Sunday, May 15, 2005

Chensational Puppets go Spanish

Several months ago I was approached by the Telelatino Network (TLN) here in Toronto. They wanted a character developed that would represent a local dental clinic in a series of commercial spots. They hired me to build a beaver puppet named "Tino".

After a series of several fabric choices, TLN decided what the puppet should look like and I went ahead and started building. I chose to build the puppet using both patterned sheet foam and carved foam. My main focus was to keep the puppet as light as possible.

I was extremely happy with the final result. Tino was the lightest puppet I have ever built. He is incredible comfortable and I am very happy about that. The hands and ears are made with antron fleece and the nose and teeth are made from latex rubber.

After delivering the puppet to TLN the reaction was amazing! People just loved it. There are few things more satisfying to a puppet builder than to see people smile and connect to one of your puppets. I really do love building puppets!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Get Ready for Slick Silly! (part 2)

I thought I would post a little more information regarding the "inside scoop" about working on this project. As I said, the inside footage was shot against a green screen background. The puppets were large puppets. Each puppet had anamatronic mechanisms that moved either the eyebrows (Willy) or the eyelids (Slick). The puppets were beautiful, but there was one issue that the puppeteers were able to give feedback to Damien James about. The weight.

You see Damien took the weight into consideration by using light weight foam and a variety of other techniques. The bottom line is that these puppets had heavy metal gears in them and there is only so much you can do to make them lighter. The result is that my arm (and shoulder) got a workout that I haven't had since varsity football. Damien is a great guy and took the feedback very well. Much like myself he cares about how his puppets perform. He even sent an instruction video for the two puppets. It was a really nice professional touch.

The green screen shoot took place inside Snap Media's office building. The people there were great and the setup was very functional. We performed the puppets by sitting on rolling chairs. I started out doing all the basic things a puppeteer would do with a puppet. Making sure there was a slight bounce to the walk, etc. By the end of it both Jay and I were using a contraption to hold our arms up.

I did a bunch of prop building for the production as well. Here is a picture of the Monkey Dance map that I made. It was another great experience for me. I have been doing my best to expand my services so that I will be able to offer future clients more that just puppet building. I am personally very happy with the engine that I built.

The music for the show was equally as awesome. The music was composed by Ben Rogalsky and Luke McKay. The voice actors (for the trucks) and the puppeteers went into the sound studio and sing these songs for the final edit of the shows. I thought it was funny enough for me to make my voice sound like a ten year old money, but then to have me sing in the voice, that was no easy task. What a great challenge though. I loved it! Two of my personal favourite songs has to be the song I sing (Slick sings) called Moment and the song Dig-Push (that Dylemma sings). To hear all of the rough cut tracks (performed by the composers) click here.

One of the toughest critics of my work (much like most performers I know) is myself. During a few of the song segments while shooting we didn't have the music to lip sync to. Jay had one part where he had heard the song over a cell phone and had to try to lip sync to it using the cell phone. Not an easy task, but really it was his only option.

Otherwise it would be like hitting a target blindfolded after being spun in a circle ten times. Speaking of which, the most painful moment for me is to watch myself trying to lip sync to a song that I didn't have the words, tune or tempo for. The final edit did a great job at trying to cover up the fact. Although I know it is not a knock on my puppeteering (how could I have known what the song sounded like without ever hearing it) but puppets whose mouths are out of sync is a real pet peeve of mine; so it is still difficult to watch.

But what production doesn't have its own set of challenges? They all do and the thing that matters the most is the final product. I was very happy with my performance and I can't say enough about what a great puppeteer Jay Williams is. The crew that was involved was like none I had ever worked with before. All were extremely talented.

After speaking with producer Nic Sulsky he reports that the final interactive component is practically done and is absolutely amazing. I trust his opinion and I can't wait to see it. If it is as good as the live action stuff then I will probably flip, because as I said before I am so impressed with those final edits.

The next step is to announce the release of the final 5 DVD set and then have the show shopped around as a possible series. I can't wait until the disks finally come out. I'll post when they do.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Get Ready for Slick Silly! (part 1)

I got permission from the show's producer to post information on one of the most recent projects that Chensational Productions has been a part of. Over the past year, I have worked on an amazing project that was produced by the Gemini Award winning media company Snap Media.

Snap Media has decided to venture into the television/video production arena. One of their inaugural projects is a five DVD interactive series about a couple of ape mechanics. The show was initially called Slick Silly and the Big Trucks. The show was filmed against a green screen for all of the internal shots and on location for the exteriors.

I was cast as Slick (a young excitable monkey; although I always though of him as a chimp) and his old orangutan uncle named Uncle Willy (played by Jay Williams). The puppets were made by a talented puppet builder out in Edmonton named Damien James. The puppets looked amazing especially on close up shots.

The Backgrounds were provided by talented Toronto based illustrator Jim Graves. I met Jim a few years ago and I was profoundly struck by his high level of integrity. It was clear that not only were his drawings absolutely amazing, but his level of professionalism was something that I truly respected. Jim also goes by the name The Cartoon Guy and even shares the name with his company. Check it out here.

Filming for the video component was finished filming in August and was fully edited by December. That part is completely done, and the interactive components are reportedly amazing. I have seen the edited video component and I am very excited. For the small budget we worked with the results are simply fantastic. It is a show that I am extremely proud to be a part of.

Hats off to Nick Sulsky (producer) Matt, Chris and the amazing crew!

I will keep posting as news becomes available.