The Crucible of Transmutationanecdotes about the creative process

The Living Body as Sculpture

Frank Zane and Lisa Lyon, examples of classic bodybuilding physiques!

Some may consider bodybuilding a sport but it can also be considered a true art form. Bodybuilders literally sculpt themselves by making conscious decisions about where to add and where to subtract, accomplishing their goal with focused weight training, exercise, and diet. The objective of their efforts is to reach the physical ideal, which is certainly subjective depending on the eye of the beholder.

When I was a very young man, I attended the 1979 Mr. Olympia competition and filmed many of the highlights with my trusty Super 8 camera. In that event, the bodybuilders essentially gave stage performances as living, breathing sculptures. Frank Zane, who is considered by many to be the greatest bodybuilder of all time, won the contest for a third consecutive year. A unique guest poser was also at the event, pioneering female bodybuilder Lisa Lyon. This show represented the end of an era, as within a few short years, the world of professional bodybuilding underwent significant changes. The following is some background information on the featured stars in my movie clip.

Stop-Motion Chroma Key Compositing

Commercial with Saber-Toothed Tiger via blue screen!

Since the invention of motion pictures, many filmmakers have aimed to combine animation with live action. One successful method to achieve this is the chroma key technique. This process removes a color background, typically blue or green, by electronically cutting out the foreground subject, which is then composited over a different image. Chroma key works particularly well with stop-motion animation. Chiodo Bros. Productions in Burbank, California are experts in this technique. In the 1990s, I worked as an animator on several Chiodo Brothers projects, including a Cup-O-Noodles commercial featuring a saber-toothed tiger.

Cowboys, Aliens, and Giant Scorpions

The Night Scorps animation sequences!

In 1994, animation legend David Allen (1944-1999) hired me to animate giant scorpions for the feature film Oblivion. The film was a bizarre space-western, the original "Cowboys and Aliens"! It was produced by Full Moon Entertainment, a very busy studio with many movies in production. At that time, David was running the Full Moon visual effects department, but was mostly focused on planning for his dream project, the upcoming movie Primevals. He entrusted his crew to create the work for other films such as Oblivion, under his overall supervision. I worked with Joseph Grossberg, who was responsible for the visual effects camera work and lighting. My task was to bring the giant alien scorpions, called Night Scorps, to life through stop-motion animation.

Tattoo Parlor Diorama

The Living Art Tattoo Parlor with Harley Davidson motorcycle and inked woman

Leaning against a parked Harley-Davidson chopper is a woman, who is adorned in nothing but inked images. She gestures toward the doorway of the Living Art Tattoo Parlor. This was the concept for a piece I created in 1985 using the unique art form known as Shadowbox Diorama. Projects of this type require extensive planning and a range of skills, including painting, sculpture, model-making, staging, design, craftsmanship, and custom lighting. It was quite a challenge to produce!

Nightmares Made Real

My first special effects job for a feature film happened in 1986 at Image Engineering, a mechanical effects company owned by Peter Chesney. The movie was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and Image Engineering was responsible for many of the creative ways that the maniacal Freddy Krueger disposed of his victims in the dream world. Unlike the computer-generated visual effects of today, which are completed in post-production, this was a pre-production project that required a performance with the actors during the live action shooting. Let's take a look at how we seemingly made a bathroom sink and a television come to life as the personification of evil Freddy.

Making Mickey's Parade

One of the most ambitious stop-motion commercials of all time was created in 1991 for Mickey's Parade Frozen Treats, directed by Kevin Dole. The advertisement featured hundreds of animated puppets and props, and required clever methods to bring them to life.

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're actually looking at is a surreal photorealistic composite that I created for the amusement of friends and family as this year's 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.

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. I was responsible for animating half of the show and also sculpting many of the characters, including a tribe of ten cave people and a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex. The clay sculpture served as the basis for each character, but it was only part of the collaborative process of creating the stop-motion puppets for the movie.

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