The Red-Nosed Reindog

A dog that looks like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer with pretty elf


Behold the Red-Nosed Reindog, a rare creature from a remote mountain region near the North Pole! Okay, what you are actually looking at is a surreal photorealistic composite, which I created for the amusement of friends and family as this years Christmas card. I thought it would be fun to portray my daughter as an elf, and her dog as the iconic Rudolph. Being fairly adept at Photoshop magic, I combined a number of photographs to illustrate this imaginary scene.

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Sculpting Cavemen for Animation

A group of cavemen at home in their cave


One of my all-time favorite animation projects was the 1989 production of Stanley and the Dinosaurs, directed by John Clark Matthews. Besides animating half of the show, I also sculpted many of the characters, including a tribe of 10 cave people and a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex. The clay sculpture was the basis of each character, however it was only part of the collaborative process of creating stop-motion puppets for this movie.

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The End of the Stop-Motion Doughboy

The complete commercial, bookended with my animation of the Doughboy.


Since his debut in the mid sixties, the Pillsbury Doughboy was brought to life via stop-motion animation, but that era came to an end in 1992 when it was decided to switch to CGI. It was my pleasure to animate the Doughboy for his final stop-motion commercial campaign at Apogee Inc. for the Leo Burnett advertising agency. A couple commercials were created simultaneously under the direction of effects legend John Dykstra, and I was chosen to animate one of them with a Christmas theme. The budget for the project was clearly high since they offered me more than my normal pay rate, but of course expected the highest quality animation possible in return. I was given a luxurious amount of time to do tests and experiment with the character performance, which was far from the norm of a typical stop-motion shoot.

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Meet the Umblebums

Troll family in underground home greets their son arriving in a car made from a shoe


Introducing The Umblebums, who could have been one of television's weirdest families ever. I created this series of pictures to illustrate a potential stop-motion show for the now defunct Limelight Productions in 1991. Limelight then pitched the idea around Hollywood in an effort to find backing for the project. For me it was "spec work", as I made no money on it, under the agreement that I would direct the show if it was given the green light. The project never happened, leaving me to seriously examine if it was worth the trouble. At least I have some cool pictures to show, which have not been seen for 20 years!

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Saint Frog and the Dragon

Miniature painting parody Saint Frog and the Dragon
The painting measures 5 ¼ x 3 ½ inches.


As a general rule, I don’t include painting in the artistic services I offer for clients. Painting is my fine art, intentionally kept free, pure, and uncorrupted from commercial use. One exception was a tiny piece I made as a prop in 1987 for the film adaptation of Frog And Toad Together. It was created for a scene in which Frog reads a story to Toad about a knight fighting a dragon (which I also animated).

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Incident at Skellington Productions

Skellington Productions logo from the crew jacket

The Nightmare Before Christmas was created at a non-descript warehouse building in San Francisco known as Skellington Productions. It was a complete stop-motion movie production facility - a joint venture between Tim Burton and the Walt Disney Company. The studio was a “secret” since the building was unmarked with no sign to indicate the magic being created within its walls. There were several departments housed there. In front was the nerve center consisting of executive offices, art and editorial departments, and a screening room. The middle was the heart of the production and contained the stop-motion stages which were generally very quiet so the animators could concentrate. The back of the studio contained the model shop and set department - much noisier by comparison due to the use of power tools. Upstairs was the creature department where all the wonderful puppets were fabricated. The crew labored away like Santa’s elves with the goal of bringing Tim Burton’s ideas to life. Despite the film being a Tim Burton Production, Tim’s actual involvement was minimal as he entrusted it to both the crew and the director, Henry Selick. Tim only made rare appearances at Skellington’s front offices, so I never saw him when I was animating on the back stages; however, I did finally meet the famous Mr. Burton by accident, as the story continues.

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Stop-Motion Field Trip

In 1987, I was part of a group of dedicated artists hired to animate critters for the ABC weekend special Runaway Ralph. For one particularly successful sequence, director John Clark Matthews came up with the bold idea of shooting the stop-motion animation outdoors. The concept sounded crazy at first because the stop-motion process would exaggerate the changing sunlight, clouds, and wind blowing on the landscape. For “realistic” animation, filming outside should not work, but it did! The sequence in question involved Ralph the mouse running away from home and riding his motorcycle on the highway. Initial tests proved that if the camera shots were animated in large increments, necessary in order to follow Ralph’s motorcycle, the wind and changing sunlight would be imperceptible.

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Fairy Tale Surrealism

One of the most unusual projects of my career was Red Riding Hood and the Well-Fed Wolf, an educational film that featured characters representing the various food groups. As Animation Director of the 1989 film, I created and brought to life talking food interacting with live actors who portrayed Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Stop-motion animation was the main technique used, and traditional puppetry was employed for the shots involving the actors and the talking food together.

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The Making of ENCOUNTER

Let's take a journey in the “way-back machine” to 1982, when I was busy creating a stop-motion world in the spare bedroom of my apartment. Having previously filmed numerous animated experiments, I devised the methodology for a more ambitious project, Encounter, about a confrontation between knights and aliens in the Middle Ages. Information about the stop-motion process was very scarce in those days, but I managed to figure out and find ways that would work within the confines of low budget independent filmmaking.

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3-D Anaglyph Technique

I am often asked about my technique for creating the 3-D pictures on this site. This is a complex subject about which entire books have been written; however, here are the basics of the methods that I personally use.

Nimslo stereo four lens camera


Most of the images portrayed were captured by a Nikon Stereo Rig or the Nimslo 3D camera using film such as Kodachrome. I never perform any kind of "2D to 3D conversion" from a normal photograph because it lacks the presence and power of real stereo photography. While sounding exotic, the Nikon Stereo Rig is actually a conventional Nikon camera mounted on a sliding rail to allow horizontal movement. This method requires a tripod and a subject that does not move during photography. One shot is fired, the camera is racked over horizontally the appropriate distance for eye separation, then another shot is fired. All camera settings must be set manually to ensure consistency of exposure and focus resulting in two slides, one for each eye, known as a "stereo pair". For moving subjects such as people, I typically used the Nimslo, an unusual camera from the eighties that shoots four photos at once. The Nimslo's four lenses were originally designed to produce lenticular prints, but only the two outer pictures are utilized for classical stereo. The slides produced from these cameras can be viewed with special 3-D viewers or even projected in stereo with the right equipment.

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A look behind the scenes of art-making and other musings by .

fractal picture

See More Articles:

Howie and pumpkin from The Nightmare Before Christmas Skellington Incident

Pillsbury doughboy baking a pie Stop-Motion Doughboy

Aliens from Encounter movie Making ENCOUNTER

mouse riding motorcycle Stop-Motion Field Trip

nimslo camera Anaglyph Technique

Frog as a knight St. Frog and the Dragon

Mother and father Umblebum Meet the Umblebums

Carrot puppets from Red Riding Hood and the Well Fed Wolf Fairy Tale Surrealism

3 cavemen Sculpting Cavemen

A reindog and elf The Red-Nosed Reindog

Disney popsicles Making Mickey's Parade

Freddy nightmare Nightmares Made Real

tattooed lady Tattoo Parlor Diorama

face of fire dancer Painting RING OF FIRE

face of Night Scorp Gigantic Scorpions

face of Night Scorp Chroma Key Animation

bodybuilder Frank Zane posing The Living Body as Sculpture

Man runs in a sewer movie set Starting at the Bottom

Animated bottle cap character Zippy the Cap

Stone Giant stop-motion puppet The End of Dynamation

Candy on a boys face Eye Candy

Dancing figures Lucid Dream

Talking deer and moose hunting trophies Wacky Trophy Heads

Handstanding figure over river valley Making THE WANDERER

Portrait of man made of fruit Creating a Fruit Man

Colorful mandala design Mysterium Mandala

Portrait of Jack Skellington Nightmare Still Photos

Spacecraft Wreckage Spaceship Junkyard

Closeup of a robot Models and Props pt. 1

Watch shaped like a mouse Models and Props pt. 2

Train locomotive Models and Props pt. 3

Face of a cute dinosaur Young Iguanodon

ice skating hersheys kisses Lively Kisses

shopping mall Making Mall Mania

powerful super hero Extreme Heroic Poses

face of mother earth Earth Mother

The character Kait from Gears of War Motion Mixture

Clay fox sculpture in the snow Pee-Wee Christmas Title

Painting of a wild goat overlooking a valley One With Nature

A singing cartoon box character Lounge Singer

© 2006-2019 Joel Fletcher
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