They Have Our Heart: Kim, Jim, and Molly Make a Movie
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Kim, Jim, and Molly came together through “the magic of the interwebs” in the summer of 2010, and have been trading artwork and music ever since. I Have Your Heart will be the culmination of their cross-oceanic creative labor (Jim is based in Australia, Kim and Molly in the States): a short film based on characters drawn by Molly, animated by Jim, and soundtracked by Kim. Their work thus far, which you can check out in their project video, above, is a delightful mish-mash of quirky sensibilities, classical drama, and painstakingly handcrafted puppetry. Intrigued, I dropped the crew a line to get the scoop on how their beautifully executed aesthetic evolved. Check out their answers below, support the project here.
Where does the inspiration for your characters come from?
Molly Crabapple: We wanted to create a dysfunctional little European family, while also telling a tale of love, loss and rebellion. I like to think I have a charmingly grotesque sensibility, and for every ethereal Cora there’s a humpbacked Myrtrude or a round little Jasper.
Kim Boekbinder: The idea for the song came from a story about a teenage girl who received a donor heart from a teenage boy who was killed in a gang fight. I was most struck by how this young girl felt so much pressure to have a really good life — that in order to deserve another person’s heart she had to be good enough for two people. In my version of the story there is a little bit of romance between the girl and the boy whom she has never met. She feels his heart beat everyday and thinks of him as a separate entity inside herself.
Jim Bratt: For the most part characters grew out of the story and the song, but for me the idea of the feline Rogue was largely inspired by the title character from a wonderful illustrated book I had as a child called The Ship’s Cat by Richard Adams.
Are their particular artists or reference points you have in mind?
M: [Edward] Gorey, Tim Burton, Old School poster design, and always Brueghal. ‘Cause Brueghal rocks it for richly horrifying characters.
K: The astounding shadow animations of Lotte Reiniger, a German lady who was making paper silhouette animations after feeling Germany in WW2.
J: The paper puppet animations of Jamie Caliri have been a big influence. His animated title sequence for the Lemony Snicket film was one of my original inspirations for this project, along with Tim Hope’s insanely awesome short film I Am The Wolfman.
Do you keep a characters “traits” (ie: are they mean? crabby? sweet?) in mind as you create them?
M: We do! We know that the mother in our animation, Myrtrude, is sour and disapproving, while Cora is a waify little goth girl. We try to take note of that in their physiques and movement.
K: The characters continued to developed as we drew them. It wasn’t enough to think of physical attributes, we also liked to think of where they came from, how they made their money, what their hobbies were. For example: Jasper — the rotund father figure — made his fortune with his twine empire, he studied ballet in his childhood, and he collected rare and exotic pigurines (statuary of nude pig women).
J: The physical shape of the character dictates how we articulate the puppet, which in turn influences how they move. In a film with no dialogue, a character’s personality is expressed through their movement and animation, so it’s important to design them to physically embody their traits.
What are the steps between conceptualization and realization of a character?
M: Dear lord! First we do a million concept drawings. Then I draw the characters/settings from every possible angle. We have four settings — living room, street, garden and port, each with their own swirling madness. Then, Kim Boekbinder scans my giant five foot tall drawings, Kim and Jim print it on nice paper, cut it out, curse, bleed, and build a scale model of my mad ink-and-paper world. Then Jim films it. Stop-motion style!
K: The first step was writing a script, then we drew basic character outlines, keeping in mind that everything had to be drawn to the same scale (this was quite different to Molly’s usual freehand fearless attack of the paper). We worked out a storyboard, sending ideas back and forth between NYC and Melbourne, until we came up with something we were all happy with and was physically possible — Molly and I had lots of ideas that Jim had to tell us would be a little too difficult or down right impossible in a paper puppet world. Apparently stop motion octopuses are very time consuming and cause animator nightmares. The characters were then fleshed out more. We decided on a time period — roughly Edwardian — and researched costumes and architecture of the period. We would go to museums, pore over books, and take pictures of buildings in cities all over the world — Berlin was a great inspiration.
J: The challenge from an animation point of view is to take that final character design and break it down into it’s elements, so it can be reconstructed in paper as an articulated puppet, capable of expressing the personality of the character. This process is an alchemical mix of art, engineering, patience, and magic. Also, it helps if they don’t fall over.