Above: In court, the bee will claim the flower was ‘dressed sexy’.
Dale Hayward is responsible for the single most disturbing animation involving a sunflower in the history of the universe. The Flower is also a hilarious and unexpected inversion of DIY stop-motion, which tends towards towards the twee. The animator chatted with Crackle about the sexual politics of pollination, drawing naked ladies, and loving plants.
Crackle: What’s your background? How did you get into animation/stop-motion?
Dale Hayward: I went to school for classical animation in Toronto, at a place that focuses a ton on the “traditional” skills of drawing; they really enhanced my passion for drawing. when I graduated, there was no work in the city other than in Flash. Luckily I got to do a test for Cuppa Coffee [Animation] in stop-mo, [then] two Sunday afternoons later I was hired and worked there for about 5 years, animating, doing some sculpting and then directing.
Crackle: The Flower had the unique effect on me of making me feel really bad for flowers. Do sunflowers really bug you, or did this video come from some deep-seated empathy you’ve got for plant life?
DH: Heh, that’s exactly the effect we want you to have. Plants are actually one of my other passions (we live with about 70), so I guess there’s empathy there, and wanting to use them in films is a daily occurrence. When creating the puppets for [The Flower], Sylvie (my girlfriend) and I used a lot of crap that was already in our place, focusing a theme [around] the stuff we used, i.e., the bee had hard metal things (bolts, wires, clamps) and the flower had more organic-y, softer things (towels, clay, rubber).
Crackle: So I definitely never thought of pollination as a sexual-assault scenario before. Did you just happen to see an over-eager wasp, or what? How did this occur to you?
DH: Phil (the co-director) and I had come up with a ton of short film ideas, but all of them were way too ambitious or just not practical to complete with our budget, which was about $1.23. So over a coffee we broke a story down its ultimate basics: a flower, he’s singing, bee comes by and screws him in the eye, end of story. It’s really just the typical elements to all stories. [Ed: I hadn't noticed the bee-rape subtext in all stories, but hey, symbolism is a fine art.]
Crackle: What was the overall aesthetic you were shooting for in The Flower? I got Old-Disney-meets-Hostel.
DH: Our love for old film/music/animation and then drench it in ridiculous sauce.
Crackle: Can you talk about the technical aspects of making The Flower? How did you achieve the old-timey, bad-film-stock look?
DH: [It was] shot table-top with my Nikon d80, Imac with Framethief, fixed up and then timed with After Effects. [There were a] couple days of boarding/ideas/recording, about a week to make the puppets, [a] couple more days for setup, [then we] shot it over two and a half days. Then [there was] about another week of added stuff and rendering, in total about 3 weeks give or take.
The overall grain was a few colour tweaks and mainly a self-made series of about 30 grainy frames, both black and white in Photoshop. I cant stand presets – [they're] like poop in your mug.
Crackle: So, I noticed on your blog that your warm-up drawings are often naked chicas. Is drawing the female form good for the creative, ahem, juices?
DH: Definitely; the only thing harder than drawing women is drawing a woman with another woman, so why not challenge [yourself] and have a good excuse for staring at the much fairer sex?
Crackle: What projects are you working on now?
DH: I’m really working on this thing called relaxing, but I seem to suck at it. I just finished making a music video with Sylvie called “Auburn fades away” for Li’ Andy. I’m at the national film board of Canada again animating a sequence with a friend of mine for a film celebrating Québec’s 400 year anniversary. The film is all in stereoscopic vision! Which is a big smart sounding word for imax type 3d. It’s really weird and crazy dealing with the third dimension; it doesn’t let you cheat as much. I’m also very close to starting the next installment of pleasurable pain with the flower. For this one I ordered an extra ten bottles of awkward giggles. Higher budget this time.
Check out Dale Hayward’s blog.