About The Production
MONKEYBONE's challenging pre-production period lasted almost a year as artists designed images first on paper, then in 3-D sculptures. In addition, Selick storyboarded more than two-thirds of the film, and reproduced them as a "bible" for each department head. "It was the only way we could do this movie," states producer Michael
Barnathan. "There were so many components to this project, it had to be figured out in great detail."
Selick intentionally limited the use of the more polished computer generated effects to bring his characters to life. "While stop-motion is considered by many an obsolete medium, and is not as fluid and perfect looking as CGI, it has a very specific charm," he explains. "Try as we might to make stop motion look perfect, we never will — and that's part of its charm. It has a hand-crafted quality. I see it as being a very personal choice and compare it to the
difference between selecting vinyl over digital CD in music. Vinyl has lots of pops and scratches but it has a warmth that's authentic."
Selick used stop motion animation to create the title character, which the director describes as a "plush toy resembling something that small kids drag around the house." The process was slow and methodical, encompassing the film's 25 weeks of post production in San Francisco.
Once Selick gave a green light to Monkeybone's look, artist Damon Bard created a hero sculpture using a mixture of clay and paraffin. Next, the filmmakers developed the armature, which resembles the bones of a skeleton, and is used for providing support for the body as well as for determining hinge points.
Following the design phase, the mold department, which is responsible for casting face plates and different mouths for the character (used for a variety of expressions), produced a mold of the approved Monkeybone body parts. The mouth and face plates were then cured and given finishing touches, such as sanding and painting. For this finishing, or fabrication process, the filmmakers detailed thousands of body parts, as well as the outer body. They then covered the puppet with cloth and accessories.
At this point, the filmmakers were almost ready to animate Monkeybone on film. But first, they built a prototype puppet, which an animator tested to see how the armature was functioning. The animator further developed the character by creating different walking and running styles. A track reader read the dialogue for the particular shot and assigned mouth shapes to the phonetic reading.
Each stop motion animation team received a Monkeybone puppet, face and mouth kit. They began their shots with a "pop-through" — taking the puppet and placing it in poses that reflect the general feel of the shot. Selick then reviewed and made comments. Next, the animator conducted a "run-through," a more detailed test with motion and a few mouth changes. After Selick's approval, the animator launched into a take. The camera department worked closely with the animators during the pop and run-throughs to set the matched lighting and any necessary motion control, a process that took up to a week per shot. With eight animators working simultaneously, each animator completed about five seconds of film per week.
During principal photography, a hand or rod puppet was used to give Brendan Fraser the impression of a live character off of which to react. Puppeteer Bruce Lanoil worked closely with visual effects supervisors Pete Kozachik and Peter Crosman to provide placement coordination as well as the temporary voice. "I used a bunch of fabric covered rods and cloth puppets to create skin pressure, tugging on clothing and objects, etc.," Lanoil explains. "Playing'
Monkeybone, I also squeezed Brendan's nose and mussed up his hair, which later was replaced by the stop-motion figure." Lanoil also used these devices to provide Fr
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