LARRY: I had built a good portion of the main set, which was the Christmas Square (Figure 10.4). A few others and I had come in as apprentices on the show because Vinton had just received the contract from CBS to do three half-hour specials. Since we had been involved in building the set, we got involved in the wrap-around scenes with Herb and Rex, the dinosaur hosts. In the first shot, I got to animate Herb and Rex welcoming the audience, which was a pretty wide shot before it cut to a close-up. The only other characters on the stage at the time were a little frog band on the corner, who were supposed to be playing the opening theme music.
[Figure 10.4] Larry Bafia working on A Claymation Christmas Celebration. (Courtesy of Larry Bafia/Will Vinton Productions.)
WEBSTER: I ended up doing armatures and sculpting the actual instruments for the frogs, along with model sculptor Kyle Bell, and then actually animating them for the shot (Figure 10.5). The way the studio operated was that everybody was a generalist, so some of us had worked on sets, we all did some of the lighting, and we loaded our own cameras most of the time. If you had the skills to do something, you ended up doing it. It was a great place to learn because we all did a little bit of everything, but Larry was a lead animator because he was one of the few who actually had lots of clay animation experience before coming to Vinton’s. Claymation was a really big deal at that time since it was pre-CG, and if you wanted to do character effects that weren’t cel animation, you really couldn’t go any route other than stop-motion or clay animation.
[Figure 10.5] Webster Colcord working on A Claymation Christmas Celebration. (Courtesy of Webster Colcord/Will Vinton Productions.)
[Figure 10.6] Larry Bafia shoots a scene from Meet the Raisins. (Courtesy of Larry Bafia/Will Vinton Productions.)
LARRY: Then somehow, as a bunch of apprentices, we ended up winning an Emmy for the first show we worked on! We were all part of a hiring wave at that time because the studio had just finished The Adventures of Mark Twain, commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino’s Pizza, and the first few California Raisin commercials, which quickly became very popular. That’s when they were playing with the notion of starting a short-film division, and these half-hour specials were supposed to be a breeding ground for that. After the Christmas special, we continued working together on Meet the Raisins, and lots of commercials for Tang and other clients (Figures 10.6 and 10.7).
[Figure 10.7] Webster Colcord animating on a Tang commercial. (Courtesy of Webster Colcord/Will Vinton Productions.)
WEBSTER: There was also the “Speed Demon” sequence for Michael Jackson’s feature film Moonwalker, plus the “Michael Raisin” commercial.
KEN: How were animators assigned to shots on a detailed commercial like “Michael Raisin,” with all of the crowd shots and multiple characters?