Emeryville, CA -- Athena Studios  has produced an original, stop-motion, animated short film.
Entitled Peanut Butter, the stop-motion project began when Athena Studios CEO and founder Jon V. Peters wished to present his in-house production team with a creative challenge. He chose stop-motion animation because of his background as a professional model-maker, and in anticipation of a future project that Athena Studios is considering taking on.
“I have always loved stop-motion films,” Peters commented. “While playful and fun, like CG animations, these films offer a certain grounding -- a basis in reality that I enjoy. This piece was a proof-of-concept for us, as we are presently considering a much larger stop-motion project, and are beefing up our plans to attract new commercial work. We really just needed a good story to move forward.”
The Athena Studios team worked on Peanut Butter in association with Dr. Rick Kirschner, the author or co-author of eight books, who’d come to the studio to film a story based on one of his lectures—one designed to inform business people how to take accountability for their own actions. The resulting three-minute stop-motion piece has since been linked to AthenaOnline as one of its educational videos (which the company regularly creates for corporations,) and will also be used by Dr. Kirschner within some of his future live presentations.
Unexpected assistance on the Peanut Butter project came through a friend of Peters who put him in contact with Jon Berg, famed stop-motion animator and visual effects expert whose past credits include Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and other iconic films. Berg visited Athena Studios and agreed to participate, acting as a mentor for the small team of in-house animators and designers. He provided input on facial design, set construction, and character movement.
“Jon Berg really helped get this project moving,” said Peters. “He gave all of us great advice on many aspects of the short, providing guidance and real insight based on his years in the stop-motion field. Perhaps the most important lesson he taught us, however, was not to focus so much on the rigging, sets, or puppet construction, but, instead, to just start the animation process, to keep moving forward and stay motivated.”
With Berg’s expertise, things progressed quickly. The Athena filmmakers decided to use face replacement to get a full range of emotions necessary for the characters. Given the short duration of film, the team tossed out the ball-and-socket armatures that had initially been built, and went to wire armatures for the bodies, adding removable limbs in case of breakage. “I remember pulling an arm from the molds, and the thumb broke the first time one of the animators moved it,” Peters chuckled. “From that point on, we tried to keep several sets of arms on stand-by for each character.”
Jeanette Vera, Athena Studios’ Visual Effects Artist, whose past VFX credits have included Captain America and The Avengers, helped sculpt, cast, and animate the puppets featured in Peanut Butter. Athena’s lead editor Jorge Martinez helped animate the film, and operated the Dragonframe image capture software.
Source: Athena Studios