samedi 13 juin 2015


Shall the future of animation be outside Hollywood system ? 

It was previously mentioned on this page about the strange tribute paid  to Ray HARRYHAUSEN, by SFX leaders and film makers at the top of their game employing processes the opposite to Ray's work, to create special effects, the first one being Dennis MURREN, perhaps the main promoter of today's CGI  that rules everything in mainsatream movies today and disrespectful speaker against practical effects, even if he officially shows his friendship to those practical artists by creating Harryhausen like material with CGI in some movies, the true inheritors of Ray HARRYHAUSEN should be sought, not among  the ranks of Steven SPIELBERG, George LUCAS, Peter JACKSON and their peers, but among some less famous authors, who are fighting to bring back modernised on screen magic created originally by celebrated Master's of stop motion photography.


While Hollywood’s producers refused Ray Harryhausen the chance to give life to a third mythological movie, THE FORCE OF THE TROJANS and through personal reasons of Ray's, which would have been a fair addition to the trilogy of his SINBAD works, some recently produced features in that ilk made instead by big players within the studio system, substituting practical for CGI. However, some of his followers remain faithful to Ray's techniques. THE FIFTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD is one such example, designed as an extension of the series on the eastern heroes, which Ray Harryhausen gained most fame for- also the artists Ron COLE (author of animation sequences including the miniature versions of ALIEN METAMORPHOSIS’ monsters) and Peter MONTGOMERY unite again their talents to animate frame by frame the monsters populating a new project from RIGAR UK, DARK EARTH joined by the Australian Nick HILLIGOSS  (PREHISTORIC AUSTRALIA.) and some British artists including Kevin CONNOR (AT THE EARTH'S CORE - WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS combine  to bring to the screen, a journey through space and time similar to the Titus Crow adventures invented by Brian LUMLEY, even if the official inspiration comes in the form of the science-fiction authors H.G.WELLS & EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS, the film DARK EARTH plans to propel the viewer from Earth to an alien world populated by some frightening creatures from the depths of imagination and of Earth's prehistoric era by way of impressive stop motion techniques and groundbreaking post production enhancements, along with puppetry / miniatures and animatronics.

A very beautiful plesiosaur by Norman YEEND  that was to be used in the movie no replaced by a new monster. NOTE: the readers may recognize this article from the french blog "Comme des poissons dans l'eau" published in  September 2011 ( to see the beast moving, click on this link : ). 

A painting by Peter A. Montgomery of a creature  to be made for stop motion / live action interaction.

 An arthropod-like extraterrestrial made by Peter MONTGOMERY, its appearence reminding one of another very nice stop motion model, the scorpion from HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS.

Another article about the movie :
A spot on TV :
Indiegogo (the word «indie» is standing for independent) is a site what allows to do some projects like movies with rather small budget. The money that you send for it is is credited to the responsible without condition, this is the reason why people could wish to support projects like DARK PLANET, having some potential to be done. As opposite, Kickstarter brings actually money only if the exact amount requested is reached, otherwise, the money isn’t sent then but let to people who pledged.

One of the most known masters of stop motion/go motion, Phil TIPPETT uses himself Kickstarter. Seen at the time of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and DRAGONSLAYER as the inheritor of Ray HARRYHAUSEN, the animator was pushed away in favour of CGI made by I.L.M. during the making of JURASSIC PARK, becoming then a simple consultant, before to move himself into virtual effects, by the scanning of his models and their animation across computer animation for movies as for EVOLUTION and DRAGONHEART. For a personal project in two parts, MAD GOD, a universe a bit in the style of the SILENT HILL’s virtual one, Phil TIPPETT was allowed to do his work across Kickstarter. The movie casts only some animated characters, telling the story of poor creatures indeed a nightmarish future.

Creature sculpted by the artist Victoria ROSE for the Phil TIPPETT’s movie.
 A wormlike creature looking like a bit the DUNE’s Navigator – with some touch of the grotesque monster from THE FLY 2’s climax, waiting for a very awful fate indeed the second part of MAD GOD.

There is a rather close universe indeed JUNK HEAD, another animation movie by Takahide HORI (also known as Yamiken), full filled by strange creatures and cyborgs. This japanese man who asked money to people loving his work used Indiegogo too in order to collect enough funds to do the sequel – it wasn’t allowed to use Kickstarter because this one asks for an american address and for an account indeed a bank in USA. He asked for not less than 100.000 dollars, he raised 16%, 16 000 dollars being already a welcomed help; no doubt about the will of the artist to do the sequel.
site of the artist :
site Indiegogo with the link to the first part :

Some frightening worms attacking the little humanoid robot tracked by some fierce creatures.
This monster from JUNK HEAD 2, standing on its spines, looks like a lot to the cambrian mysterious fossil discovered at Burgess Shale, britannic Colombia, nammed Hallucigenia – with something of the GIGER’s alien more.


The readers would probably remember that we already spoke about Kickstarter across the HARBINGER DOWN project by Alec GILLIS and Tom WOODRUFF (Amalgamated Dynamics) we supported then, with the goal to put onto screen a movie monster relied only to special makeup and mechanical effects, after the frustration of the two special effects makers and the fans both, when THE THING prequel was released, because the producers – perhaps even against the director’s wish – had made to do across computer the animation of built creatures (as for PROMETHEUS’ aliens) or fully replaced the robotic effects by CGI, as for the final monster – it happened to THE MIST’s climax too. HARBINGER DOWN is based upon a story of a little team of  searchers in the arctic infected by some biological experiments conducted on tardigrades, these microscopic animals incredible enduring ( see the article on the French blog, “la vie sans oxygène” dealing about their ability to survive outside the air, and in addition the drawings about made for the contest few time ago). We have to hope that Alec GILLIS who always wished to direct a movie will do an inspirated work able to bring again the flavour of the great fantastic and science-fiction movies, at least, we will be allowed to see lately  some new concrete creatures on screen.

After to have fought the famous alien predators from James CAMERON’s ALIENS, sequel of the well known Ridley SCOTT’s movie, the actor Lance HENRIKSEN is in front of a mutant creature what is like some inheritor of another frightening monster from another classic, John CARPENTER’s THE THING – there is a three part tribute about this latest indeed the french blog.

Signed photo by Tom WOODRUFF of a victim of HARBINGER DOWN, sent to the people who pledged for the project

STRANGE NATURE by Jim OJALA is a bit linked to the topic, dealing of some freak frogs suffering of some mutations as surnumeral limbs – seen indeed ponds of monster, studied by the french naturalist Jean ROSTAND, now becoming more current in some places in USA. A parasite was recently identified but the pollution is probably another cause of these mutations. In the movie, a mother and her son came to live in the great-father’s house, indeed the woods, have to deal with awful mutations of animals and humans. This time again, the creators decided to use only practical effects to picture the monsters.

Behind the scene photo of  STRANGE NATURE; when the man begins to play with the laws of the nature, it begins with misshapen frogs but what will be the next ?

Jerry LENTZ doesn’t think, like Stanley KUBRICK for 2001 THE SPACE ODYSSEY and John CARPENTER for GHOSTS OF MARS, to show to the watchers the extraterrestrials of his project NEBULA, made possible thanks Indiegogo. He plans for this film thought to reach the highest level of the science-fiction, too often limited to action nowadays, to only cast some real models of spaceships too he creates himself with the contribution of Robert VANCEL, although he raised rather few money instead the requested amount. The release of INTERSTELLAR directed by Christopher NOLAN puts him to change the scenario in order to avoid that people could think he took some inspiration from.

 An animatronic Tyrannosaurus that Jerry LENTZ created few years ago, helped by the experience of Stan WINSTON whose the first article of this blog paid a spontaneous tribute.

Model by Jerry LENTZ

Model by Robert VANCEL, with aesthetic recalling the great tradition of the space stations of THE BLACK HOLE movie and some episodes of GALACTICA series whom the creator just disappeared (see the tribute on the French blog ).

If the realism isn’t the main goal for the alien being of the movie CREEP!, it’s because this one relates the behind the scenes story of a little B-movie of the sixties, THE CREEPING TERROR (1964), filmed with very few money and a creature made very quickly because the original monster would have been stolen the day before the filming. Originally planned as a documentary, the lack of archives pushed to film some shots in order to recreate the filming, and at first place, the rather unfair director who vanished suddenly with the money, giving the proof of his dishonesty. The movie was possible to do thanks the funds received by Kickstarter, a bit money more for the postproduction was provided across Indiegogo.

Reconstruction in colour of a scene with a woman fully eaten by one of the two hungry creatures of THE CREEPING TERROR, made by the crew of CREEP!

The realism is no more the first interest of  SCIENCE TEAM, science-fiction comedy about the adventures of a young man with his dead mother, an extraterrestrial able to read in minds and the government burocraty having the mission to track the space creatures; this movie too banned CGI. The movie was first released into Australia the 2d November 2014 at Sidney, few time before the USA.
The autopsy of a little monster by the young casting of SCIENCE TEAM.

Of course, all the projects have not a so lucky end, the magazine Fangoria, already producer of several movies, SEVERED TIES about a cut hand living from its own, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, a vampire movie, and another one about some mutants, MINDWARP, at the early nineties, tried to put on Kickstarter THE FACILITY dealing about scientific experiments, fierce fishes and living deads, but it didn’t met a public interest since the project obtained only one hundred purcent of the hoped amount, , and thereof it only stays the trailer dealing of the Katrina typhoon what wrecked the New Orleans in 2005 :
Indeed a closet, a fish probably not kept for the lunch purpose.

A singular project was launched, in order to « actualize » the famous master piece of horror from the silent era, Friedrich MURNAU’s NOSFERATU, using the new computer abilities for visual effects as they already done for THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI. The project is to replace the original casting by new actors (like Doug JONES instead Max SHREK as the Vampire of the Carpathes) indeed the original itself, in order to bring spoken dialogues and a new soundtrack to the movie. This great classic, unofficial adpatation of Bram STOKER’s DRACULA because MURNAU wasn’t allowed to have the legal rights, was previously redone as a remake by Werner HERZOG with Klaus KINSKI as vampire, the director succeeded to use the modern  abilities of cinema to recreate the morbid and hypnotic strength of the original. Difficult to know what the admirer will think about this project trying to put -excepted the colour – modern standards to the original movie picture itself, so much the rhythm and the silent are deeply linked to the aesthetic end the power of suggestion of the MURNAU’s work. Whatever, the project drains a lot of interest since two weeks only were enough to bring half of the needed amount: 

"Knock, knock, Orlok is coming!" The makeup for the new Nosferatu character standing to replace the original monster.
Another project, MUST FEED AND WATER, LOVE IS A MONSTER by Michael LANGMAN and Raphe WOLFGANG ends the first January 2015. the little monster is a metaphore of a love story and is intended to be built by Mark VILLALOBOS, who worked on several horror movies before, like the frame by frame animated miniatures on ED WOOD, EVIL DEAD 2 ARMY OF DARKNESS,  and the dinosaurs of LAND OF THE LOST serie with the CHIODO brothers, the makeup effects of the two STARSHIP TROOPERS sequels, the sequel of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, the three sequels of WISHMASTER, RAIDERS and PROGENY.

To ask to fans to pledge for a project becomes very usual now; after a non successful temptative across Kickstarter, Alba GARCIA-RIVAS was allowed thanks to Indiegogo to do his animation movie TIME SPACE REFLECTIONS casting some figurines in miniatures sets carefully done (; the Stop motion magazine dealing of frame by frame animation dealed about and spoke of some special effects artists on DARK EARTH like Ron COLE and Nick HILLIGOSS too– the enterprise stopped because its creator John IKUMA wishes to use his time to work himself on some projects but it’s still possible to download freely the issues on this link:

Sandy adventurer, a little mouse previously created by Alba Garcia-Rivas, one of the creations that the artist has resolved to separate, to buy a new home, following the disaster that ravaged her home.

Note that in a totally different field, underwater scientific expeditions are also calls to subscribers, like Aquatilis, supported by researchers in the worldwide as Stephen HADDOCK of the renowned Aquarium Monterry.

Since the nowdays’ Hollywood producers choice more and more to bring onto screen similar products, with the same standards, and mainly related to CGI, the latest real monsters makers have often no other opportunities to cast their art outside these sites of crowfunding, the only way to give birth again to almost flesh and blood creatures, made of latex foam, silicon or polyurethane, around an armature, mimicing a real skin and reacting with the light as every concrete object does. Remind that george LUCAS himself began to create the first STAR WARS outside the big studios before to obtain some interest by an executive.
About STAR WARS, the new trilogy produced by Disney was said to use more practical effects, as this full sized giant pig prop, although Jeffrey J. ABRAMS (creator of LOST and FRINGE series) has not shown an inordinate love for traditional art forms of special effects in his recent films, SUPER-8 and the last two iterations of STAR TREK on the big screen. 

 Construction of a giant pig for the new STAR WARS produced by Disney.
Creature shop, created by Jim HENSON, after to have included a lot of CGI indeed his latest works - as the full body of the LOCH NESS’ monster – tries to put more interest on practical creatures across the Jim Henson's Creature Shop's challenge aired on SyFy chain cable (formerly Sci-fi), a contest like Face-off asked to some artists to design and to animate strange beasts in front of the camera.

Sea creatures designed for the competition Henson Creature Shop's challenge broadcasted by the same SyFy channel that has produced so many TV movies filled with monsters created by computer in the style SHARKNADO, it’s almost heretic!
We learned that the makeup artist and special effects master Steve Johnson (GHOSTBUSTERS I and II, THE ABYSS, SPECIES and its sequel) who had decided to leave the special effects field like Rob BOTTIN and Patrick TATOPOULOS because increasing weight of CGI indeed movies (article on the french blog "Les derniers grands créateurs déclarent forfait") said he was hired to do the mutant creatures for a movie based upon the short story of Philip DICK, THE CRAWLERS, from designs made the australian artist Patricia PICCINI, well known for his hyperrealist transgenic beings made in silicon by her sculptors Paul KATTE and Nick NICOLAOU of Make-up Effects group.
If some movies like DARK PLANET and HARBINGER DOWN meet a public success with their promises to offer mainly practical effects, keeping the digital special effects to the minimum (composition of images by simple integration in the same plan of some separately filmed elements), we could lately hope a rebirth of the real special effects, allowed to us to wait for some other fascinating creatures patiently sculpted in workshops and living thanks modernized although traditional techniques, after a long period of interruption. It becomes urgent since even the famous makeup artist Rick Baker, who thought that unlike the mechanical special effects made by Stan WINSTON, his own special makeup could survive the CGI, closed his shop and destroyed his collection of molds, outputs of so many memorable creatures, victim of competition with virtual imagery. Another film history page turns sadly.

So, it’s an evidence that the independent projects raised thanks crowfunding are needed in order to keep the flame of the imagination and ingeniosity, proving that to create some concrete fictional beings and landscapes, in a tangible way and not just as a virtual simulation, is only a matter of will; another fantastic cinema is possible, the one that brings really magic on screen. The future isnt written..