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“Elk Hair Caddis” from Peter Smith and Magnus Møller

April 17th, 2010

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Animators Peter Smith and Magnus Møller (along with fellow students Alice Holme and Anders Brogaard) submitted their outstanding multimedia treat-for-the-eyeballs “Elk Hair Caddis” and Channel Frederator was more than thrilled to show it! Below, Peter speaks on behalf of the creative team and gives us some in depth info on the filmmaking process. Check out the production team’s ‘making of’ videos here.

Channel Frederator: Where did you you study animation?

Peter Smith: The Animation Workshop, Viborg, Denmark 2006 - 2010

CF: Who are your favorite artists?

PS: Well, I can mention a few: Rodin, Michelangelo, Krøyer, Rubens, Tintoretto, Tex Avery, Hanna Barbera.

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CF: What gave you the idea for “Elk Hair Caddis”?

PS: One of the initial ideas was telling a fun story while investigating how close we could bring the media of 3D animation to the hand drawn style of for example Tex Avery and the broad Hannah Barbera shorts as for example “Tom and Jerry”, more specifically in terms of humor and storytelling. In order to do so, we had to focus on flexibility and gags in the animation, hence snappy and broad movements. One of the things that inspired us to think along these lines, was a 3D animated short called “Football vs. Rabbit” made by a Swedish company called Meindbender. The animation looks like claymation, and has the exact same flexibility that you would expect from very broad claymation.

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You could suggest that this, in and of itself, is more of a technical consideration, as to investigate the possibilities of a relatively new media, than it is in fact a consideration from an animation point of view. Though, as an animator I find that it is important to explore the media, even if that means spending production time achieving new technical skills. Initially I agreed to work with Magnus Igland Møller on the idea of creating a bachelor film using “Football vs. Rabbit” as a starting point for animation and for general inspiration.

Magnus had found the clip a couple of years earlier, and ever since we had occasionally discussed our excitement over it. The staging, pacing, timing, shapes, design, everything in the clip is so very well executed, resulting in an extremely appealing and cartoony short film.

The short “Football vs. Rabbit”, was more than just an eye‐opener towards this style of 3D animation. It also inspired us to wanting to make a project steered by experimentation; subsequently this gave us the idea to create the backgrounds from real life models, rather than building them in 3D. This offered us a greater range of possibilities when working with detail and light, and ultimately a very specific look.

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The Plot

A father escapes his stressful life with his many tadpoles to his favourite hideout by the river. His peace and quiet is suddenly disturbed by his neighbour’s attempt to catch the fish of his dreams.

The Name

The name of the film, “Elk Hair Caddis”, refers to fly‐fishing as it is the name of a very popular “fly”. This name was initially supposed to be a temporary solution, but the more we used it, the more it seemed to stick. Since it somehow indicates parts of the story, without really revealing anything, we decided to keep it.

During the preproduction Tod Polson was our supervisor. He had a great way of helping us make an efficient and open writing process, and pointed us in the right direction without taking control or trying to make the decisions for us. Tod would never discard an idea, instead he taught us to keep an open mind throughout this process, and we experienced that even vague ideas can get you somewhere if you keep pounding on it long enough. While working on the story, we would usually have scheduled “gag meetings”, where we would all sit down with Tod and brainstorm. We would then cover, not only the missing pieces of the story, but more often the whole idea of the story. If anyone had any sort of idea for any of the scenes, we would keep on brainstorming on that thing, just to see where we ended up. Sometimes a discussion could start out with a very simple gag that would make the outcome of the story completely different. We kept on like this for the first three weeks. And bit by bit we gathered some story parts that we agreed to keep.

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One of the very hard passages of the story was, figuring out how we could make the bear cast his fly towards where the frog was sitting. As soon as one of us came up with the idea, that one of the tadpoles, somehow came with the frog to the river, another one proposed that this lured out a giant fish that the bear would see. This was a great way of creating a character driven situation that was very favorable for the story. This way we ended up about a month into pre-production with a pretty solid basic structure.

CF: Can you talk us through the different kinds of media and programs you used to create the film?

PS: We used Autodesk Maya (Modeling, Animation), Blender (Animation with anisculpt), Mudbox (modeling and texturing), Photoshop (textures and backgrounds), Fusion (compositing) and TVPaint (2d effects like fishing and water splashes).

CF: I burst out laughing every time I see that fishhook go through the frog’s eye! What’s your favorite gag in the film?

PS: That certainly is the highpoint for many of our audience. I think there are a lot of funny little moments, especially where the fish swallows the frog, and later lands on the ground and spits him out again.

CF: Do you ever go fishing? Ever caught anything weird?

PS: Magnus, with whom I directed the film, is a great fisherman, but very rarely flyfishing though, as is apparently takes a lot more patience than he is equipped with. Just kidding!

CF: Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?

PS: Magnus and I always discuss new ideas, and we do have a few ideas for a mixed media short film. This time I think the main media will be stop motion. Magnus did his internship last year at Aardman and learned a few tricks there.

CF: *Squeal of delight* Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with next! Thank you so much for the interview!

You can watch “Elk Hair Caddis” right here on Channel Frederator!

-Bailee DesRocher

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