After creating my first two stop-motion animation shorts “Bean and Todd” and “Big Baby,” I wanted to embrace a larger project that would run around 20 minutes on screen. The idea for Denture Hoist came about when I was shoveling an elderly lady’s flat roof after a large snow storm. The germ of the film was based on my experience on the rooftop and can be seen by the winter setting and Santa Claus character. The basic plot was about a brilliant, scientist boy who sneaks down a chimney and tries to steal a set of gold dentures to pay off his debts he gathered after blowing up his parent’s garage during a science experiment.
In my past films I had not done a lot of scripting and storyboarding. Learning from my mistakes, I storyboarded and scripted the entire film before filming even the first frame. I also had the two voices for the characters Albert and Granny recorded before filming any of the dialog scenes. The sets were designed with a 12:1 scale. One inch in set size represented approximately 1 foot of life space. All three characters, Albert, Doofus, and Granny, were constructed using aluminum armatures to mold the clay around. The armatures allow for more complex animation because the body parts can be flexed into positions that the clay alone could not hold because of the forces of gravity. I will never forget purchasing all the doll furniture used in the film from a dollar store. You should have seen all the employees when I, a high school boy, approached the clerk with a cart full of doll furniture. Their expressions were priceless as I explained my purchase.
All of the filming was done on a Sony Digital 8 camcorder and captured into my iMac with FrameThief 2.0. FrameThief, the capture software, allowed me to see each animation progression as I recorded each frame. It helped me to make the proper movements to create a more fluid motion. Other first included constructing Granny and Doofus with an upper body of hardening clay. This allowed me to grasp their bodies firmly for more control during animation. I also started using white craft beads that I painted pupils for the eyes of the characters. The beads give a reflection which is more life-like than clay and will not squish or blend colors with the clay of the head.
Sadly the large project was never completed due to becoming busy with working and going to college. Overall I am very pleased with short version of what was completed. The only completed scene is in the middle of the story when he is looking to make some money to pay off his debts. Doofus, Albert’s trusty brother, is dedicated to working hard while Albert is mesmerized and plans on stealing the gold teeth.
Although only 2 minutes of Denture Hoist is complete on screen, the entire process took several years of planning, filming, animating and editing. I hope you can enjoy the art of stop-motion animation. If you want to learn more about stop-motion animation, be sure to purchase Marc Spess’ book "Secrets of Clay Animation Revealed 3" or visit his website at www.animateclay.com for some helpful tips in beginning your own clay animation short.