For anyone who has watched a stop-motion film and wondered about the work that goes on behind the scenes, attending a masterclass led by British animator Tim Allen, whose long list of credits includes Wes Anderson’s latest movie, Isle of Dogs (2018), will dispel some of the mystery.
“It’s a chance for people to get a feel for how animation timing works,” Allen says of the three tutorials, which will demonstrate the basics of conveying movement and emotion through puppetry, so participants can go away and try out animated storytelling for themselves.
It won’t come as news to fans of Anderson, whose idiosyncratic, intricate and visually rich style is instantly recognisable in films such as Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), that the American director takes a meticulous approach to filmmaking.
“A lot of films cut corners on shots you see just for a few seconds but Wes doesn’t do that; he puts the same amount of energy into everything,” Allen says.
For the animator, whose industry experience spans 19 years, this meant coming up with new tricks and solutions for Isle of Dogs.
“Wes wanted all kinds of new stop-motion special effects, like cling film for water, bits of tissue paper with light shining through for fire, and using clear putty for tears so they could be seen against the mayor’s light-up eyeballs,” Allen says.
Set in a dystopian Japan and following a group of dogs exiled to an island of rubbish, the film and its furry protagonists were brought to life by 130,000 still photographs, a 670-strong crew, 240 sets and 1,000 puppets – each with dozens of facial expressions.
“The first question people ask is, ‘How many minutes do you do per day?’ But on Isle of Dogs we did about four seconds a day,” says Allen. “Then they’ll say I must be so patient. But it’s not about being patient; you know what the director and story needs for that particular moment, and it’s about trying to get it right.”
Tim Allen’s masterclasses will run on Wednesday (7.15pm), Saturday (2pm) and November 5 (7.15pm) at UA Cine Times, Times Square, Causeway Bay. In English with Cantonese interpretation. Duration: 165 minutes. Tickets (HK$160) are available from uacinemas.com.hk.