Bob the Unicorn is the resident of the first floor of the Doll House, and he is unique. Not only is he the only unicorn in the collection, but he is the only figurines of the group made by Gabe. There were several reasons for handing this difficult piece off to him. Primarily was the desire for this work to have a marked stylistic difference from the rest of the characters, but also Gabe brings a different skill set to the table. Gabe’s years of study in drawing and painting have given him an excellent eye and an ability to deliver convincing detail. Though this work is stylized to emphasize power and size in relation to the other characters of the film, he is very horsey. Unlike squid or bears, we work with horses every day. Not getting this piece right was unacceptable. He is finished in acrylic as the bears are a part of his world and they needed to match
Rather than the acrylic surface that you saw on the bears, I chose glaze for the squid, both to set them apart from Bob and his world and to give them the look of being wet. Above are shots of them alone on a clean back ground and below they are in the house with the magic box on. It gives a much better feel for the quality of light we will be going for in the video.
Once the body of the doll house was finished, we needed a story. Initially I wanted this film to center around gender identity issues, and the first characters were chosen as a vehicle for this idea. The story of course has evolved beyond the first basic idea but Ted and Jeff, the couple up stairs, and Bob the unicorn made it through the editing process to the actual making. I don’t want to say too much about the story because i want the film to speak for itself, but each of the characters is struggling with a desire that cannot be fulfilled. This could have been done with a couple of any biological make up certainly, but leaving this a gay couple allows us to avoid a conversation about traditional gender rolls of men and women in relationship, which is outside the scope of this project. More than that, and more intimate to the experience of life for me now, I wanted to include queerness as an integral part of this film. Not simply as a concept of sexuality, because I’m pretty asexual these days, but as an attitude and baseline concept. To me queerness points the way, it will let the viewer know to pay attention and that the subjects of the film will not be understood by a quick read. We are communicating a feeling with this film. To me, that feeling is the most important thing in the world. For the characters of the film it is cloaked in sadness, but it is still true and redemptive and all creatures are granted its grace. Especially dysfunctional squids.
From an emotional perspective then decisions were made easily and though the script was certainly not easy to write, one sentence led to the next and though I could not have imagined where it led before I got there, its end is complete and very satisfying (at least from the storytellers perspective). Once the script was finished then, how to make a film, with such complex concepts from rigid ceramic figurines became the central issue. When the idea was just an abstract floating around in my head, I though something like the play set for the previous video might work, with a single figurine to represent each character. As the script took shape, I realized that would be impossible. All of the characters have a range of activities and motions. In the end we needed four separate poses for each of the characters except one, and she is singular.
Jeff and Ted began as drawings, First I drew squid, trying to understand basic anatomy and then to consider anthropomorphization of the animal. These drawings here are the final draft and are drawn to scale. This was a critical tool in keeping each of the various forms of the characters similar enough to carry the feeling that each represents a single identity.
the first character I focused on was Ted. Again Ted is the hero and the mover of the story. Not that you see this in any way from the construction of the figurine. Although the figures were made to stand up right and seem human after a fashion, I really wanted them to remain ceramic figurines. Their life is specific for two things, first is the video, and second is our intention to display the doll house and its “dolls” in the gallery when they are shown. It seems such a mad idea to want to make films that star ceramic, but thats the idea, so we’ll have to go all out. We will rely on the script and the voice acting to convey the emotion needed to tell the story. After making Ted in his entirety twice, Gabe suggested that I make a single head and interchangeable legs for the chatting and stair climbing Ted. It was also Gabe’s design for the stair climbing sled legs, which will allow for the ceramic to get up the steps on camera. The head slots over the stem of the legs and reduced the making time for each significantly.
Jeff is far less active but had to be seen sitting on the couch alone. Of course the script was not finished when I made the first pair on the couch and they are fused to it, so a second couch and Jeff had to be made. Here is that squid, the arm is raised to that he can also sleep on the couch.
Here they are on the first couch, the second pair built.
The title of the film is “Magic Box” and the activities of all of the characters center around this TV like device that serves as a sort of electronic life coach. The Magic Boxes will be iPhones and iPods. I didn’t want to show anything but the screens so a sort of entertainment center for a phone had to be designed and built. There will need to be a total of 5 of these for the entire apartment. The build on these is complex as it requires shrinkage calculation.
Here is a grouping of some of the objects for Ted and Jeff’s apartment after the first firing. Glazing ideas are hatching slowly, but nothing will be attempted until all the figurines are ready for glazing as surface will help unite the four figures as one.