Category Archives: General Info

My new film in progress

Well everyone, I thought I needed to post what I have been doing lately.

I am still working on the co-op film that I started last January with several other animators. Several people helped write the script, then Emmyymme (Emily) and Woolly Monster (Ceri) made puppets and props and mailed them to me. I have been animating with them for the last several months. There is still a few more months left before the film is complete. More on that later.


But while I am animating on that film I am getting the ideas together for my next film.

It started with the idea of making a King’s throne room or great hall and all the props that went with it. Then I added the idea of the castle’s gardener being involved. So I took a notebook and wrote down the 20 basic plot themes one on each page, then I tried to come up with story ideas in each theme that could be set in the throne room. My wife and I eliminated some, then picked one we liked.

So, the basic story is based on the “escape” theme.

King, knights, and the cook and the gardener are in the throne room doing their normal daily activities when  creatures attack and  capture everyone. In the end the gardener will save the day.

So now I have begun storyboarding which for me just means making a ton of notes in a notebook. I am now acting out the scenes on paper to see if the props and the staging will work.

I have begun some props including some wood items turned on the lathe and a chainmail shirt for one of the knights. For the chainmail I found some 5 mm jumprings at a jewelry supply place and I am opening/closing each one to form the chainmail shirt. The shirt itself has taken three days so far and still not done.



I will get some pictures in here of the co-op film and of the new idea stuff.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

new armature

I have been working for the past few days on a new armature for a new puppet. I have no idea what the final puppet is going to be, I just wanted to work on my armature skills.

The final armature feels really nice, it is still not professional quality but it does feel good when you move the joints.

I used stainless steel 302 balls and rods. The plates are aluminum. Remember when working on your armature that hobbyists can not solder aluminum. Anything that needs solder has to be steel, or brass. The aluminum plates are easy to form and cut and look like the stainless steel parts to make the whole armature a silver color.

Here is a list of parts and tools I used. For cutting the aluminum, I used my bandsaw, but you can use a hacksaw or dremel tool. I shaped it with a variety of files and a few different grits of sandpaper. This is what the mostly finished armature looks like.



This is the head. The piece sticking out is the bottom jaw. It can move up and down.


From this side you can see the screw that goes through the bottom jaw, through the middle spacer, then into the threaded part of the other side.


I really wanted the head to have great movement. I put a joint near the collar bone area, then one inside the skull area. There are actually three movable points there from the neck up and into the head. I was only striving for two. I could have locked down the middle one if i wanted.

I cut the shoulders at a 45 degree angle to help give the arms more range of motion. The shoulder joint rods are held into the chest block with allen wrench set screws. The holes are tapped with 8-32 threads, and the allen screws are ground down until they fit without too much sticking out.


In this shot you can see the upper arms are open ball and socket as well as the lower spine. The screws are 4-40 threads and are countersunk into the plates to help reduce thickness.  The spine rod goes all the way through the chest block upto the neck joint. It is held in place with an allen screw. The upper legs are also regular open ball and socket joints. The rods are 3/32″ stainless steel 302.


The lower legs have a step joint so it ends up with a ball on one end, and the open plates on the other end.  The rod is held in the plate with a set screw. i had to go back and add the extra screw to keep the plates all lined up.  In the lower leg joints the top screw holds the rod in place, the lower screw holds the three plates together.  The lowest screw puts tension on the ankle ball.  I used to put a joint in the toe, but usually it gets in the way as I animate so I put a solid foot in this armature.


The feet are cut from a solid piece of aluminum, The rod is held in place with a screw coming in from the back of the foot. The hole is a tapped hole with 8-32 threads for the tiedown.  The aluminum is 1/4″ thick from flat stock.


This hand design is my version of a hand I saw in one of Tom Brierton’s designs. It is cut from a solid single piece of aluminum. I cut a rectangle first to size, drilled all my holes and tapped the holes while it still had square flat edges. Once all the holes were done, then I filed it down to size. The two screws have the finger wires wrapped around and then tightened down to hold them in place. I could not figure out a better way to lock down the thumb wire since it has to emerge so far down close to the wrist. I will make sure it is secure before putting skin on it. I put green stuff on the finger tips to give them shape and to cover up the sharp metal edges. The slot cut down the hand from the wrist gives it enough flex that the screw can pull the plates together enough to lock down on the wrist joint ball. It is tricky to get all this to work.  This is the top of the hand.


This is the palm side.


I welcome all comments.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

new storyboard

This is a very rough draft of the story for the new co-op film. I am looking for advice from any writers out there.  The puppets are monsters, and the sets have been built so that will not be changed, but no animation has been done so the story can be changed or improved.
Long shot exterior house to set scene. Probably a combo of a real house prop and
a digital matte background

Dad enters kitchen with bags from DIY store, greets mom and son
Everyone is all excited for the new projects

Dad enters bedroom and sets bags down
Dad fetches his tools
Dad sets up ladder, lays out tools

Painting begins,
Seems to go ok for awhile, brush moves, applies paint
Runs into first problem,

Paint spills onto carpet, Dad tries to clean it up to no avail
Dad slides the rug over to cover the spot

Paints a bit more, but runs out of paint,
Covers unpainted spot with poster

Painting is done, parts put away
Now tries to put together bed
First two pieces go together
Now pieces everywhere
Gets worse, and bed looks bad

Flashes back to kitchen and mom and son are eating, playing, whatever

Dad still working,
Finally gets the bed looking almost like a bed

Dad is supposedly finished,
Room looks kinda crappy, paint drips all over
Bed pieces laying around
Signs of bad craftsmanship all over

Proud Dad brings in son and Mom to show off his work
They look but are not overly impressed
Kid burps a flaming fire ball

The whole room is charred and burnt

Maybe Mom hands Dad a “how to” book

Somehow roll credits and show a photo somewhere of all three standing in new
room and it looks great.

Puppet prize

Marc Spess and I are running an animation challenge at

This puppet is the prize. I created this puppet especially for this contest. I see so many animators with tons of heart and desire to animate but when they get started, their puppet just doesn’t do what they want it to do. I created this puppet using the same techniques I use for almost all of my puppets.

For this one, I started by sculpting a clay body. I use Prima clay. It is like Roma clay except Prima is sulfur free. I tried Roma but the sulfur smell gave my wife a headache.


When that was done, I made a silicon rubber mold in two parts of the body. Once the mold was complete, I brushed in mold builder latex that was tinted with green paint. I think the silicon rubber I used was this:


I then made a wire armature using annealled wire. The green areas are a two part sculpting putty called “green stuff”. The real name is kneadatite.

The wire is twisted in a hand drill before wrapped together. The wire is un-twisted at the ankles and knees to make it easier to bend while animating. The puppet is about 8″ tall to top of head.


For the muscles, I wrap the thin parts in athletic bandage tape (the springy soft stuff used underneath athletic wraps in sports), and for the body I cut a piece of cushion foam (like you would find in a chair cushion). The foam is slid around the wire and glued in place. I use Aleene’s tacky glue.


The feet are made from a piece of aluminum stock, cut to fit with a hacksaw, bandsaw, or dremel tool. The tie down hole is drilled and then tapped with a 8-32 screw thread. Then 4 tiny holes are drilled for the ankles wires to slip into. The wires go down through the holes, then are bent back to ensure they come out. The wires are covered with more green stuff.


I added some wire for toes, and green stuffed over it all. Then wrapped the leg wires with bandage wrap.


I gently peeled the skin out of the mold and glued on his chest using brush on latex. I held it in place with thread until it set. The arms were coated in brush on latex. Squirt some paint into little cup, add a teaspoon of latex, stir well, then dab it on the puppet. Apply a few coats to build it up. Let it dry between coats.

The head is more green stuff sculpted around the eyes. It is then painted with a brush on primer. I use model paints from Vallejo Acrylics. Most people know these as Games Workshop paints.

I don’t put latex on the head because it peels off too easily while moving the head around.


Apply the back and keep touching up the latex. I added antennae just to give you something else you could animate. The wire is attached to the head with green stuff as I formed the head. The balls on the end are just more green stuff.  Don’t look at the props, they are for my next film.


The eyes are doll eyes. New ones, not stolen from a doll by the way. The doll eyes came from a hobby store long ago in the doll making section.






So there you have it, one puppet built. It took several days while I waited for latex to dry and green stuff to harden. Good luck with the contest, maybe you will get to animate this frog/alien/bug guy.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

flying film progress update

Well everyone,  it has been awhile since my last update. Here is what is going on with me and the film.

The ship’s interior sets are complete. One set is the captain’s bridge, and the other is below decks where the deckhand is hanging out. All the props are made and installed. I began filming on these two sets a week or so ago.  I have filmed about 8 or 9 shots so far.

The outside sets with the large landscape is still sitting in the shop outside waiting to be completely finished. It is about 95% complete.

So, the flying ship film is still moving forward and I am slowly making progress. I have been working on since October.

So, in other news, I am on the side trying to make replacement heads. I sculpted a head in plasticine, made a two part silicone mold of it, poured in melted van aken clay, made 9 copies in clay, sculpted new expressions in these clay faces, and then started making silicone molds of each new clay expression. In these new molds I am casting plaster of paris to end up with a new hard head with the new expression. Tons of work, and I will blog about this more later in detail.

My flying ship film also needed a robotic arm so I have been soldering stainless steel balls onto rods and making aluminum plates to form ball and socket joints for the the robotic arm, also working on a claw for the end.

I started a coop project on and that is progressing along also. So far we have a basic storyline kinda figured out.

More later with photos when I can…

sound bite challenge film completed

After months of working on the set, and building a flying rig, and animating and then erasing all the flying rig shots, the sound bite challenge film is done.

Brett McCoy composed a 30 second sound bite and we all animated something to match the music. Here is my entry.

All of you that have been following along with the blog entries will see the set in use that you watched being built in the below posts.

Conditions for Sketchbook Swap

I posted earlier about organizing a sketchbook swap and I now have 5 names already signed up.  So I thought I would try to lay out the guidelines for it in one place. You can check back here as I will keep updating this post to clarify any changes we as a group have made.

*Every person needs to get a sketchbook with the following traits:

100 pages or more

easily mail-able, remember 10 people or so are going to have to pay to mail it.

pages that are not going to fall out in travel

( I am using a Moleskin ($16 from Barnes and Nobles Books in the U.S.)) but you can use whatever you please.

*Every person will do the first 5 sketches in their own book, then mail it to the person below them on the list. You only have to mail to one person. All 10 books will come to you one at a time and when you are completed with your 5 sketches you mail it to your one person. Every person has one address that they mail to, keeps things simple and every book will follow the same round circle to all 10 people. We will exchange addresses through emails so they stay private.

*All artwork can be anything you choose, any style, any topic, any skill level. The only request is please keep the book intact, and easy to mail.

*Please do not mar, mark, or damage any other artwork in the book.

*No comments will be made on any artist’s skill level or entries. This is about sharing creativity and not judging what someone put in the book.

*When the book arrives, you will have 3 weeks to complete 5 sketches and then mail it to the next person.

*When the book has made it to every person you will receive your own sketchbook back filled with new artwork.

*I will probably setup an online photo upload site so we can share photos of entries if you would like.

*Remember you will have to pay for postage for 10 sketchbooks, one every 3 weeks.

*Any comments are very welcomed.

*thanks and enjoy.

Sketchbook swap

I know a lot of stopmotion animators are also artists or at least know their way around a pencil and paper. After reading about a project by Jim Doran :

I decided to do my own sketchbook swap. Thanks Jim for the idea, it is terrific. The basic idea is you buy a sketchbook, draw some sketches and then send it off to another artist, they do some sketches, then they mail it on to the next artist on the list. Eventually your sketch book arrives back at your house with original works of art from artists all over the world. This is how I am going to run it.

*I am going to use a moleskin journal like this one:

I found this one at Barnes and Noble bookstore in the U.S. for about $16 US. But you can use any sketchbook you wish as long as it has at least 100 pages, won’t fall apart will all the mailings, and is easy to mail. So, no really heavy books or really large books. Remember the artists have to mail them to each other all over the world. This one is 5″ x 8 1/4″ and has 100 pages. It will be easy to drop into the mail box.

*Get a sketchbook. Make sure your name and mailing address is on the book cover.

*I will collect names, probably about 10 or so and put them on a list with addresses.

*Each artist will do 5 sketches or drawings and then mail the sketchbook to the artist after them on the list. Please do not modify any other pages or other artist’s works.

*When you receive the book you will have 3 weeks to do your set of sketches and mail it on to the next person. Please initial or sign your sketches or put your name somewhere in each journal so you will be remembered.

*When your journal makes it through all the artists you will get your own sketchbook back. You will have about 50 original works of art from artists all over the world in your sketchbook when it returns to you.

*I may set up a photobucket account or some other photo upload site if the participants wish to share some of the works of art with others. We will end up producing about 500 sketches when we are all complete. I will give everyone the account name and password so any of us can upload any sketch that you really like.

*I will begin as soon as I get 10-13 names. Email me if you are interested.

* This is not to judge others work, but to share creativity. I do not want to hear any negative comments at all about the quality or style of any artist’s works. Any skill level and any style or medium is welcome as long it will fit in the journal without any damage (like watercolor for instance).

Are you ready to start? Let’s get sketching! Email: to sign up.

My Animation Blog

I have started this blog to keep track of my progress and to share the things I learn with other animators. I have made a few short films now and am constantly working on my next one. I plan to share behind the scene photos, video clips, test photos, tutorials, and any other good stuff I can find that is stopmotion animation related.

This art form used to be a great secret that only the few professional animators knew and they would pass it (hopefully) down to their assistants. The idea was to keep their skills in demand so they kept their livelihoods. Well, it became such a trade secret that it almost went extinct. A few animators finally realized that we need to share this information with newcomers so the craft of stop motion continues to grow and prosper. This is my aim. I hope to share anything and everything that I learn with anyone that wishes to learn. Stopmotion animation is a wonderful art form and I want it to be around for a long time to come.