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The short animation ‘I Have Your Heart’ is collaboration between New York illustrator Molly Crabapple, international rockstar Kim Boekbinder, and Melbourne animator Jim Batt.

The film is the story of a good girl with a bad heart, and the boy whose death will save her life. Told through darkly whimsical stopmotion, the film was inspired by Kim Boekbinder’s rollicking, accordion sing‐a‐long song about love, loss, and open‐heart surgery – ‘The Organ Donor’s March’.

Making this film was a long and detailed process. The characters and scene elements were hand drawn by Molly Crabapple, then scanned and photoshopped into layouts for moveable puppets, props, and scenery. These were printed on a thick paper stock, cut out by hand, and crafted into freestanding characters and sets. This paper world was then brought to life frame by frame with stopmotion animation by Jim Batt, using a trusty Canon 7D and Dragonframe software. Kim Boekbinder created an extended version of her song ‘The Organ Donor’s March’ to score the finished film.

Here is our interview with the unique trio behind this special clip:

The clip is a collaboration between yourself, Molly Crabapple (Illustrator) and Kim (Musician). How did this interesting trio came about?

Jim: Through twitter, actually. Molly and Kim were already frequent collaborators, and when they came up with the idea of doing an animation they asked the wide world of twitter if any animators were interested. Half way around the world, I saw that tweet and put my hand up for the job. I showed them one of my previous animations, Monkey & Sardine, which convinced them I not only had the skills but was also crazy enough for the task at hand. We all had very complimentary narrative and aesthetic tastes, and so the creative powerhouse of Crabapple, Boekbinder & Batt was born! In fact Kim and I got along so well, that our collaboration quickly grew into a wonderful romance, that continues happily, despite the rather extensive amount of ocean between our respective continents…

What was the inspiration for the story?


Kim:
 The
 idea
 for 
the 
song 
came 
from 
a 
story 
I had heard about 
a
 teenage
 girl 
who
 received
 a 
donor 
heart 
from 
a 
boy 
who 
was 
killed 
in 
a 
gang 
fight. 
I 
was
 struck 
by 
how
 this 
young 
girl 
felt 
so 
much
 pressure
 to 
have 
a
 really 
good 
life
 ‐ 
that 
in 
order 
to 
deserve 
another 
person’s 
heart, 
she 
had 
to 
be
 good 
enough
 for 
two 
people.
 In 
the song I added 
a 
little 
bit 
of 
romance 
between 
the 
girl
 and
 this boy 
that 
she 
has 
never 
met. 
She 
feels 
his 
heart
 beat 
every day 
and thinks 
of 
him 
as 
a
 separate 
entity 
inside 
herself.


Jim: We took the story of the song as the starting point for the script, and in the process of bringing it into the world of Molly’s illustration style, it took on a life of it’s own. One with more swashbuckling pirate catsfor a start.

Can you tell us a little bit about the background of the production and what made it particularly interesting for you?
Jim: I actually mostly shoot live action films, but one of the things that pulls me into doing animation is the fact that you can create this entire world, it really is one of the most imaginative forms of filmmaking. I’ve always loved paper animations, and Molly’s illustration style seemed perfectly suited to the medium. We decided at the outset to avoid software and go with the more hands on technique of stopmotion. There’s something really beautiful and tactile about physically crafting the sets and characters, the way the light catches the paper, the incidental motions you get while animating. There’s a lot that you get for free when you shoot real puppets on a real set, that you can spend a lot of time fiddling about on a computer trying to recreate.

Molly
: I spend my time drawing two dimensional images, and I
 wanted 
to 
see 
all 
my 
little 
characters 
jump
 around. And holy damn, Jim could make them move!
 
What were the main technical challenges during the production ?
Jim: Working with paper puppets was a huge challenge. Paper animation is often done in layers, laying flat on planes of glass. Building actual 3D worlds and figuring out how to rig the puppets so that we could get the range of movement we wanted was very tricky, but we were lucky enough to get some advice from the wonderful animator Morgan Hay (who has worked on Coraline and many more wonderful animations) who has a lot of experience engineering these kind of paper puppets.

 

Molly: For someone who has never done an animation before, the sheer quantity of drawing was mad. I drew massive cityscapes, character turnarounds, and sheets and sheets of boards, ivy and rope. Luckily, Jim and Kim are quite adept whipcrackers!

What do you love most about stop motion?
Jim: The art of animation is one that requires constant problem solving and invention, which makes it both exhausting and very rewarding. I love hand crafting these worlds and characters, then breathing life into them one frame at a time, learning the quirks of each puppet, how they like to move, how they best express themselves. There’s a wonderful thing with stopmotion where there is this constant shimmer of life that lurks in everything, the feel that anything could start moving at any moment. I like it when you can see the fingerprints, the maker’s mark. You don’t get that so much with stopmotion these days, everything is so polished, it’s a bit sad really, feels like some of the magic is lost when it’s too perfect.
Molly: It’s the most direct way of animating my art. There’s always an element of detail that gets lost when you do other types of animation, but with stop motion all my insane ink gets put directly on the screen.

The paper sets in the video are amazing, how did you approach the fabrication ?

Jim: It starts with Molly drawing all the characters and background elements. These drawings where then pulled apart in photoshop and used to create layouts and textures for all of the buildings and props. Everything was then printed out on a thick paper stock and painstakingly cut out by hand and assembled into a paper world, in kind of ‘2.5D’. All built with lots foam core, double sided tape and glue sticks. Replacement animation techniques were used for the characters expressions, switching in different heads for each frame of the expression. The handkerchief was done in a similar way, to create the fluid floating feeling of cloth in a breeze. Once the film was shot, the only postproduction was a bit of rig removal and clean up, with some digital set extensions on the backgrounds of a couple of shots.

 

What is the stop motion scene like in Melbourne ?

Jim: There are quite a few established stopmotion animators here, such as the amazing Anthony Lucas whose beautiful work has always been a big inspiration, and the Oscar-winning Adam Elliot who shot one of the few Australian stopmotion feature films here. There’s also a lot of new talent too, Isabel Peppard just finished her wonderful film ‘Butterflies’, keep an eye out for that on the festival circuit, and the guys at Oh Yeah Wow are doing some great work, and there’s lots more out there. So, I guess you’d say Melbourne has a good scene for animation – problem is finding it, as we all tend to spend most of our time locked away in dark rooms. Animation isn’t always the most social of the art forms!

 

What were the main artistic challenges during the production ?
Jim: The main artistic challenge when shooting any kind of film is just making sure that the story shines through, that all the pieces come together into a seamless experience for the audience at the end of it all.

Do
 you
 know
 anyone 
who
 has 
had
 a 
heart
 transplant?


Kim:
 In
 St.
 Petersburg,
 Russia
,I 
had 
a 
fan 
with
 a
 heart 
transplant
 in 
the
 audience.
 She
 was
 so
 sweet.
 She
 brought 
a
 print‐out 
of 
her
 electrocardiograph
 for 
me
 to 
sign.
Talk
 about
 epic
 rockstar 
moment!
What is the next big thing for you ?
Jim: I’m currently working on a few scripts, figuring out what the next big project will be – no shortage of ideas that’s for sure! In the meantime, I’m busy directing music videos, and working with Ben Templesmith on a video for the launch of Warren Ellis’s upcoming book GUN MACHINE.

Kim: 
I have just recorded a Space Pop album that sounds amazing! I can’t wait for it to come out in March.
Molly: I’m working on a graphic novel, Straw House, for First Second Books, and a show of massive paintings about the revolutions of 2011

 

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