I’ve written on this subject before, but can’t resist sharing a few more examples that have delighted me over the past few weeks.
It seems so effortless. Maybe you think, even kind of simple. And in many ways you’re right, because it only uses old stop motion techniques and just a tiny bit of post production jiggery-pokery. But, realise for a moment how believable if feels, and see how expertly the frames work in order to achieve the effect. Here’s how the first piece of modelling clay becomes the bun:
Let’s slow that down and reverse it :)
And that doesn’t even include all the frames. So much detail crammed into so few split seconds.
Maybe these observations are just the basics of any good animation tutorial (which is how I discovered Guldies: via their animation walkthrough) but I think that every skill, sector and practice has this potential level of care and attention, and that mastering those levels is key to success.
The next example of this level of detail comes from the genius that is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, specifically from the clip titled ‘Jokes About This Story Present A Golden Opportunity’, shared on YouTube last month.
The video focuses mostly on the stories about Trump in a Russian hotel, but for me specifically, there are four small details in gags that tip the performance over the edge, from excellent to genius. Again, these are tiny details, that you might not pull out for yourself if you watch the full video, but that I wager you will recognise if you then watch the clips below.
First, is when Colbert imagines a phone call to the hotel reception, where Trump is politely ordering his prostitute. When the joke is finished, and the last of the laughter is ridden, Colbert reaches out and gently hangs up the imaginary phone before moving onto the next line:
Next, there’s a bit on Trumps tax return that he’s still claiming he can’t share because the IRS are auditing it. Colbert teases the idea that this is true, and as if Trump, now with access to nuclear launch codes, would cower down to the IRS. Taking that image forward, Colbert imagines “the IRS agent with the balls big enough” to pressure Trump. Just check out how is hands compose and control the images that he is creating in our mind. From gesticulating toward the launch codes, to signing the tax return, to imploring with open hands toward his chest, hands that then turn into the enormous balls of the IRS agent, balls that Colbert doesn’t drop, emphasising their mass and weight, until he picks back up the tax form and carefully places it on top of the now desk sized balls. The scene remains until Colbert finally lets go of the form, confident, as are we, that the testicle desk is big enough to hold it alone. He then gives one last palms down dismissal of Trumps excuse, before packing one hand, like a prop, into his pocket, and using the other to casually comb the back of his head, punctuating the whole performance with an expression of its effortless.
Toward the end of the video, Colbert shows that he’s more than just a master of comic hands, and can employ his whole body into cartoon character like, near slapstick timing, emphasised even more clearly with Obama acting as his straight man:
Stephen begins as though it’s a regular ‘roll VT’ moment, slowing his pace, and again, casually packing his hands into his pockets, giving us the comfort of knowing what comes next (we watch a video, it ends, we go back to Stephen and he’ll start making jokes about what we saw). But after saying “All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves…”, Obama is interrupted, and we cut back to Colbert (standing to attention, hands at the ready) who concludes “… off a cliff and into the ocean!” before gleefully saluting to his commander in chief, and marching off screen like a wind up toy tin soldier.
He remains off screen for just that little bit too long, allowing the tiniest of doubt to creep into our minds about him coming back, then when he bumbles into shot, it’s played almost straight, as if he didn’t realise there was more to the clip. Still giggling, we see the remainder and it’s pretty boring. At least, not the most inspiring thing that we’ve seen Obama say. In fact, just as you realise he’s being serious and want’s us to take action, we cut back to Colbert, this time assuming the posture of our minds, semi-exhausted by Obama’s request for us to get up and do something. The pace, timing and body acting here are perfect. His performance is both preempting and empathising with how we feel about the clip and the gags.
Immediately after, he moves on to the final part of the opening monologue, but even after 12 minutes, he manages to surprise us and change the pace, leveraging again the seriousness and sincerity of the clip, by cutting to his over the top, tearful and blubbering Disney character-esque like face.
As I say then, and as I hope my laboured analysis illustrates, I believe that it’s only within the minutiae of a craft, that the highest quality and genius can exists. Attention to detail – especially the ones that’s most people won’t even be conscious of – is paramount.