A Tale from the Endless Stair

Stop Motion Animation

Pre-Production Production Post-Production
Main

Pre-Production

Concept

As with most of my projects, the story is generally secondary to the creation of the models and sets. I usually start with a general idea as to what the film would feature.

I'd initially envisaged a sci-fi concept and the puppet was initially going to be an alien which would be encountered by a group of space marines (yes, Aliens is one of my favourite films!). This idea gradually morphed into a more fantasy based idea and the alien became a demon.

I wanted a stylised look to the film, similar to what I'd done with the film noise look in Real 10. I'd just watched 300 and started thinking it would be cool to do a comic book style look, similar to 300 and Sin City. Thing about that though is it's been done to death.

I then struck upon the idea that instead of using panels in a comic book to tell the story, it would be paintings hanging in an art gallery. The film could transition between scenes by freezing, the image would turn to a painting and then the camera would pull out into the gallery and pan along to the next painting which would start moving.

I also wanted to structure the story as though it were one of a series, similar to The Storyteller by Jim Henson. Thus it'll start with a 'Previously on the Endless Stair....' section which would be a brief recap of a previous story, effectively allowing me to do a short unconnected animation for this section. I also wanted to finish with a 'Next time on the Endless Stair....' which would also be another unconnected short animation.

I thought it would be cool to have the intro set in the past, i.e. a medieval themed section and the outro in the future, allowing me to do a short sci-fi themed section.

It's possible some or all or none of these ideas will eventually be used, we'll just have to see how it goes!

Story Ideas

The story started off being fairly surreal. When the blue demon character speaks strange symbols appear above it's head rather than any speech issuing forth.

These symbols will actually be tangible objects that will have to be brushed aside to get rid of them.

Similar symbols keep appearing in the sky and the creature goes to investigate. When it gets to their source it finds a series of strange creatures which I invisaged as looking like something out of Hellraiser, but wearing huge voodoo style masks that extended high above their heads.

These creatues would be kind of mining these glowing symbols out of the ground which would then float into the sky, forming the title of the film in the alien dialect. Yes, weird, I know.

After a while I had the image of a huge spiral staircase stretching into the sky. There would be a host of creatures slowly making their way up the staircase during the course of the film. In order to introduce some form of combat I decided to have a wizard type character use the staircase to get to this world and summon the demon character by means of some form of ritual. A fight would then ensue as the demon attempts to escape his control. Once free the demon would continue on and investigate the source of the symbols as described above.

Those familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons Planescape setting will recognise a few of the story elements here. I'm a big fan and wanted to try and capture the style of that particular setting.

Final Story Idea

The final story is as follows. A pair of soldiers during WWII wait in their trench. Conversation turns to one of the soldiers girlfriends who died in a bombing back home in England. The soldier has only a photo and her necklace to remember her by. The necklace is in the shape of an eagle.

That night they are attacked and killed and their souls find themselves wandering towards the Endless Stair. They encounter the blue demon who attacks and 'kills' one of them by crushing his head with his groin tentacles (!).

After trying to kill the demon and failing, the remaining soldier ends up trying to communicate with it by deciphering the symbols that appear as it 'speaks'. One of the symbols that repeatedly appears is that of an eagle. The soldier gradually realises that the demon is trying to tell him to 'ascend' like an eagle on the wind and find his beloved in heaven.

That's still subject to change of course.........;0)

Construction

This mainly involved creating the stop motion demon character. After finishing my first stop motion animation (Real 10), I wanted to do another but this time I wanted to create a more professional puppet.

The two puppets I'd created for Real 10 were fairly basic and were not ideal for stop motion animation. I therefore decided to buy a professional armature and create a full sculpture which would be molded in silicon and cast over the armature.

This would create a more believable performance as the puppets skin would flex as the puppet moved rather than being comprised of moving plates in the case of my previous knight puppet, or carefully concealed joints that were used in my statue puppet.

Other elements constructed include a main set which comprised a cliff face and rocky ground and the endless stair itself. Initially I'd considered creating a wizard type character which would summon and then battle the demon however this concept was later abandoned. Additional elements will be constructed as necessary as the story develops or gets reigned back (I often envisage more elements than I have time to actually create!)

Unusually for me, I sketched some of the elements to be created, although the wizard character eventually fell by the wayside.

I bought some action figures for the soldier puppets. As they're quite well articulated I was able to use them to do some basic animation.

Animation Test

Once I'd finished the puppet I built a basic wooden set and filmed a quick animation test.