The Hunger was my first stop-motion animated short, which I made with friends at University. It’s a twisted take on the Red Riding Hood fairytale. It’s an adult take on a children’s story, so we wanted everything to look quite homemade and infantile. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I should warn you that it’s not safe for work.
I had worked on some basic claymation experiments prior to this, but the Big Bad Wolf was my first fully articulated puppet with an armature. I used styrofoam to shape and bulk out the wolf, whilst keeping the puppet light. I gave him large rounded shoulders, and sank the neck into his chest to give him a more hunched appearance. His posture really helped to bring the character to life, as it informed how the puppet would move. The wolf is hunched over as he creeps through the forest, but he is also a comedy character and so he is cumbersome and loud as he stalks Red Riding Hood.
The Wolf has a special place in my heart because he was the first puppet I ever made. I constructed an armature using wire, styrofoam and wooden dowels. I modelled a muscular torso out of styrofoam and rather than attach a neck at the top, I sank it into the chest to give the wolf a hunched and imposing figure. I had to give the armature really big feet to support the weight of the upper body. Unless you are working with rigging, stop motion puppets generally need big feet to support their own weight and to accommodate pins and supports which attach your puppet to the set as you animate. I’d love to work with more sophisticated metal armatures, but they can be expensive.
Once I completed the armature it was covered with grey fleece, which gave the wolf a texture that I really liked. Traditionally the wolf is supposed to be a fearful figure in folklore, but our inversion of the story turned the wolf into Red Riding Hood’s prey. I liked the way the fleece softened the wolf’s image and made him less threatening.
We used paper to provide the wolf’s facial features – teeth and eyes were either glued or pinned on and then swapped between shots to change his expressions. We also used red cloth to create a tongue which was cut to different sizes as we animated it. We used the same method for Red Riding Hood’s facial expressions. I like mixing my media so it was nice to borrow these techniques from paper cut out animation. This swapping technique is a really simple way to create effects in animation and one I employed a great deal on later paper animations, such as Happy Cloud.
We had fun reversing the idea of the Big Bad Wolf, and turned him into the unwitting prey of our Red Riding Hood/Princess character. As the wolf stalks her, he fails to realise that she is luring him into a trap. We wanted to subvert the idea of the damsel in distress. We wanted her to be stronger and more in control than a regular fairytale princess. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it.
Red Riding Hood kidnaps the Wolf and drags him back to her castle, which was the second set we built for the production, using a combination of fabrics, paper linings and decorations from Doll Houses. Once she has the Wolf entrapped in her room she produces a pair of clippers and begins to shave the unconscious wolf, revealing a man beneath the fur.
The clippers were a puppet in their own right and I like to think of them as another character in the story, because anything you animate has its own life and personality. We produced the effect of the blades moving by creating removable blades of varied lengths that we could alternate in each shot. For ease of animation we made a small pair of clippers for the full sized puppet to hold, and then a larger, moving version in an enlarged puppet hand, which we filmed in extreme close-up. This was one of my favourite shots in the film because of the exaggerated shadow. It has a very B-movie feel in its melodrama.
To create the shaving effect we used large pieces of grey fake fur, which we trimmed between each frame and then manipulated the offcuts to make them travel around the clippers. For the close up shots of Red Riding Hood with the fur flying around, we moved clumps of fur up her arms and over her body whilst also sprinkling more clumps of fur in the background each time we captured a frame. We had to experiment a bit to get it to look right, but those experiments and little challenges are one of the things I love about animation.
Stop motion puppetry is definitely my favourite form of animation. I love the process of crafting a character, designing it and shaping it, figuring out how it’s going to take its first steps. I still have the wolf puppet, in fact he’s the only of my puppets that’s survived the years intact. All of the rest are plasticine and have gradually crumbled and fallen apart.
We had so much fun making this film, especially recording the sound. We recorded the voices in a small booth that was effectively a cupboard. There was a class full of people on the other side of the door and they gave us some very strange looks when we came out as they had no idea what we were doing. By the time we showed the completed animation to our classmates there was quite a lot of anticipation for it, as people had begun to talk about ‘the puppet sex film.’
For me, the film is about more than puppet sex. I like the way that Trey Parker and Matt Stone use extreme and purile humour to satirise. Their work can be shocking, and immature but it’s not just cheap laughs. I was reading Bruno Bettelheim and Angela Carter and I was interested in the psychology of fairytales. The Hunger is about desire and animal instincts. I wanted to play with the idea of the beast within, subverting gender roles and the assumptions we make about archetypal characters. And yes, I also wanted to shock my audience by taking the story in a direction that they wouldn’t expect.