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.
A couple more behind the scenes photos in the rostrum room and some drawings from my sketch book for this project. It’s quite nice to have a record of the project, and to look back at the early sketches and see how much it developed in what has seemed like a short time. I’ve really learnt so much from this project, there are still some finishing touches to do, so it’s not complete yet, but I’ve enjoyed this brief so much.
Some screen grabs of the liquify effect in AE by putting on an adjustment layer, changing the tool options and setting key positions. I made Ariel whisper (with the warp tool) and I tried out some blinks on Prospero (with the pucker tool) but I felt that it wasn’t actually necessary in the end. Especially since Ariel isn’t capable of blinking. But I will keep in the lip manipulation even though it’s barely visible. It’s such a good tool I’m planning how to apply it in my future puppet animations.
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.
I knew there were routine wrist repairs to be done, but after another half day of shooting I was shocked to find out the right arm had sheared off. Alas, poor Ariel. So fragile. I did the best I could, I just hope it holds.
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!
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.