For the third annual Stopmo Jam, Halloween was the theme, but the creatives behind Ani-Fab Studio saw an opening for aliens. Of course they did. The duo, Jason Fitzgerald and Dan Driscoll have always been sci-fi heads. “Jason and I met working on ‘Anomalisa’ in 2013. Fitz is a fabricator and I am an animator, and we share a deep appreciation for science fiction, aliens, and of course, stop motion!” Driscoll told us.
“We had been talking about doing some sort of project together for some time; and when Anthony Scott announced the Halloween themed Stopmo Jam 3 it seemed like the perfect time. I can’t recall how we came up with the concept–we were just tossing ideas back and forth and the idea of aliens abducting a pumpkin just stuck with us. As a fabricator/ animator team, we both have a deep appreciation of each other’s process, and Fitz dove into the design and modeling of the UFO, aliens and pumpkins. He used Blender for all the modeling and printed everything on a Formlabs 3d printer. The UFO used the clear, white and grey resins, while the characters were printed with the elastic resin.
“While that was going on, I storyboarded and created animatics for 2 versions of Halloween Visitation, a 15 second version for Stopmo Jam 3, and a 30 second version for Animation Wild Card, who were also putting together an episode for Halloween. I set up the shooting stage in my basement. Having a finite shooting space, I wanted as much control over the lighting as possible, so all the lighting is being driven by DMX through Dragonframe. I was fortunate enough to test drive the Canon RP camera at work, so we purchased one for this project.”
The piece is driven by a quintessential sci-fi/alien type tune and while the aliens look similar to those we’ve all seen before (based on real accounts?) they have a bit of swag to their style–the truth is clearly out there. Also notable is the deftly handled shaft of colored light coming from the space shift and the alien pumpkins that light up from inside as they begin to show their possession.
Like so many animation teams, time proved to be one of their main hurdles. “The biggest challenge was probably trying to do all this while also working a full time job!” Driscoll said. “But, we wanted to test ourselves, and have our first collaboration be something fun. For Fitz the biggest challenge was in the experimental nature of building a character with mostly printed parts. Getting the flexible resin to do what we needed it to do.
“We could have done full silicone or foam latex puppets; but it wasn’t very cost effective for such a short piece. The translucent nature of the flexible resin also created a beautiful effect. I spent a lot of time testing out Dragonframe’s DMX system, adding LEDs to the UFO and pumpkins. The final shot had over 30 separate channels which was a fun challenge to wrap my brain around! In the end we got a lot out of the experimentation that will pay off in future work.”
In terms of upcoming work, the Ani-Fab is already off and running. “We are currently very busy producing stop motion holiday content at our full time jobs, at Bob’s Discount Furniture. In Manchester Connecticut, there is a furniture store with an entire production facility in the back of the store. That is where all the advertising is made. This year I had the opportunity to write the spots and direct the animation, while Fitz manages the Fabrication Department.
“Outside of that, We both enjoy the writing process, and are working on a few script ideas. We are also working on another micro short for the holiday season- probably without aliens, so we will have to see how that goes!” We will miss the other-worldly life forms, but look forward to seeing what you guys come up with. Until then, check out this behind-the-scenes for more on the Halloween Visitation production: