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Sunday, June 29, 2008

A VISIT WITH JOHN DODS

I recently had the pleasure of visiting with SPFX Artist and Stop Motion Legend John Dods. A man who's many years of experience in the world of creature creation has included all aspects of the hand crafted creature production for television, film and the stage.

He has brought his style to all his creations in the forms of prosthetic make-up, live action creature puppets and our beloved Stop Motion Animation. Over the years of his rewarding career his work has taken him in many directions, from supervising the miniature landscape construction of an enormous Ice Crevasse in the Back to the Future Ride for the Universal Studios Theme Park to the prosthetic make up currently being done for Young Frankenstein on Broadway.

I first came to know Mr.Dods from his written articles for Cinemagic Magazine back when he was primarily known for having created the special effects for the low budget sci-fi/horror film The Deadly Spawn and his own privately produced Stop Motion production of a film called Forest Story. I was just a fan and high school student at the time I was reading those articles, with dreams of one day learning to enter the world of stop motion and special effects. For me along with many other effects artists I have met over the years, Johns' name had become a quiet yet unforgettable star amongst those who influenced our budding dreams and careers and his rise to bigger and better projects through his career was inspiring to all who followed his rise to fame. From humble beginnings, he set the example that you can make it, if you work hard enough to reach your goals.

I got to know John personally when I was lucky enough to work for him on numerous episodes of the Laurel Ent. TV Show 'Monsters' as well as a number of other projects that were fun and I learned a lot from his experience and professionalism. Both of our careers seemed to take a similar path, onto bigger and better things but, further away from the one frame at a time art we love so well, Stop Motion.

Several years ago, I felt compelled to return to the art of Stop Motion because, no matter how many years and other types of effects I've done, I never lost the desire - I always felt that everything else I did was just a stepping stone on a path back home to Stop Motion Animation, which was all I ever really wanted to do in the first place.

It seems the road John Dods has been traveling has run a parallel course... on my recent visit with John, we spent hours recounting the years (we had not seen each other in better than a decade) and he remains the same cheerful, charming dreamer I met in the magazines all those years ago. And when he took me on a tour of his new digs and studio, what I saw there was a thrill... he had photos of the characters from his stop motion film Forest Story on a work bench, a collection of ball & socket armatures and a brand new sculpture he's been working on... of a Grog! He has given me permission to show this photo to my fellow Stop Mo Fans along with the disclaimer, that he's not fully up and running with this new Stop Motion project YET but, he is looking forward to the day when he can retire from his other obligations and settle back in to the forest and take each day, one frame at a time.

Please visit The John Dods Studio Website linked in the side bar - lots to see there!
Welcome home John!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

MOLI Interview Part 2

The link to this interview on MOLI has been broken since I wrote this blog but, I did get permission from MOLI to use the video and put it on the DVD of 'In the Fall of Gravity' and you can see it if you get a copy. The MOLI website left a message that said it was switching management but that was months ago and I'm starting to think that it's not coming back at all.
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Well, the second half of the MOLI ROLLER interview is up and I'm VERY pleased with it! Mind you I had no say so in how it was edited and when the interview actually took place, it lasted for roughly and hour and a half so, they had lots of material to play with in editing and I had no clue what area of our conversation would be used in the final cut.

After seeing the second half earlier today, I was so happy with it that I tracked down the editor through Ryan McCulloch so I could send him a personal Thanks. Here's a link to Part II - In the Fall of Gravity... (remember to raise the volume on the viewer)

http://www.moli.com/p/moli_roller/1495/0

Monday, June 16, 2008

MOLI Interview Part 1

The link to this interview on MOLI has been broken since I wrote this blog but, I did get permission from MOLI to use the video and put it on the DVD of 'In the Fall of Gravity' and you can see it if you get a copy. The MOLI website left a message that said it was switching management but that was months ago and I'm starting to think that it's not coming back at all.
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Here's a link to an interview that I did with a website called MOLI, http://www.moli.com/p/moli_roller/1495/1
When you go there, for some reason they have the volume on the interviews set to mute as the default setting, look for the volume bar just below the viewing window and drag the bar up to the proper volume.

I pretty happy with the way this first installment came out, but I'm really much happier when the camera is pointed at my puppets, I think they are far more attractive and entertaining than I am. (They didn't talk much during the interview but, they wouldn't shut up after the camera man left!)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Metamorhosis

Many years ago, I worked on a film called Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor, it was a low budget horror film that I worked on for over 2 years doing all the creature designs and was and effects technician throughout the production. This is the first time I finally have the transfer equipment I needed to transfer from my old VHS copy to a digital format so you can see this, it's FAR from the best copy but, it's the best I could do with my setup.

This film involved mostly live action puppets but, near the films' finale there were many shots done in stop motion of the largest creatures in the film due to the fact that there was just no way to get something that large to walk around on its' own on our budget. What resulted was a Harryhausenesque combo of shots that I think worked out rather well.

The large scale puppets and the miniatures were created by the same people so, that resulted in a good blend between the two completely different scales. The large walking creature you will see here (The Spawn) was sculpted by Paul Reilly Jr. and I sculpted the bugged out creature you'll see at the end (Spot 'The Wonder Blob'). I did the painting and finishing work on both puppets. The foam latex castings, armatures and WONDERFUL animation was done by Kent Burton.

In the film, Spot The Wonder Blob grew from a frog sized creature as a mutant until he reached the size the appears as in the end. The original plan was to shoot one of the earlier live action cable controlled puppets in a miniature hallway but, I would have no part of that! There was no budget to build another stop motion puppet so, I volunteered to get it done out of my own pocket. The director (Glenn Takakjian) was happy to take whatever I gave him so the stopmo Spot was born.

This film was shot in the pre-computer era of stop motion so, I hope you'll appreciate the fact that Kent Burton managed to get some stopmo motion blurs into the shots by actually pulling the puppets with monofilament line from off camera while taking long exposures!
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About Me

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Floral Park, N.Y., United States
I am an artist and animator with over 20 years experience in all areas of tactile image creation including film and Television.