New children's picture book has stop-motion feel
It took nearly 20 people, including two former Laika artists and an acclaimed musician, a Kickstarter campaign and thousands of hours to produce — so, yeah, the children's picture book "The Whatamagump" has been a labor of love.
Maybe the finances haven't quite penciled out — yet — but "The Whatamagump" has been a goal reached by Portland artists Bryan McIntyre and Greg Boettcher of Broken Eagle Studio.
Basically, McIntyre and Boettcher and their crew of about 15 animators built everything — sculptures, props, sets, characters — and then each scene was photographed under practical lighting and put through Photoshop. "By the time we dropped everything into laying it out digitally, it was 98 percent finished," McIntyre says. It has a stop-motion feel without the motion.
The book was written by musician Tyrone Wells and also comes with a soundtrack by Wells, who has given much support (and fans through social media) to the project. There's a downloadable six-song EP and read-along written and performed by Wells, who has placed more than 50 of his songs in TV shows/ads and movies and put out 10 albums.
The team has printed about 2,500 copies through Mascot Books. A Kickstarter campaign that netted about $86,000 helped finance the project. They'll see if it sells, but it's definitely a unique approach to bookmaking.
"It's definitely in a class all of its own," says McIntyre, who once worked on "The Boxtrolls" for Laika. "When we started kicking around the idea — I had tried to do it a couple years ago through Kickstarter and failed — I had tried to find something to compare it to and I couldn't find anything.
"Yes, it's a fairly unusual way to address making art for a children's book. For a publisher, it might be too cost prohibitive; since we financed through creative means, we were able to get it done."
Adds Boettcher, who worked on "ParaNorman" for Laika: "We haven't done anything yet, but now that we've fulfilled the Kickstarter stuff, we're trying to market it and get it out there."
McIntyre and Boettcher employed some animators, but also relied on volunteers.
"Fortunately, we were able to call up favors [and] had a lot of kindness, people who loved the project," McIntyre says. "People who freelance in this industry, whether at Laika or other studios, it's on again and off again." There were former Laika artists who needed work and "we were able to pick some of them up."
Wells not only produced a soundtrack, but he, McIntyre and Boettcher tapped his social media following.
McIntyre says he has big dreams for the book. It doesn't take a leap of imagination, he says, to envision a bigger publishing deal, merchandising, a TV show or an animated movie. He's open to exploring all avenues.
McIntyre and Boettcher are really proud of their work, even though it took many hours to complete.
"All the stuff in the book is handmade — there's nothing off the shelf," McIntyre says. Everything was built in Boettcher's garage, with photos shot in McIntyre's garage.
It does take a lot of patience. But building and sculpting and creating are what McIntyre and Boettcher do. They're used to doing what could be considered tedious work.
McIntyre estimates that combined work time, including from others, amounts to more than 1,000 hours. It took three months to make the book.
"Greg and I were working 50-plus hours a week for just the building, never mind the lighting and photography," McIntyre says. "There was a lot of character fabrication."
It's a 32-page hardcover book. It's about an adventurous and big-hearted main character, Julie, who befriends a lovable monster who works to overcome his biggest fears.
The partners have talked about doing a "Whatamagump 2," but it'd have to be financed another way.
"We've love to do it, but I don't know if we go the Kickstarter route," McIntyre says. "Because of the massive amount of work involved, it doesn't pay the bills."
For more: www.thewhatamagump.com.