sabato 27 giugno 2015

Yarn, Wool and Stop-motion Animation

Recently I've been keeping an eye on yarn-made stopmotion videos; I've developped an interest not only because of my passion for animation but also because, although indirectly, I've been dealing with wool and yarn a lot in the past few years. And the reason is my mother. My mother is a yarn-enthusiast: she has hundreds of different kinds of yarns at home and she is always looking for some new knitting project to accomplish. She started a blog called Knit Viktim where she shares her creations with the world and she's also been organizing workshops all over Italy where yarn-fans like her gather to share ideas and thoughts about wool and knitting. Seeing wool in my house, made me more aware of this material and I've started noticing that a lot of artists have been using yarn to create stopmotion animation. Plus, there's also a good amount of videogames whose design is based on yarn.

Let's start with music videos. I'm gonna mention two videos, that have been released ten years apart.
In 2004, a rockband from New Zealand called Steriogram wanted to bring French director Michel Gondry's distinctive style to the music video for their song "Walkie Talkie Man". Everything in the video is knitted, or made to appear so, including the instruments.
I'm not surprisded that one of the first creative uses of yarn came from Michel Gondry, the same director that brought you The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind and The Science of Sleep: three beautiful movies that explore and manipulate "la mise en scène" to create paradoxes and quirky scenes just by using out-of-scale props, unusual fabriques and materials and, of course, imagination.

Here is an entertaining video for the making of the video above. You can see a lot of ladies and young men knitting props for the video.

In more recent times, in 2014, another video was created with yarn. The song is called "Moving On" by British rock band James. Differently from Gondry's, no real actors appear in this music video: just yellow yarn.

The man behind this video is Ainslie Henderson, an eclectic Scottish artist whose art ranges from music to moviemaking to stopmotion animation. His work on the 2013 short movie "The Making of Longbird" earned him a BAFTA (British Academy Film Award).

Even though it doesn't involve yarn, I just want to give a special mention to this music video for the song "Tharsis Sleep" by English metal band Throne.

The lead singer of the band Nicos Livesey also directed the video. It's made entirely with embroidered denim. It took them about 3000 frames and about 45 million stitches sewn onto 200 square metres of denim. The animation was done by drawing each scene directly on the computer and then the frames were converted into stitch format with a software.

Talking about "wolly" videogames instead, there are at least 4 games that I know of that used yarn and wool for their designs. Two of them are by Nintendo and they star two of the most recognizable charaters of their franchise: Kirby and Yoshi.
Kirby's Epic Yarn came out in 2010 and it's a fun, traditional platform videogame for the console Wii. What makes it special is its distinctive design based entirely on yarn, fabric and wool.

The character changes shapes throughout the game in order to complete certain tasks. Some puzzles are solved by thinking in terms of fabric, strings and buttons.

The spiritual successor to this game is Yoshi's Woolly World for WiiU, out this year. The design is entirely based on wool. The character will need to unravel threads, spin wool, pull strings, create props and even change its own structure to get through the level.  Here is the new trailer released at this year's E3. There's even a real wool Yoshi Amiibo that comes with the game. (If you're not familiar with the Amiibo technology, basically they're real toys that the player can use to store data via the console and that can interact on a certain scale with other videogames of the same console).

Here is an interview with the creator of the Yoshi wool Amiibo. 

This instead is an interview with the japanese game designers, who did a lot of research by going to wool and yarn stores in order to get familiar with the materials. If you're particularly into knitting and wool, you have to click here.

At this year's E3, the biggest and most important videogame convention worldwide, one more yarn-based game was announced. It's called Unravel and it tells the story of a little antropomorphic yarn creature. The game tries very hard to emulate the physics of yarn and succeeds beautifully. Here is the trailer.

Finally, there's an iPad game that deserves to be in this post: it's called Voyager and it was made by Ken Amarit of Oh My!Me Studios. The studio actually changed its name to Hand Dye and is now oriented towards "stop-motion wool videogames", as their website states. You can find trailers to similar videogames on their website. Voyager is an action game where you get to be the pilot of a spaceship travelling through the sky. Even the smoke made by the explosions is made with wool.
Here is the trailer for Voyager. 

I probably missed out on some notable examples of wool meeting stopmotion. If you have anything to suggest, comment below!

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