My junior year university film "Bailey's Tail" was completed using stop motion animation with handmade puppets and props. Set in the 19th century on Scotland's Isle of Mull, the "tail" follows border collie Bailey's afternoon storytelling session with his herd of sheep and features the vocal talent of former Edinboro University professor of bagpiping Dr. Patrick Regan.
I was inspired to create a border collie character after my childhood dog Toby and placed him into a world with a rustic and beautiful landscape. Being of Irish ancestry, I have always enjoyed the rich storytelling traditions of the British Isles and the thrill, emotion, and comedy involved in the acting and telling of the tales.
The animation was completed using Dragonframe and contains over 800 frames at 12 FPS shot over the course of about 16 hours.
For this film, four puppets were created with 12 and 14 gauge armature wire, Sculpey oven-bake clay, epoxy, hot glue, aluminum foil, and athletic tape. The Bailey puppet utilized wooden beads for eyes, fur material, and felt clothing sewn on machine. Fur was shaped by shaving with a razor and scissors and subtle color was added to both fur and clothing by taking a feathered brush and acrylic paint to the material. This puppet utilized nut and bolt feet tie-downs.
My sheep were designed to be simpler than the Bailey puppet; having no legs or eyes, the sheep are able to act as secondary characters in the film. The puppets' bodies are stiff and bean-shaped as torso movement was not necessary. Felt covers their ears and snouts while pulled cotton balls cover the body. All the sheep were placed using hot glue, as their bodies were to remain stationary.
SET AND PROP DESIGN
All props featured in the film were created myself, with the only exception being the mountain hill in the distance from another student's animation, which I finished with a stone wall and cotton ball sheep. A large plywood backdrop was painted with acrylics to resemble the Scottish highlands and the rocky terrain. In the distance, the loch of the Isle of Mull, mentioned in the dialogue, rests comfortably in the valley.
Stone walls cover the rolling hills and extend into the foreground plane, which was created with construction foam, hot glue, craft stones covered with textured spray paint, and popsicle sticks. While the ground is painted with acrylics and covered with moss and found rocks and twigs for trees, the smaller sheep created from cotton balls and felt are scaled in various sizes to imitate a larger spacial perspective.
Lighting was created using overhead spots with a semi-opaque scrim on the key light and a blue scrim on the fill light.