I had the great pleasure of working on a production at the Whitby Little Theatre of this very funny and wise musical featuring foam, fur and fabric covered puppets that might have been at home on a certain other street on a certain long running children’s television show. Wonderful music, over the top and very risque humour dominate the production, and the production values required of the company meant that not only did robust, remarkable working puppets have to be created, but they had to work convincingly on great stage sets with live actors, accompanied by numerous animated title cards and sequences that themselves had musical or sound effects soundtracks.
Bringing together the parts to make the whole that is AVENUE Q was a monumental task, and my dear friend, director Monique Essegern, and a very talented company managed to pull it off. Being involved in the animations, I worked in the background and only had contacts with Monique, the sound effects creator and peripherally with the tech crew who had to sync up the imagery with live music and other actions on the stage.
I decided to take a different route for my work, keeping it as loose as possible, using wax crayons and markers to add colour, not using rulers on objects to make buildings, buses and scene details more organic, and often working ‘outside the lines’ to make the images look more child-like. With such great models, it wasn’t hard to become completely immersed in the imagery and realize that behind the laughter the show explored some huge questions we all face in our lives: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is my purpose?’ ‘Will I find love?’ ‘Will people accept me for who- or what- I am?’ Consequently, some pieces needed to be treated a little more seriously than one might have expected and some great discussions with Monique on these points helped flesh out the scenes much better. I created the animations in Poser and linked them up using Movie Maker.
Here are some of the puppets that featured in the production, shown from photos taken either by me, or by members of the company for my use in creating the animations. They are seen in different costumes and at rest with their mouths hanging open in the storage room. I have also included a picture of the stage maquette, created as a guide for the construction of the full stage set, which I wasn’t able to photograph.
DESIGNING THE ANIMATIONS FOR ‘AVENUE Q’.
I created scrolling backgrounds and animation elements by hand and then loaded them into Poser as texture map images onto flat planes set up on a blank virtual stage. Basically, the idea was to recreate a traditional multi-plane camera in the computer software, similar to ones used in the classic days of movie animation before computers came along. Using the music score as a guide, I then set the length of the animation and manipulated the elements to create traditional 2D cartoon scenes in a 3D modeling software program.
The animation was limited in what I could do to pans, tilts, rotations on the Y axis. I had no time, nor was Poser the best platform to create cel type animation that could have characters move frame by frame, twist, move limbs independently and so on. It might be possible to do so, but I would have to ask if it is worth the effort in making it work. Other software exists that is better suited to that kind of animation. For what was needed in ‘AVENUE Q’, the set up I was using was fine for the job.
I wish I could include some of the animations, but without the music they lack context. Without permission, I lack money after the copyright holders sue me…
So, let’s look at some more pictures.
Let’s see a few more…