While my college of choice has its issues and is going through a bunch of crap, there manages to be some awesome things going on. One of these was a talk with Peter Lord from Aardman Animation. Not only was it awesome, but it was a field trip for class so class time was spent listening to Peter Lord. Holy christ is that fantastic! The only thing is I will be paraphrasing because I couldn’t take audio and this happened a few days ago. I promise all the paraphrasing matches the sentiment as closely as I can remember.
There were only about 50 people in attendance, and it was in one of the theater-style classrooms. He started by saying that this hadn’t been rehearsed and it was new to him as well so it should be educational on both sides. Of course, 5 minutes later he was talking about being able to recite the entire movie. Seeing as he’s been working on it for 5 years, I can’t say I blame him. It’s just funny that he said there was no rehearsal and proceeded to recite lines. He has a magnificent sense of humour and I was sad that I was the only one chuckling at some of his remarks. He’s very witty and I think it was lost on the artists that were focused on procedure as opposed to the experience. He brought clips of the new The Pirates: Band of Misfits movie and a number of making-of clips. If I didn’t want to see it before, I’d definitely want to see it now. I think the person Peter Lord was lost on the audience because everyone else was figuring out how it was done. That’s a serious shame. His stories are so wonderful that I could listen to him all day and not ask one question about puppetry.
Anyway, there were audio issues when he tried to play sound clips. The background played fine, but the voice wouldn’t play. It was weird and pretty embarrassing. While they fiddled on the computer trying to solve the audio riddle (Macs are better my arse), Lord told anecdotes about what it was like working with a few of the actors. Apparently, Hugh Grant is one of the most British men on the face of the Earth. When asked to scream as if falling from a cliff he managed an “ahhhhhh” until they insisted he put some gut in it and eventually produced a satisfying “AAAHHHHHHRRHHHHHHH!!!!” He would never yell lines that were designed to be yelled the first time around and it was like pulling teeth because he was so polite about everything. I am clearly in the wrong country, not that I’m super polite but I kind of adore that approach to things. With all the brazen, obnoxious yelling that Americans do, I could use absurd politeness followed by stinging wit.
He also talked briefly about David Tennant and how he was in the studio. Apparently, Tennant is not only animated on screen, but also when just reading lines. He moved as an actor would for a camera within the confines of the recording booth. According to Lord, they used some of his expressions and movements for the basis of the character’s animation. I always knew David Tennant was more or less a living cartoon, but I wasn’t sure how far it went. Apparently, it’s almost literal.
There were a number of clips that allowed us to see the whole process and marvel at the little details that go on. It’s no wonder the project took 5 years. With all the awesomeness that was the talk, the best part was seeing the puppets. They had brought in the Pirate Captain, the monkey (that is actually a chimp, but we’ll let that go), and the dodo bird. There was also a box of mouths meant to show the little things changes that are created to make fluid speech. And a skeleton of a puppet that was pretty freaky and I wouldn’t want to run into it in a dark alley lest it be a relative of The Terminator. Behold!
I know about the crap quality. What do you expect for a pay-as-you-go phone? Trust me, the puppets were far more impressive in person and I geeked out pretty hard.
Sorry this one was a little shaky because of all the people nudging their phones to grab a shot as well. I just wanted to show all the stuff. That pile of metal becomes an adorable claymation puppet. The box is where the mouths are housed and there is a storage room full of them. Rows and rows of boxes of mouths. Crazy. I was going to see if I could grab a quick chat with Peter Lord as I left, but some other girl had already snagged him and was wildly recounting some story or another. I’m sure she was actually into puppetry or movie-making, but I really think a five minute chat with me would have been more of a relief because I’m sure he’s sick of questions about process and hearing people go on about their own “original” ideas. I’d tell him that puppets are cool and that I wish more people had his sense of humour. I’m sure the girl trying to weedle her way into his contact list got more out of it than I would have. Frankly, I can’t blame her because Peter Lord is a hell of a guy and I really wish I had a proper chance to tell him that.