Friday, May 1, 2009

Bunny Slippers

These babies are ready to be attached to a character, are fully animatable, and were handmade. Want to see how?

Stop motion is a very unique form of animation. In 3D animation, a character is typically "anchored" by his hips and animated from there. In 2D animation, you simply draw the character excactly where you want them. In stop-motion, however, the character needs to be very securely anchored to the set piece in order to animate tiny movements without the whole character falling down or moving. Anyone who has ever played with action figures or toys knows how hard it is to balance a toy on his feet... one simple bump and he falls over!

That's why it's crucial to have these characters very tightly secured to the floor. In fact, we bolt them to the set with each step they take!

That being said, I need to design a pair of bunny slippers for Chris to wear on his feet. And that's just the exterior... the interior needs to have a 1/4" bolt hidden somewhere that I can use to bolt him to the set. Let's get started!
Here is a simple piece of wood that I have marked to the appropriate thickeness. This will serve as the bottom plate of the feet.

It is always a good idea to make duplicate puppets (that's what you call a stop-motion character) of each character in the animation. That way, if something happens to the character in the middle of a scene (i.e. his hand breaks or something) you can swap them out on the fly and no one notices :-)

For Chris, I will be making four duplicate puppets. That's eight pairs of shoes. That's 16 bunny ears!! To make sure they are all exactly the same, I made a template of the shoe shape:

Now I sand down the sides to make them less jagged....

Now it's time to drill the hole for the bolt to go through. I mark them all ahead of time and drill it out. The diameter of the hole is slightly larger than the actual bolt itself (1/4", remember?) so that the bolt can slide in and out easily.


As Chris takes a step, I want the bunny ears to flop up and down. With stop-motion, you want to have complete control over anything that is going to move. So I will be putting some annealed steel wire into the ears to hold them exactly where I want them. Here I am marking where the ears are going to end up and where the wires should stick out of the wood to match up with them.

There's a small step that isn't shown here, but it isn't really anything special. I tapped a small nail into the wood where the wires should be to make a little hole to put them into. Then I dabbed a little Gorilla Glue into the holes and stuck the wire in there to secure them. I also Gorilla Glued the 1/4" nuts over the holes I just drilled. Here is the finished product:

Notice in the background the bolts with the wingnuts on them (to the left of the picture). These are called tie-downs. The bolt is screwed into the nut (on the foot) from under the set. When you tighten the wingnut up, the character is really bolted down tight!

Here, I am putting one of the tie-downs into the nut to prevent anything from getting into the threads of the nut. You'll see why in a minute...

This stuff is called epoxy putty. It is stop-motion character designer's best friend!!
There are plenty of different types of epoxy putty and they all have a different cost. One of my secrets is that you can just buy the cheapest one. I have tried them all and have never seen a noticable difference in strength, so you might as well go with the cheapest.

Here's how epoxy putty works:
You slice off a piece of it, knead it together in your fingers until the two colors become one (see the black and gray in the piece in my hands below?), then mold it into the shape you want. Within five minutes, the stuff becomes hard as rock! This particular brand goes off in about two minutes, so I really have to work fast. The tie-down prevents any epoxy putty from gumming into the nut. Make sense now?

Starting to look a bit more like slippers.

Before putting the "fur" on there, I paint on a base color of white.

They look pretty good as it is, but they need some texture to give it that fuzzy look. You can buy white pieces of felt that are about the size of a normal piece of computer paper for 40¢ at almost any art store.

Cutting the felt out to the right size...

and laying the felt over the slippers....

I glued the felt to the slippers using some generic spray glue in a can. Sticky stuff! As for the bunny ears...

I found these little guys at an arts and crafts store called Michael's. For those of you here in the states, there are probably several Michael's in your home town. They're everywhere!

And viola! They are looking pretty close to what I had in mind.

After adding the eyes and noses from the miniature bunnies I bought at Michael's, they are really coming together!

Here's another angle...

And here they are!

I plan on attaching a piece of white fuzz to the back of the slipper for a little fluffy tail, but I'll have to experiment with that at a later time.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates coming soon!


  1. Amazing. That is cool and very educational. Can't wait to see them in motion!