, 2011)

Weber says that We see his zealous fixation upon the image of his dead lover in his eyes and a realization comes to Judy that Scottie did not love her the way she was, but is in fact indifferent to her as a person. He loves her for what she has become and what he has made her into.
                                    Fig 2
Eventually, he finds out that Gavin Eister set up the murder of his similar-looking wife to look like a suicide cued by one of the stranger scenes from the movie. His flashback to the sequence that caused his madness reveals Gavin's plot. The use of flashing, florescent colours in a movie that is mostly desaturated causes the audience a feeling of discomfort and outlandishness; something which does not necessarily belong. It's uncanny.

The flashback (Fig 3) also has a scene where the bouquet of roses, one of the main symbols of the film, explodes over the screen in a flash of animated coloured petals which are a symbol for Madeleine's violent death. The initial perfection and fragility of the flowers is almost reminiscent of how perfect and fragile Madeleine is or how she seems to be to Scottie. The scene before she jumps into the bay shows her picking away at the petals, similar to how her deteriorating mind is slowly driving her towards her own destruction at the bell tower. Scottie, when forced to climb the stairs in a vain attempt to save Madeleine from herself, is subject back to his fear of heights as he looks down the staircase, only for the viewer to feel queasy from the unique camera effect used here.
                                                                                     Fig 3

The use of camera within the bell tower scenes is unique to 'Vertigo' and has since then sparked its use throughout the film industry. When talking about the scene in which the use of camera I defined a significant scene within Vertigo. Roger Ebert writes:

“Hitchcock shows the walls approaching and receding at the same time; the space has the logic of a nightmare.” (Ebert, 1996)

The camera is pulled back while the lens is zoomed into the focal point and visa-versa in order to make the corridor, staircase or any other elongated piece of architecture its commonly used with to either stretch or shorten. In turn, this makes the sequence almost dreamy as if it were the stuff of nightmares. This technique can also be used on the face of an actor or actress to portray a feeling of dread, panic or urgency.

Overall, this film is one of Hitchcock's most revered pieces and makes use of inventive camera techniques and nightmarish sequences to make a psycho-thriller that is tailor-made to keep the audience on the edge of their seats and irk us when needed.



Monday, 20 February 2012

More Maya
Crane Shot
Camera Shake
Dolly Shot
Pitch Shot

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock is renowned for his psychological horror films and one of his most memorable films, ‘Psycho’, released in 1960 is no exception. However, the film throughout doesn’t seem to know what exactly it wants to be. Near the beginning, the audience is thrown into a setting from an old noire crime film in which a trusted member of a company steals a boatload of cash from an investor.
                                                                                     Fig 1
 The thief is one of our main characters, Marion Crane played by Janet Leigh, who is soon after killed off by our antagonist, an anonymous old woman who is mother to a motel owner named Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins. It’s the same motel that Crane stops by to spend the night at. One by one, crime investigators and curious individuals fall prey to the anonymous mother until it is eventually discovered that she had been dead all along, the mother turning out to be none other than the lonesome son himself who had been keeping her corpse in her room, tending it with chemicals thanks to his experience in taxidermy. (Fig 1)

                                   Fig 2
Often considered to be the very first ‘Slasher’ movie, ‘Psycho’ was one of the very first films to show murder on-screen. This caused plenty of controversy among film critics. As Sarah Wenk from Common Sense Media  explains, “The famous shower scene never shows the knife touching flesh, but it's still terrifying.” (Wenk,<no date given>) Not only that, but the iconic murder scene in the film where Crane is in the shower as Bates attacks makes use of multiple angles called a ‘montage’ edit, all in rapid succession. We think we see everything when in fact the shots are cleverly angled so that we actually see very little of the details of the murder. (Fig 2)
Among montage edits, the film is renowned for its use of special camera effects. There are plenty of motivated shots, one scene especially where Crane’ sister, the first of an inquisitive pair of Lila and John Gavin, Crane’s fiancĂ©, slowly approaches the door to the house of the long deceased mother and residence of Bates. The shot cuts faster and faster between Lila and the door, creating tension and suspense, something which Hitchcock uses to full effect in the movie. Additionally, a notable cross-dissolving technique appears at the end sequence when the camera pans in on Norman’s face. As Steve Biodrowski says in his review: “Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful direction brings the proceedings to life in visually arresting ways, most memorably in the notorious shower sequence, but also in more subtle moments, as when we last see Norman, now fully transformed into his alter ego, Perkins’ sly expression glaring out at us from against an almost blank background, and then briefly, almost subliminally, there comes the superimposed image of Mother’s corpse, her features briefly lining up with those of her son.” (Biodrowski, 2008) A vision of his deceased mother’s skull slowly dissolves over the top of his own face as his mother’s creepy voice sneers in a dark monologue, creating a feeling of vulnerability within a family. (Fig 3)

The film presents us with a somewhat eerie feeling of what family can truly mean. While other films may portray it as a friendly, warm place, Hitchcock shows us that family can’t be all safe. The concept of family in this film is frightful, venomous and tensed by psycho-sexual desires as presented by the fact that Bates killed his mother’s lover through jealousy which is also a reference to the Oedipus complex.
                                                                                     Fig 3
All in all, Hitchcock seems to have put his all into this movie in order to build tension. He takes what we find familiar and warm and twists it into something uncanny and frightful. This psychological horror is definitely a film that deserves its reputation as one of the great slashed films because of its innovativeness through editing and subtly messages.