Eric and I had the opportunity to go back to school and meet up with an old friend the other night, another graduate from RISD who’s gone on to do some impressive stuff! Mike Johnson graduated a year after us in 1990. Even after all these years I can remember his fabulous degree project about a chameleon, which was painsakingly animated in stop-motion (very cool puppets being manipulated and filmed one frame at a time). He went on to work with Tim Burton on The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach before getting to DIRECT The Corpse Bride! Oh, and he got nominated for something called an “Academy Award” after he did it!
Mike brought a lot of behind-the-scenes pictures and videos from the production, including some of the actual puppets used. Here I am with Emily, the Corpse Bride herself:
This is a stunning movie if you’ve never seen it. The amount of work that goes into such a film is staggering- I don’t know how the animators do this kind of work without going mental. I would go berserk on Day One of shooting. I think this is one of the reasons why I didn’t pursue animation after college, though I did think strongly about it.
One point that was raised during the talk was if doing stop-motion films like these was “worth it” considering how far CG animation has come. Even though Corpse Bride integrates (nicely) some CG bits here and there, it is truly a stop-motion film, and has a tactile quality that can’t be duplicated otherwise.
I HOPE films like this will keep being made. I definitely agree that there is a tangible quality about this kind of work that would be lost in CG. I try to maintain a similar kind of “touchable” quality in my illustration work by using real fabric- I think it resonates on a personal level.
Mike is still a nice guy and has a great wife and son…that may be his best production yet!