By Kira Formina
We said goodbye to Pixar, then hopped back into the van, stopping at Tippett Studio in Berkeley. Tippett - the people famous for special effects, particularly monsters and creatures, pretty much all the major films from Star Wars to Twilight - is oddly located in a simple residential street, several streets in fact. Two of the buildings are across from each other, and the third is a few blocks away.
We are greeted by Tom “Gibby” Gibbon and a few others. Suddenly the talk turns shop, as Tom and Tim discuss puppet making and stop motion animation (fun fact: Head over Heels puppets were 3D printed with most of the face left soft and malleable for expressions. The head of Madge, the wife, kept falling off as the scenes were filmed upside down, with Tim having to constantly readjust it. He says if you pay attention, you can see it change levels throughout the film.)
Tom gives us the full tour. Quite a switch from the luxuries of Pixar, this is nonetheless an intensely creative environment; statues and sculpts of dragons and prehistoric beasts are everywhere. The work side of things shows projects in various stages of production: all the spaces are half dark with glowing screens displaying in-progress 3D models or unfinished scenes from the latest stop motion. We turn another corner to discover big, full bearded Phil Tippett himself working on a set, working with a slimy “thing” no more than a foot tall, surrounded with cameras and rigs. He’s off for the day, so we say goodbye and move on to one of the messier and even more remarkable areas: the shop where everything is built. Music booms in one part of this brightly lit corner of the studio, and weird looking jiggly plastics lay on the table waiting to be molded. Gibby talks fast and takes us back around the front, sharing stories about making different movies, actors, directors, etc. As Tim says, this is truly “a historic place to be.”
And with that the Bay Area tour comes to a close. The nominees relax in a nearby bar, waiting for 7pm when they head back to San Francisco and the Disney Family museum for the ASIFA screening and dinner. Next week, the tour goes to Southern California, edging ever nearer to the Oscar ceremonies next Sunday.