Welcome to Thorvald!

Sometimes, the process of making a stop motion animated film is a bit like being locked in a deadly struggle with a fearsome sea serpent, only to look into its face and recognize yourself. This blog is for anyone who has battled a 12-inch tall monster of their own and discovered a worthy adversary and a beautiful friendship.

Welcome to my lair. Visit my monsters and tell me about yours.

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Monday, 31 January 2011

The Face of Thorvald

Now that I have a better idea of Thorvald's  personality and backstory, I can use the references I found at the British Museum, together with my own perception of what Thorvald looks like, to create his face. He wil have a body and clothing of course, but the head is the hardest part. It will be the most represantative feature of his body - the one people will look at most. The slightest change in proportion or shape can speak volumes about his character or his emotions, and can profoundly affect the way he will move and express himself. His body and clothing will be designed around his face. So no pressure!
I did a clay model to try to visualise my sketches in three dimensions. The final version will be done in two different materials to differentiate between the texture of his helmet and his skin.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Story

Before beginning my screenplay and organizing my storyboard, I needed to get a clearer picture of the mood and structure of my narrative. Consequently, I decided to write a treatment of my introductory sequence in short story form. Of course the final narration will be a good deal more concise as it will be accompanied by images. But now I have something that can be adapted into a screenplay...

     It happened a long time ago, on a distant island where cold northern waves crash against the towering dark cliffs of the shore. The sun dies early there, leaving the cliffs in the ethereal embrace of the glimmering Northern Lights. Long have the shades of mythic creatures and great heroes walked among the ancient ruins, and the air itself is heavy with the breath of legend. It was here that Thorvald Erik the Fearless, Son of Thor came into being.
     Thorvald Erik the Fearless was a legendary hero, a demigod, whose extraordinary deeds and breathtaking adventures would be spoken of by generations to come. He had been sent into the mortal world as an infant by his great father, the god Thor, to fulfill his destiny. Armed with nothing but his courageous heart and the enchanted helmet given to him at birth by his great father, he was meant to spend his life defending the weak and destroying the forces of darkness, until his final confrontation with the Stoorworm, a giant sea serpent and his father’s greatest nemesis. Only when he emerged victorious from this decisive battle would he be worthy to join his true family in Valhalla.
     Unfortunately for Thorvald, even the greatest legends can sometimes be sidetracked. Of course it didn’t help that everyone in the village knew him as simply Erik, son of John the Shepherd - ever so slightly less imposing.  It was also distracting that his six older brothers found his epic story somewhat less than convincing and rather more than amusing. The general opinion was that he was a useless, lazy dreamer who hardly had he strength to lift a well-fed sheep two inches off the ground. …not that he had any inclination to do so. His claims of demigod status seemed to induce spontaneous laughing fits not unmixed with mockery and occasional stone-throwing. The poor boy was obviously disturbed and an embarrassment to his good father. Why else would he run around with a rusty pail on his head, shaped into a rough helmet by the neighboring blacksmith? Perhaps it was the blacksmith’s fault. He shouldn’t have encouraged him.  
      It was obvious that seven had been an unlucky number for the venerable shepherd. After all, he had already produced six tall, sturdy, practical sons, not very handsome perhaps, but handy and useful around the farm. They would all make industrious farmers. It was sad that they all had to deal with Erik. The boy was insufferably arrogant and delusional. He would have gotten into a lot more trouble if it hadn’t been shameful to punch someone so frail-looking
     Nobody understood. Erik resented these misconceptions. First of all his name was Thorvald, and the blacksmith had nothing to do with his enchanted helmet. He also resented being called frail. It was not his fault that his brothers were unnaturally large and excessively strong, …and he was not lazy. He simply had no inclination to be a shepherd, naturally because he was meant for better things. He would have more than enough determination and strength when it came to fighting dragons and rescuing princesses.  He had trouble understanding his brothers’ disdain and animosity towards him. He was an honorable person. He only ever told them the truth, and he condescendingly let them win every fight because he feared he would lose control over his superior powers and do them some sort of serious harm. Besides, he needed to save his strength for more serious opponents.
     He always knew his time would come, and quite unexpectedly, it did. The island was attacked by a genuine Stoorworm, every bit as huge and terrifying as in legend. Although the monster said nothing, it was clear that the only reason a sea monster would menace a kingdom was to devour the king’s beautiful only daughter. It so happened that the king was less than pleased at this prospect and, as tradition demanded, called upon the honour of all the knights of the kingdom to save the princess and claim her hand. Sadly, everyone, the knights, the heroes, even Thorvald’s strong sturdy brothers cowered in abject terror beneath the monster’s unapproachable glare. Everyone but Thorvald, whose valiant heart was filled with joy and pride that his chance to prove himself had finally come.
     His brothers were furious. How could their ridiculous younger brother imagine he would succeed where they were too frightened to even try? Surely he was just taunting them. Angered by his pretensions and humiliated by their own cowardice they vented their frustration by attacking Thorvald. Narrowly avoiding their blows he left home that very night, never to return. He ran unrelentingly towards the shore, until he collapsed exhausted on a hilltop. As the sun rose on a new day, his eyes met a sight that he had longed and waited for all his life, and he felt no fear because the hour had at last come when he would become what he was meant to be …and that was the day I first met Thorvald Erik the Fearless, Son of Thor.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Thorvald's References

The roots of Thorvald's story originate in Orcadian and Norse mythology, so it was essential for me to incorporate some Norse visual influences into the design of the film. I began of course, with Thorvald's signature helmet - the key to his image and style. I decided to visit the Norse galleries of the British Museum to look for inspiration. The helmets on display are reconstructions, but there are also some remains of the oiginals, and together they give a pretty good idea of what they had looked like. I was very taken with the bird-like faces and large expressive eye shapes that the helmets created. 

Monday, 17 January 2011

The First Step

For me, every film starts with references. Of course the idea comes first, but the visuals are no less important. Even if the film takes place in a fantastical environment, it needs a foundation to build on. The right reference can be a great inspiration and can endow your work with a greater richness of detail and verisimilitude.

Edward I's Fireplace
A folding chair
     My last film, The Dreams of Kings, was inspired by the life of Richard II and although there were many fantastical elements in the story, I wanted to maintain the feel of late medieval England in my design. I visited many of the actual castles and palaces that Richard had owned or stayed in and was especially inspired by the reconstruction of Edward I's rooms in the Tower of London. Although this was earlier than Richard's time it definitely reflected the type of Gothic architecture and furniture Richard would have been familiar with.
My design for Richard's room in The Dreams of Kings
And so, the creation of a new world begins...