The subject for this little film had been on my mind for many years, namely to use a woodcut describing "imps", witches' familiars, as a template for stop-motion puppets.
I am, of course, thinking about the famous woodcut featuring witchfinder general Matthew Hopkins and two of his victims-to-be. The presumed witches are parading a pretty impressive lineup of servitor demons in various animal shapes, some more bizarre than others. The names of these imps were pretty cool too.
Lets' start with Sacke & Sugar, which is actually just the one creature. In the woodcut, it's apparently a black rabbit of some kind. I went with a zombie rabbit kind of thing instead. This little monster has an exposed skull, which I sculpted in medium grade Monster Clay. The skull and the jaw are separate.
Both parts of the skull were replicated in Rhino casting plastic from two DragonSkin FX silicone molds (after cleaning out the clay).
The aluminum wire skeleton has a pair of t-nuts in its feet, with bits of harder wire lashed to the aluminum wires using yarn, creating the "bones" of the skeleton. An aluminum wire also goes into the jaw.
Since most of the puppet would be covered by fake fur I didn't have to spend too much time on shaping the foam padding into exact muscle replicas. General shapes were quite adequate. A latex cast of a mummified-looking chest sculpted for another puppet was re-used. To create bits of shredded, dried tissue I simply rolled up thin skins of tinted latex sponged out over a plastic tray, the so-called "chunks-o-flesh" method. The insides of the ears were simply made by carving negative shapes into clay with the end of a paintbrush and then adding tinted latex into those shapes. The eyes are German-made taxidermist's glass eyes (don't know what animal they're supposed to be used for.
The fur I used was also used for the puppets in Empire of the Robot Monsters and is a short-haired synthetic fur attached to a slightly elastic fabric, which means that it will stretch slightly when animating the puppet.
Greedigutt isn't pictured in the woodcut but Imagined it as a dwarfish Hieronymus Bosh kind of creature. The head and feet were sculpted in clay, and then cast in latex from a dental plaster mold.
This little fellow was built in one day, having a very simple body padded with foam. The tail was built up over an aluminum wire using soft yarn.
Patches of latex cast in old skin texture molds covered the puppet. It was given a base paint of reddish-brown using tinted latex applied thinly with a sponge.
A lighter coat of tinted latex was then dry brushed on. White latex pigments helped create a pale skin tone. The white eyes were just painted on, but the lower lip could be animated via an aluminum wire.
Another quickly built puppet (though not in one day) was Jarmara, the caterpillar dog. Actually, in the woodcut, he most resembles a creepy version of Dougal from The Magic Roundabout. It doesn't look like he's got any legs, so I decided that he probably walked like a caterpillar. The only thing I sculpted in clay was his head.
A latex cast of the head, reinforced with a cotton/latex mix, was attached to the aluminum wire skeleton. Aluminum wires were also used for the ears, which were covered with more latex and cotton. More padding with that soft yarn.
Jarmara's head and feet were dabbed with tinted latex and his buggy eyes were another pair of German taxidermy work. Strips of soft foam helped to further pad out the body.
Finally, fake fur from an old had was used to cover up the body. The aluminum wire torso could be contracted and extended to ape the movement of a kind of caterpillar.
The idea for Pyewacket (another imp not shown in the woodcut) was inspired by dancers and contortionists who can bend their hips and legs over their shoulders. It's a fairly impractical way of walking, but it sure looks strange. Another simple aluminum wire armature provided the skeleton. The dark grey blob at the bottom is a bit of dense foam from a camping seat cushion, filling up the chest area, without adding any real weight.
The finished Pyewacket was painted with tinted latex, and detailed with acrylic airbrush paints spattered onto the puppet using a toothbrush. Fake fur from an old jacket collar was glued on here and there using the very strong and transparent Telesis silicone glue.
The best-remembered critter from this woodcut is doubtless Vinegar Tom, the strange cow-whippet-thing. The head was another Monster Clay sculpture, using plastic pearls for the eyes.
The horns were cast in latex from an old plaster mold. Small aluminum wires help move the ears and the jaw. The tie-downs I use are usually M4 t-nuts, but for this puppet, I used M3 to make the feet really small.
For Vinegar Tom, I did a pretty intricate foam muscle build-up. I based this on both cow and dog muscle diagrams.
The pearl eyes were used so I could move them around, BUT looking at the woodcut I realized the eyes were simply too small. I simply glued a pair of bigger glass taxidermy eyes over the original pearl eyes, and built up eye sockets around the eyes using cotton dipped in latex. A finely detailed latex skin was added over the foam padding.
More fake fur was used to add a short mane to Tom's neck. Teeth were made from cotton and latex, as were the toes. This puppet was painted with PAX paint (Prosaide glue + acrylic paint) using a sponge, with acrylic airbrush paints adding a bit of subtle detailing.
Grizzle, our last little critter, was basically a scary pig standing on his hind legs. He only appears for a short bit at the end, so I decided to make him something recognizable. There are examples of demonic pigs in religion, folklore, and pop culture, so it seemed a suitable choice. I sculpted and cast both head and torso in latex from a dental plaster mold.
Again, a very simple aluminum wire armature did the job. It's still strong enough and versatile enough to allow the puppet to be used for more projects.
The latex skin was partially padded with thin bits of polyurethane foam. Aluminum wires go into the ears and the jaw. Also, reflective pearls were glued into the eye sockets.
The foam muscle padding was quite detailed, though most of the focus would be on the latex torso, which was attached to the padded body using liquid latex as a bonding material.
Reddish tinted latex was applied as a base paint, with a purple-greyish latex paint dry brushed over that, with strands of fake for added as bristles to the neck, and cotton/latex tusks stuck into the mouth. Saliva and snot were created with Glossy Accents scrapbooking plastic.
That's all about the imps, but what about their mistress. Well, I don't know who she is, because she's just a bunch of stock footage clips from Videoblocks.com, but I'm glad I found her.
All of the film was treated with a couple of filters in After Effects to make the image a bit fuzzy and dream-like. Libby Grant delivered another excellent narration (our previous collaboration was Baba Yaga's Hut). Almost all of the backgrounds were found on Depositphotos.com, where I have a monthly subscription.