Behind the scenes of 'Snugglepot & Cuddlepie' for Vivid Sydney at Customs House
In the early weeks of production, Nick Tory (Ample Projects) and I started off by producing a 7 minute animatic (rough moving storyboard) of a narrative arch, built using the text and illustrations of all three books, and choosing a sequence of moments from the original stories that we could sew together to create a story that is representative of the May Gibbs body of work (her 'worlds' and key characters). We then storyboarded (detailed sketches) the primary scenes of the show (based on a collection of Gibbs’s key illustrations) onto a Customs House building storyboard template, this first process produced about 80% of the primary visual moments that ended up in the show. The remaining 20% were added to the show along the way as we realised what additional elements the narrative required.
From the beginning we made the decision with the Artistic Director of the festival Ignatius Jones to include text as if the projection show was a story book, and we hoped to include a voiceover so that the audience could read and listen to the story being told by a May Gibbs-esque voice. The pitch included Nick’s grandmother, Ursula Laverty reading the voiceover narrator script that I had compiled from the books, and then the fabulous Noni Hazlehurst was brought on to the project to read the final script, that had gone through multiple revisions by the time of the V/O recording! Noni’s involvement gave so much to the story, we are very honoured to have her as part of the project.
24 artists created the visuals for Snugglepot and Cuddlepie between February and late May 2018. 12 professional artists - 4 x 3D artists and 8 x traditional hand drawn animators, and 12 interns from the University of Technology Sydney’s Bachelor of Design - Animation course. The professional artists have all worked with Ample before on many projects. They turn the vision into reality, collaborating with us to improve on and deliver the original intent of the personality of the show - starting the storyboard and voiceover script, and then through daily discussions with the Nick and I.
Throughout the process Nick and I managed a master show animatic, which at the beginning consisted of the storyboard sketches and simple key animations, and then further developed by overlaying work-in-progress animation and design elements into the animatic timeline along the way, as they were developed by the team. Early on, this animatic was shared with our composer and soundtrack designer, together with a detailed brief including period referencing and ideas. He then grew the soundtrack alongside the animation over a period of 10 weeks. This process gave everyone the chance to really feel what the show needed to be, as the sound and music is the glue that binds the experience of the show together.
This show was a joy to make. Our artists are from drawing, painting and design backgrounds, are of all ages (18-50), both boys and girls, and each person brought their very best work to draw over 15,000 illustrations in a short space of time. We are proud of this achievement.
Nick and I have all been working in this medium for 12 years or more, and for many years now we have felt that architectural projection has enormous potential often not realised in recent years at these sorts of festivals. We essentially create an enormous moving sculpture in a location that is recognisable to everyone as a part of the fabric of a familiar city space, and we get to show people a way of looking at a familiar place in a new way.
Like cinema in its early years, architectural projection has only discovered a small percentage of its language, and we feel that Vivid has provided an enormous opportunity to push the medium forward in terms of narrative and design.