And here's some of the feedback grouped together so I know where it is:

And a still from setting up, just because:

Another artist I wanted to look at for good character references is an illustrator called Travis Millard. His mostly monochrome medium is more often filled with moving, meaningful monstrosities. From pages of eye practice to expressive yet simply designed monsters. These kinds of simple yet expressive forms are useful to look at, as well as a joy to behold.

Now the following two would be lovely to do in stop motion: Double-face dude and grabby faces already look like you want to reach out and interact with them and are solid and 3D, even with simple use of line. Begging to be made into models. The possibilities of animating these are amazingly complex yet simply full of opportunities of expression and story-telling.

A Suzie Templeton interview from Don't Panic Magazine:
Your adaptation of Peter and the Wolf won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film last year. I think it's charm comes from the exquisite model making and decision to make it a stop motion animation. What drew you to using this medium and where did the idea for the film come from?

The models are indeed exquisite. They were made by the wonderful artists and model-makers at Se-ma-for Studios in Lodz, Poland. I wanted to make the film in stop-motion right from the start. It is the medium I love the most and have the most experience in. The idea to make a new film version of Peter and the Wolf came from Hugh Welchman, (then a recent production graduate from the National Film School in the UK), and Mark Stephenson, a conductor. Had they not suggested it I don't think I would have chosen something so well-known and well-loved, and more importantly, a piece that exists so brilliantly in its own form without need of visual representation. I did always have reservations about portraying the work in a visual medium because I always thought that it was exactly the absence of visual representation which made the piece so powerful.
Tell us a little bit about the set? How big was it, and how much of it was created using the computer?

The set was gigantic. It was designed by Jane Morton, the English production designer, who used Maya as one of her tools. It was made in Poland by the Polish production designer Marek Skrobecki. It was all made by hand.
Your two films Stanley and Dog are very different from Peter and the Wolf. They seem to be based more on personal issues and in particluar issues in the home, and human relationships. You touch on different emotions, such as lust, anger and sadness. What messages are you trying to convey through your films, or should I say hidden messages?

I always work with layers of meaning in my films that are there to be explored by the viewer. If I was able to communicate them in writing I wouldn't go to the trouble of making the films!
What materials did you use to makes your models?
The puppets are made with traditional ball and socket and wire armatures in foam latex bodies. The animal fur is ordinary fake fur expertly laid in small pieces onto the bodies. The human hair is various types of animal hair such as llama wool. The human skin is made of silicone. The clothes are made of real cloth.
It amazes me how you are able to capture such emotion through the eyes of your models, especially in your film Dog. Is there a special technique you use to do this?

The eyes are very important to me to convey emotion. The eyes in both Dog and Peter and the Wolf are ordinary painted plastic beads. I use glycerine to make the eye surface wet and sometimes animate the glycerine itself. But mainly the illusion of life is achieved by subtle movements and acting.
The animals in your films are very realistic. Did you study real life animals to capture their movements?

Yes, I filmed crows, runner ducks and fat cats as reference for the animators. I also spent a couple of days at a wolf sanctuary to study wolf behaviour and movement. I would have loved to send the animators to the same place, but unfortunately the budget would not stretch to that. I would have loved them to have the same experience as I had, really feeling the spirit of the wolves first hand. I assumed before I met the wolves that they would be very similar to dogs, but they are very different indeed, in spirit and movement, and I would have loved for this to come across in my film.
Are your characters based on people you know, or are they purely imaginary?
I am inspired of course by events and people in my life and my own experience. Some characters might be based physically on real people, but that is as far as it goes.

What are you working on now?

I am writing a feature, working on a fun, small short and i'm open to commercial work.

After ordering a few more pairs of the 'helping hands' I dismantled the lot and had a look at what sort of components would come in useful. Turns out, nearly all of it was, and I was able to build myself some nice pieces of rigging without too much tinkering. What's extra-nice about it all is that it's fully customisable depending on the character and shape of the puppet being used. Check out a few action shots of it being used here:

Also, cleverly disguised with a bit of black cloth here:


  • Sanding the ball joints to a rough finish helps keep them tight and grippy
  • Doubling up the side portions of the ball joints makes them much less likely to deform under pressure and therefore much tighter
  • Replacing the desk clamp with an old chemistry retort stand, much more stable, slightly harder to manoeuvre  but will hold much more weight.
Problems now seem to be solved...

Getting the stage I'd built earlier on ready, I decided it'd be best to glue some non-slip mats to the bottom of it just to reduce the chances of it moving while filming, even though it'll be clamped down. I'd rather over-prepare than under prepare. Also, it turns out the rig clamp fits just nicely onto it and seems to work quite well, although I'm worried the cheap metal ball joints are going to give way after a while, but we will see. It seems to be doing the job for now.

And here are two of the puppets here for a size comparison. I'm pretty excited about animating 'Ratman' as he feels nice and solid (touch wood), and I've always wanted to have a go at doing a tail swooshing around. Not only that, but a good experiment in fur also.

Finish up the model, final coats of latex, making sure the fur is the right length. Next up is taking Ben Whitehouse's advice and adding some dirt and skin blotching to keep the flesh looking real. I'm still not 100% sure about what the ears are doing being a mix between flesh and black. The black seems too contrast-y and the flesh doesn't stand out enough but I really want to keep a limited colour palette to the whole piece.

There should be a few new photos going up soon but for now I need to concentrate on getting the mes tidied up and the stage set for a bit of animating as time is pressing on and the timetables says it's photography and animating time. Fingers crossed the construction of the puppet will hold up to the job!

When it came to rigging I was looking around and the best I could find was a £49.99 piece. I thought I could do something similar myself and had a good idea how to go about it. First step was to buy a pair of "helping hands" online, then get about breaking it down into it's component parts. 

After a bit of moving parts round, I had it how I wanted it, it was simply a case of a bit of resin and M4 screw rod. I was originally going to find a heavy base for it, but I had an old clamp off a ping-pong net lying about and it fitted just nicely, and should make it even more secure. The Ball joints aren't the best but I think it'll do the job it's intended for. So I've saved myself £45ish.

I may give it a coat of green/blue paint so it's easy to key out if need be.


The past few days have been taken up with various bits of work, but one of the main ones is the completion of the hands and feet for the "Ratman" model. Here's how it went:
 First step was to model the feet, to scale, out of super sculpey, and make sure they were going to look OK size wise on the model. I wanted to keep the oversized style of the original illustration, as this would look really nice when animating.

 The next step was getting them cast, so dishes were made and lined for easy removal once it had set. The plaster was then mixed up, as best I could to avoid bubbles and lumps. Added to mould and left to cure.

The moulds were removed carefully after a few hours, and cleaned up. The detail quality looked really rather nice, and kept all the little marks of the models. Next up was getting a first layer of skin painted into the moulds, along with details such as spots and nail colour.

Then it was a case of making some hand and feet armature to fit snugly into them,making sure to be padded with foam to keep a soft shape. Also, keeping the wire right to the tips of the fingers and wrist, to make sure they were flexible right up to these edges.

Pour on the latex (a slightly redder tone for under the skin transparency to show through). Any split blobs or splats can be worried about later as the flash lines won't be too much of a problem to clean up afterwards, and will actually aid in the removal of the latex from the mould once set.

Repeating the process for the feet (slightly more complex armature required for them, as they will be involved in the anchoring and rigging of the character to the floor, and supporting his weight).

To note: I'll be using M4 size threaded rods and bolts for this puppet, for both the tie-downs and rigging.

Then it was a case of waiting and topping up the latex as it dried into the moulds, the process took a good two days or so to fully dry out.

 The removal from the mould went smoothly thanks to the rigging points on the feet and using the flash lines to lift them out. Then the flashes were trimmed off with some nail scissors (why hadn't I started using those sooner? They're perfect!).

All that's left is a bit of touching up the latex with some painting and affixing them to the rest of the puppet securely. The skin blotches and other details worked out nicely, and the more I use this technique, the more I'm sure it's the way to go with model making.


So, after a bit of posing and fiddling with Zeke, I noticed his knees coming a little loose, mostly due to the face I hadn't use twisted strands of wire, and instead used single strands (causing the bones and latex to lose it's grip on the wire and swivel around it). I decided to try and salvage the situation with a little cutting up of the back of his knees and filling the misbehaving joints with a little epoxy resin to try and affix them to the armature a little better.

It worked for a little while but soon came loose, and with no other options but pretty much a complete model rebuild. He'll have to stay as he is, but it'll limit any animating a little.