Thursday, September 27, 2012

On-Set Injury Report: Lizard Down!

“Real knives freak me out. So I had to cut through duct tape. I kept thinking I was going to pull up too hard and stab myself in the face. It took almost like ten times or something before they had to cut the duct tape so it was only a thread that I had to cut through.”

Actress Emma Roberts
“Scream 4” commentary track

“One time I was looking around his [Ray Harryhausen’s] garage and up in the rafters of the garage something was sticking out. There was like the skull of something going behind some boxes. I couldn’t see what it was. It was all in pieces. It was the dragon from “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.” I just thought: Oh, what a sad end for such a wonderful creature.”

Dennis Muren
quoted in Two Dragons

A movie set is a completely controlled environment. Nobody ever should get seriously hurt on a movie set.

Not even a doll.

I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a new little stop-motion film, and I’ve mentioned that it is going to be about the Louisiana sinkhole. (I’m imagining a kind of follow-up to “Where Did The Cows Go?”.) I’d hoped to complete it for my Friday post, but there is a delay.

Rubber Lizard is injured.

It may not be clear from watching stop-motion films, but these things put a lot of pressure and wear-and-tear on the “actors.” Even a very short stop-motion film requires hundreds or possibly thousands of individual images. Every image, every single image, requires the dolls to be handled and manipulated. Dolls get lifted, squeezed, twisted around, dropped. During a long sequence the animator may get sweaty hands. And unless dolls are custom-built, the material that is used in dolls often simply degrades over time all by itself. And Rubber Lizard and Little Plastic Doll have been working hard at these things for more than two years. In the stop-motion world, that’s something like retirement age.

Anyway, the current project Little Plastic Doll and Rubber Lizard are working on has a couple of scenes with a little action to them, and Rubber Lizard’s tail developed a bit of a tear. And when the tail tore, one or two little sections near the tear started to fragment a bit.

(FYI, Little Plastic Doll ripped her dress a little, too, but she’s being a trouper about it and not complaining. She’s devoting herself to trying to keep up Rubber Lizard’s spirits.)

So I had to stop and work out a plan to save Rubber Lizard.

In stop-motion work this is not uncommon at all. For instance, King Kong was repaired almost daily. And I mentioned how the dragon from “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” eventually sort of went to pieces.

It’s not uncommon, apparently, but it is very disturbing when it actually happens to you. Or, you know, I mean, to one of your own “actors.”

My stomach was, a little, tied into knots worrying about this.

So I considered all sorts of things but eventually settled on a very, very simple fix.

Modern “rubber” is usually some kind of advanced, flexible plastic. And acrylic paints are really just advanced, semi-flexible plastics with pigments suspended in them.

So I very, very carefully mixed up some of my best Liquitex heavy-body acrylics and did something like a craft project.

I layered-on and built-up a new surface where Rubber Lizard’s tail had started to fragment. And I layered-on the acrylic to where the tear had started and then pressed the torn portions together so the acrylic could—I hope—act as an adhesive. When all that dried, I coated the entire area of the tear and fragmenting as a kind of sheath, which I hope will unify the repairs and help hold everything together.

Acrylics dry quickly, but since some of the areas I built-up are slightly thick, I’m going to let this dry over the whole weekend before I attempt to start filming again.

I’m very nervous because everything looks like it went reasonably well. (And a fringe benefit of using acrylic paints is that I could match Rubber Lizard’s color pretty carefully.) I’m hoping everything holds together when Rubber Lizard has to start moving around and acting. As I said, this type of filming puts a lot of pressure on an “actor,” and the dolls really work hard.

Time will tell.

I’m not sure what’s up for tomorrow now.

In the meantime, Little Plastic Doll and Tina are staying with Rubber Lizard, keeping him company while he’s on-the-mend. This is a picture of everyone, with a little blob of the final green paint I blended over the repairs:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Freedom From The Wild/Lost In Metonymy

Kite Flying In America (With Trout)

What Is A Toy?

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