Animating the parade | Parade & The Velvet Gentleman

Part of the Modern Music Days initiative, Parade & The Velvet Gentleman aims to be a high-class experience of children’s theatre, adapting a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau with music by Erik Satie that originally had costume designs by none other than Pablo Picasso. TEODOR RELJIC speaks to Christ Scicluna, the stop-motion animator of the event

Parade & The Velvet Gentleman will be performed for one night only at the Manoel Theatre.  Artist Christ Scicluna is pictured, right second row.
Parade & The Velvet Gentleman will be performed for one night only at the Manoel Theatre. Artist Christ Scicluna is pictured, right second row.

How did you get involved in the Parade project, and what excited you about forming part of this team?

[Artistic Director] Ruben Zahra and I met each other through a mutual friend and when he pitched me the idea, I couldn’t say no. It’s such an interesting concept. I love stop motion in general, but this goes even beyond that by giving the animated character a role in the production, same as the rest of the cast.

I’ve been experimenting with animation since my childhood – mostly with flipbooks, but then I  started exploring stop motion when I got my first camera phone. My love for this medium never stopped and by now I’ve done lots of different animated projects, both professionally and as a hobby.

Stop motion animation is a notoriously laborious facet of the animation world...

Patience is key, but passion is just as important because without passion for the project you wouldn’t be as patient. Another important aspect is knowledge and experimentation with the principles of animation, something that I try to keep improving with every project I make, especially in this case where the character is acting and dancing along with the music.

Could you tell us a little bit about your contribution to ‘Parade’?

Before starting the animation, I had to design the character and create the choreography that it will eventually be dancing to, but I can’t take full credit for it. Ruben Zahra is an artist who knows what he wants to make and how to explain his ideas. Therefore, the pre-production phase went smoother than usual. I would send him an animatic (animated storyboard) and discuss what to change and how to move forward.

We kept exchanging ideas and going back and forth until we had a choreography that we were both happy with. The next step was setting up my camera and lights, and starting the stop motion process. This involved slightly moving the objects in shot and taking a picture while keeping in mind the choreography, timing and animation techniques. Each batch of 24 photographs would result in just one second of animation, so this was a long process to say the least. But the end result has a tangible look, and it wouldn’t be the same if made through more modern techniques.

What do you make of the Maltese visual arts scene? What would you change about it?

I think we’re steadily improving and in terms of execution we’ve reached a high level. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like creativity is being given enough importance here in Malta. When judging art, the majority of people are quick to compare local work with other work done in foreign countries. If the production level is inferior they call it bad, if it reaches the same ‘quality’ it’s good. This quick conclusion is given without evaluating the concepts and ideas behind them.

This is the impression I frequently get from the general audience locally. There’s an incredible number of artists here in Malta who aren’t getting half the recognition they deserve and it’s a shame that their work is not valued– artists who have something to say, and they do so in their own and interesting way.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a music video, slated for August/September with an up-and-coming Canadian singer. Next is another stop motion project and after that I’ve scheduled another music video collaboration. Meanwhile, I still try to create smaller pieces of animation on the side for myself to experiment.

 

Originally performed in 2017 as part of the Ziguzajg Children’s Festival, Parade & The Velvet Gentleman is organised under the artistic direction of Ruben Zahra, with Picasso-inspired costumes by Ritienne Zammit, stop motion animation by Christ Scicluna, choreography by Moveo, masks and puppets by Charles Bezzina, projection dance sequences by MAKA Visuals, and a paper cinema by Trevor Zahra. The show will be presented for one night only at the Manoel Theatre on July 27. Tickets are priced at €10 and are available on www.teatrumanoel.com

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