The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: An Interview with Larry Bafia & Webster Colcord
WEBSTER: There were at least eight animators on the crew for that commercial, including three key animators. Jeff Mulcaster and Tony Merrithew did most of the dancing shots, and Mark Gustafson did the final shot of Michael Jackson waking up.
LARRY: I worked on one of the shots where the characters were holding their lighters up. Usually, they were carefully crafted compositions that made it feel like there were lots of characters on screen, but you may have only 15 characters to deal with at once. Most of the crowd shots didn’t take more than one or two people.
WEBSTER: One exception was on the ending shot of Claymation Christmas Celebration, where we had four animators at once: Kyle Bell, Tom Gurney, Larry, and me. That was kind of a nightmare, actually! (Laughs.) We almost had some fights break out on set there.
LARRY: (Laughs.) Not me.
WEBSTER: No, but we found out somebody had leaned against the camera crane halfway through the shot.
LARRY: Right—that was on the second day of a shot that was supposed to take about 4 days.
KEN: Did they start using CG at Vinton’s while you were still there?
LARRY: Yes. How that happened was David Daniels came into the studio and started directing, and he had a set-up for a motion-control rig that he had used on a Pop-Tarts commercial. He started training some of us on it, and when he saw that I didn’t mind stepping onto the computer, he brought in the video toaster with Lightwave on it, and I started trying it out. Then, when David was in New York showing tests to an agency, they showed him storyboards for a Chips Ahoy! commercial, and he began brainstorming with them on it. Upon walking out of the agency with the boards, his producer Paul Deiner told him he had just pitched a CG spot that couldn’t be done in stop-motion. They called me at the studio, and I told them I had been trying to create models with the video toaster. They told me to start modeling an exclamation point for a CG test, and that’s when we started combining CG with miniature sets. Then, on a sales trip to Chicago, Mark Gustafson and I gave a studio presentation of our stop-motion work along with the Chips Ahoy! commercial and another one we had done for Fanta. That’s when we got asked to do a Raid commercial, which was the first one done entirely in CG, and that led to the M&M’s campaign. It got to the point that there was such an influx of artists and techniques coming into the studio that if we looked at a storyboard, we had to decide which methods would suit it best.
KEN: How did you each part ways from Vinton’s into the next stage of your careers?