Interviews in Monster Land; SU student teaches children to make claymation videos
Interviews in Monster Land; SU student teaches children to make claymation videosApril 16, 2008Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Mrs. Crabs is a friendly but shy clay monster with curly hair, pink appendages and an inviting smile. Created by 10-year-old Dora Schloss-Witkowski, a student in The New School, Mrs. Crabs lost some of her hair after getting slimed by a green glob named Gluhrer during a recent filming of “Monster Land,” a claymation video. Syracuse University senior Sarah Rebar, an illustration major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is the volunteer coordinator for the project. Rebar is also a student in SU’s Renee Crown University Honors Program, administered by The College of Arts and Sciences.
Rebar met the children in January 2008 when she went to The New School, a private K-6 school in DeWitt, to interview them about their fears. She planned to turn the children’s descriptions into cartoon characters and add them to her growing collection of characters based on some 60 interviews with friends, family, teachers and anyone else who would agree to sit in front of her camera to talk about their secret monsters. Rebar has created storyboards for characters she plans to include in a claymation video she is producing for her Honors Capstone Project, called “Interviews in Monster Land.” Her project is inspired by animator Nick Park, creator of the original, Oscar-winning short “Creature Comforts,” a clay animation produced in 1998 by Aardman Animations in Great Britain. “Creature Comforts” features zoo animals talking about their living conditions. The characters were based on Park’s interviews of people living in a British housing development and a home for the elderly. Rebar is also a big fan of Park’s “Wallace and Gromit,” also produced by Aardman Animations.
“I grew up watching `Wallace and Gromit,'” Rebar says. “I love claymation and experimented with clay animation in high school. My Honors Capstone Project has enabled me to put together a learning experience that is not available anywhere on campus. It has been a great year of learning.”
Rebar had so much fun interviewing the children at The New School that she decided to teach them to produce their own claymation videos. Working with small groups of children twice a week since January, she encouraged them to draw cartoon characters of the monsters lurking in their imaginations. She then helped the children sculpt clay figures of their monsters, tell their stories and draw backdrop scenery for them. A little technical magic — a digital camera, computer and a software product called iStop motion — brought the monsters to life on the computer screen.
Recently, Mrs. Crabs joined seven-year-old Martin Welych-Flanagan’s Gluhrer and 6-year-old Haleigh May Summers’ blue monster on the big screen. The monsters’ escapades included a harrowing escape from a rolling magic marker and a devastating three-way crash in the final scene. Unfortunately, there were no stunt doubles and all three monsters required some repair after the fateful crash. Gluhrer had to be peeled off of Mrs. Crabs, who lost a few appendages; Haleigh had to peel one of her monster’s eyes off of Gluhrer, who also required a bit of reshaping.
Alas, Haleigh was not sure her monster would star in another film. “He lives in Hawaii,” Haleigh says. “He can’t step on the road; he can only step on sand. And if a mean monster picks on him, he squirts a pricker (a.k.a. toothpick) into the mean monster.” Following the crash, Haleigh retrieved a few prickers from Gluhrer. Martin insists Gluhrer is simply misunderstood. Maybe it’s that sticky ooze.