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‘War of the Worlds’ …. Stop Motion Dynamation version

November 3, 2010

Sooo …. I just discovered some info about underground independently produced take on this H.G. Wells science fiction story, ‘War of the Worlds‘ and it’s going to use Dynamation Puppet Animation special effects in the tradition of Ray Harryhausen! If you did not know it,  H.G. Wells’ written works are in public domain (I believe), however that does not diminish the quality & richness of his uniquely classic stories. So much online about H.G. Wells and including, historically in the entertainment media IMDb (mainstream & independent movies, TV Series, etc). The classic well remembered 1953 George Pal cinema version was ‘okay’ I suppose, however, they drastically changed a few important story point elements: The ‘1953 studio suits’ or whoever, moved the time period to current modern times, whereas the actual W.O.W. story takes place in the 1890’s. The other unforgiveable and mega-drastic change they did in the George Pal W.O.W. version; they depicted the Martian Machines as flying/hovering air ships. The original story, the Martian War Machines were Three legged Tripod Walkers/Striders. Mr. Steven Spielberg did his 2005 W.O.W. story re-telling and stayed true to the three legged tripod machines, BUT, Speilberg rejected the ‘1890s era’ and chose to make it in current modern civilization time period. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I have no idea about the W.O.W. TV series (in the UK?). IMO though, with TV series in general that are based on singular book, movie or whatever, excessively kill the original story concept because in a TV series they need to drag out variations of the original plot/story over many episodes and eventually, it can get old & diluted. Online, there seems to be a fascination with the Tripod Walkers from hobbyist animators and their versions of the Martian Machines in which it seems about 99 percent CGI created (no stop motion).

There is plenty of War of the Worlds abundance of info out there. I will mention one more …. an independent W.O.W. version was independently produced. This was the Pendragon Pictures version. They stayed true to the important Tripod Legged War Machine version and also, it takes place in the 1890’s. However, one major negative in my view;  practically all the special effects done in mediocre CGI quality. It has a very Video Game-esque artificiality to it …. take a look. More use of real models, miniatures, animatronics and advanced Stop Motion would have been far superior. The Pendragon ‘Suits’ blew an opportunity. As an aside, there was a recent independently produced (not released yet), H.G. Welles version of  ’First Men in the Moon‘ which also uses CGI special effects techniques but executed much better and to me, it somewhat captures a retro Harryhausen-esque aesthetics & feel …. but I digress :grin: .

Okay, you want some links and who is the motivating force behind this W.O.W. Dynamation version? Well, it’s from a low key, somewhat quiet and unsung hero veteran Stop Motion animator, by the name of Justin Kohn who hangs out here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I originally discovered this W.O.W story here Ex’pression students assist stop motion animator with War of the Worlds project which is from a July 30 blog posting.  In the past, I have spotlighted Justin and always glad to revisit. Also, in the background regarding Justin’s W.O.W project, is the Chiodo Brothers who have offered some contributions to the tests. Also, multi-eclectic animator Webster Colcord helped Justin with some of the hands-on W.O.W. tests. As usual with independent non-mainstream flicks there are hurdles and obstacles. Basically, it is MONEY. As far as I know, this ‘War of Worlds’ is in the testing stages and to serve as preliminary demo reel and proof of concept, to show studios and producers. Maybe some thinking out of the box ’suits’ will have the wisdom & foresight to financially support something uniquely ‘fresh’ that is uniquely different than the typical mainstream formulaic flicks. Niche audiences are looking for diversity in entertainment choices.

Justin has had the unique opportunity to work on many Stop Motion projects for years and has not yet, completely jumped over to the ‘CGI Dark Side’ :evil: but still maintains his Stop Motion roots. He not only animates (has worked in CGI too) but also is an instructor, and is very skilled in stop motion armature design & fabrication. An eclectic sort of renaissance kind of dude, he is. Justin’s YouTube channel, Linkedin and Facebook. Feel free to visit Justin and give him some feedback or just say ‘Hello or Whassup!’ Subscribe to his channel and/or do connection thing with him.

Below are some beginning proof of concept tests of the Martian War Machine, then some more polished experimental shots of a flying Martian cylinder craft. Looks like Justin is going for that retro and Victorian Steampunk-esque aesthetics. I can obviously see later on, perhaps more advanced tests such as digitally replicating/cloning multiples of the Stop Motion animated War Machines (fleet/army of them), in post production.

Greenscreen, B&W, Sepia, Fog TestWar machine walk test: Sepia, B&W, FogBeach: Sepia, B&W, Fog Martian craft cylinder composite fly testMars to Earth Martian craft cylinder fly testsOriginal greenscreen element: War machine motion tests Greenscreen comp tests: War machine chasing man

Topics: Animators, Dynamation, Films - Shorts - Animation | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “‘War of the Worlds’ …. Stop Motion Dynamation version”

  1. McTodd says:

    I’ve just looked at the test, with the tripod against a greenscreen, and you know what, I rather like it, it’s growing on me. I like the noduley ‘head’ and the way the legs articulate is a very innovative approach, although I’m not sure it ‘works’ for me at this stage. I think you could lose the large balls at the top of each leg – they make it look too ‘busy’, but you’re getting there.

    My slightly negative earlier comments were based on the youtube clip with it composited against a setting and sepia-toned; the movements were too quick for what is meant to be a very large machine.

  2. McTodd says:

    BTW, I also hope you use miniatures a lot more, such as for the action scenes e.g. the battle at Shepperton & Weybridge or the fantastic ‘Thunder Child’ incident!

  3. McTodd says:

    This is potentially so awesome! WOTW is one of my all-time favourite SF stories, I’ve been fascinated since I was a kid and collected loads of different editions of the book (including a complete set of the original Pearson’s Magazine illustrated serialisation from 1897 in pristine condition, that’s how much of a nut I am about it!).

    I have to say that on initial impressions I agree with sasquatch: the tripod is a bit too weird, there’s no focus to it so it’s difficult to see exactly what it is (that was one of the problems with the Pendragon Pictures design – that and the fact that that film was just plain crap anyway). I acknowledge what U_Ani says about them looking alien but sometimes things can look too alien. I think a taller, spindlier look would be better, these are too splayed out widthways.

    But I don’t want to sound too negative – I think it’s fantastic and brave that someone is going for it, and keeping it in the original early-1900s setting (A Pedant Writes: it was written in 1897 but clearly set a few years in the future as Wells’s narrator explicitly says that ‘the great disillusionment’ – the invasion – came early in the 20th century). I also look forward to seeing what you make of the Martians themselves (I started building a stop-motion Martian creature a couple of years ago but abandoned it as it was too ‘cute’). Good luck!

  4. As I recall, Justin did some animation cuts for the Full Moon flick “Dragonworld” for which I built the dragon armatures. Jim Danforth did the bulk of the animation.

  5. U_Ani says:

    Maybe only one of the legs needs the sphere. The other two could always be adjusted and I got the impression that these are early tests for something still in development.

  6. sasquatch says:

    Make mine a blue shark skin suit…The walkers just don’t look to have a central point or something, it’s just weird.
    But maybe that’s a strength-I agree sound brings a thing to life in amazing ways. I think LESS junk hanging off of it would be better. Did you guys ever see Kronos…those machines were very simple but incredibly threatening because of it-like an unstoppable crushingly oblivious moving fortress. That movie was low, low budget, but very effective.

  7. L.I.O. says:

    @ Dave & Stan – So, where the hell are you going to store the the power generators for the ‘Heat Rays’ or maybe just the energy generators that powers the Tripod Walkers? Obvious to me …. inside those spheres!! :P

    I guess, Dave/Stan implying with regards to making it more threatening, is to add something to give them a more anthropomorphic design which suggests the ‘Insect’ look (again). There are no recognizable facial-like structures to Justin’s Tripod design, however, weren’t the Star Wars ‘Imperial Walkers’ robotic & mechanical but yet, were intimidating? Also don’t forget, loads of ’sound effects’ adds to threatening ambiance. The actual description by Wells does not indicate anthropomorphous tripod walkers but described as ‘Machinery’.

    The spike additions/projections might give it more interesting & busier look. I’m thinking maybe more weathering and more armor shields or plates, could be ornate/steampunkish sort of design, more hoses, thingies & stuff hanging off it, maybe covering or disguising the ball joints?? The tentacles maybe having outer flexible metal shield suggesting more snakey-like tentacles? I still like the general look of this version of Martian machine tripod walkers, but I’m pretending Dave & Stan are complaining, fickled & undecided ‘Suits’ :mrgreen:

  8. Dave Hettmer says:

    I’m with Stan on this one – though the design is interesting it’s not threatening. The round shapes are kind of cute. Maybe it’s the spheres capping the legs; IMHO it could use some more stabby-pokey things. Definitely will need to shoot “up” on it to give it a sense of size.

    But it also reminds me of designs from the ’30s – sleek in some ways that look futuristic. The Pendragon version has that sleekness, however it also looks threatening.

  9. sasquatch says:

    “The slap of a friend is better than the kiss of an enemy”

  10. U_Ani says:

    Sasquatch, maybe the campiness of the tripod isn’t all that bad thing knowing the era of the story. Steampunk is great for a species coming from a H.G. Wells story. Depends on the expectations. Besides, Lionel is right, they could always slow down the gait to give it more mass. I think it looks kinda dangerous for what it is meant to be. There’s nothing new in giant walking cockroach machines with invisible energy shields(the tripods in the novel only have armor).

    “One can use classic special effects methodologies, such as foreground miniatures, in camera perspective tricks, and combine with post production digital matte paintings, digital set extensions, and so on.”

    I like the sound of that. It’s something anyone could do with a modest shooting space but nope, most studios always use a computer to do it all.

    Forgot to add that some sort of physical miniature/full-scale prop is also way better reference for any digital tweaks than if it were all purely computer generated. In any FX project the abundance/lack of reference can mean the difference between the success or fall of a visual effect.

  11. L.I.O. says:

    These are obviously raw & rough beginning tests of the tripod walker and also maybe to just see how the armature works and the potential of it. The actual size of armature is very hefty & large and likely, not easy to animate.

    With more planned animation choreography and refined composites, I’m sure it would play better. For closeup shots in general on miniatures, one of tricks to make it appear even more massive size, is by use of wide angle lens and shoot from low angle looking up at subject. With wide angle, the camera is really close to the subject and could be inconvenient during animation but the final humongousness effect would be worth it.

  12. sasquatch says:

    I don’t think the walker inspires much. It just looks comical or ungainly-not intimidating. Also the walk behind the hill/seashore was WAY too fast-made it look funny. I suppose they know this too, so I don’t think they’d leave it that way. Also, making the martian stuff look steam punk may be a mistake. OUR stuff was “steam punk” but theirs?
    I love the idea of the Victorian W.O.W. and especially depicting things with stop mo, but am not blown away by these tests.

  13. StopmoNick says:

    A very original walker design – I hope we get to see more of this! Absolutely agree, WOW belongs in the 1890’s – and I would add, Britain where it was originally set. Both movies were disappointing to me. Kinda liked Jeff Wayne’s musical version with Richard Burton though – you could do your own art direction in your head!

  14. L.I.O. says:

    A number of Martian walkers have been very insect like and Spielberg did similar with his WOW version. The Pendragon version also has the ‘bug’ look. This design by Justin has a mechanical functional plausibility as though the Martian walker’s technology is within possibility and not excessively futuristic or hyper alien design. It also captures a retro look …. very 1890’s ambiance of H.G. Wells’ story period. You will note that the entire upper carapace/body of the tripod walker, appears that it can slide up and down the legs, which also allows Martians to enter & exit the machines or load with cargo?

    One thing though … if this W.O.W. version is going to be around the 1890’s era, the special effects might be more difficult because you need to create that late 19th century period. However, not impossible on lower budgets. One can use classic special effects methodologies, such as foreground miniatures, in camera perspective tricks, and combine with post production digital matte paintings, digital set extensions, and so on.

  15. U_Ani says:

    This is the best tripod design I’ve seen for the story thus far. As good as the ones in the Spielberg adaptation look they……….just don’t feel alien enough, it’s almost like they deliberately designed something that we could imagine as the alien species we perceive extraterrestrials to be in movies, like overgrown insects. A little used approach for other words. Not so here, this thing is like the living elevator from hell. The best aliens look like something that we can’t imagine them to be.

    Love it!

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