Prospero & Ariel

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I chose the scene in The Tempest where Ariel transforms into a harpy as the starting point for my animation. I based the method of transformation as a hikinuki, the art of the instant costume change, characteristic of Japanese Kabuki theatre. I researched Kabuki, the acting and stage conventions, the stories and the many significant parallels it has with and Shakespeare.

I created a stop-motion puppet animation as an attempt to emulate a theatrical atmosphere in miniature. I felt that this would be appropriate in response to a collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The two characters in the animation are based on Ariel and Prospero, they wear Kabuki inspired costumes and handmade wigs.

The animation also explores a relationship between Ariel and Prospero. My version of Prospero plays multiple roles, that of musician and as a koken stagehand, but also as the magician as he miraculously reveals Ariel’s other form. Ariel plays the part of the onnagata the female-role specialist and dancer. The costume changes in Kabuki are symbolic of complete transfiguration and the dramatic colour contrast from one kimono to another can represent an actor’s change from one form to another. I hoped to maintain the integrity of this method of spectacle in the animation.

Special Thanks

Now it’s done I’d like to sing a few people’s praises of all the people who were really helpful. Even though it was a micro short so many people offered me advice that was indispensable:

Shelley Page for setting a brief that I could really get excited about, and for recommending I look at Barry Purves’ Screenplay right at the beginning as well as the other great short animations she showed us!

Steve was a huge help at every stage, from the first storyboard to the last few days when he said “it’s finished, move on to the next project.”

Birgitta for her encouragement of the idea at the beginning and for setting the essay that made me take the time to properly research Kabuki and Bunraku.

Laura Stevens for the music she composed especially for this film. She was a dream to collaborate with!

Carlos (my mentor) encouraged me to take a risk and try out stop-motion. I was still wondering if I should animate it in Flash, but after he said that I had the confidence to go with the puppets.

Darryl’s advice was so brilliant, and he made time to talk to me about stop-motion. He was so passionate on the subject and gave me so much valuable information each time we spoke.

Amber for giving advice and encouragement and inspiration on everything from technical details to making the Arial puppet more beautiful.

My sister who watched and critiqued every version of my animation that I sent to her in New York, and my parents who listened to me go on about Kabuki for three months.

Ioli who engaged with my idea from the pre-production stage and gave me some great advice on the choreography and on the puppets themselves.

Maki Utsunomiya who gave me all the beautiful Japanese fabrics that I made the costumes out of.

Mahra for the wire and mesh.

Steve in the film and video department was so accommodating and put up with me and my puppets day after day.

Bea Hendry at the RSC for her reminder to focus on the characters not get to wrapped up in the set-design.

The Bard, for all his verse and prose.

And finally the stranger in the lift of Covent Garden tube station who I overheard talking about an exhibition on Kabuki that subsequently inspired my film. Thank you!

Interview

Ana, Steve and I were interviewed by Imogen Eveson for the UAL website. Her piece also includes some stills from Brook’s animation. For the full article follow the link:

http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/ual2012/2012/06/01/animating-shakespeare-csm-students-tackle-shipwreck-plays/

Blue Sparks

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Here’s the segment with both the effects layered onto the animation, I decided that the outcome was too distracting and I am in the process of simplifying the effects, keeping them to three shots. The effects were filmed and then layered onto to the animation, in a photographic double exposure style. I talked before about Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of  The Pleasure Dome, and how he used double exposures over a theatrical black back-drop with actors performing.

I think that making it simpler and not so busy is more in keeping with the style of Kabuki, but it takes the edge off the sparse feeling of the set for the dance. Kabuki often uses the motif of snow, strongly visible in Sagi Musume, or blossom falling.

Adding Effects

I’ve filmed some blues sparks and and sequins and layered them on top of the harpy dance, to give drama and an element of the on-stage illusion. It looks like I’d hoped it would, but I’m still uncertain whether it actually improves the animation, or detracts from the character movement.

The Harpy Dance

I spent today working on Ariel’s Harpy dance! Some of it was quite nice, some of it looks a bit awkward, but the puppet did surprisingly well. She was good at the challenging Kabuki backwards bends and she held on to the feathers tightly! Unfortunately however today was the first serious puppet injury and her right hand came off completely. Thank heavens for the long kimono sleeves and some masking tape. Poor Ariel!

DAY 2

The second day shooting went a little better, I felt more comfortable with Dragon software, and since the lighting was already set up I could begin animating sooner. I needed to put in more in-betweens than the day before, so I re-shot some sequences and gave different camera angles. Hopefully it will work when I start cutting it together today. Yesterday I had to repair the puppets, repaint Prospero’s hooves and smooth out Ariel’s neck and wrists where the plasticine had cracked. I’ve also changed her costume ready to go back in the rostrum room on Monday morning.

Screen shots and photos on set:

First Kimono

Forgot to put Ariel’s finished first costume. Prospero playing the Samisen.

Costume Change

Another day working on the puppets, padding out their bodies, affixing the heads and a bit of painting and working out Ariel’s second costume. So close to the end of the puppet making stage, tomorrow is the last day for finishing touches, before the animating finally begins!

Harpy Kimono Front:

Harpy Kimono Back: