Week eight: Screen Novelties

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Chris Finnegan, Mark Caballero, and Seamus Walsh comprise the animation collective known as Screen Novelties. Their whimsical approach to filmmaking combines classic cartoon dynamics with puppetry and stop-motion. Their work has earned them kudos from film legend, Ray Harryhausen.

Screen Novelties’ award winning short films include “Mysterious Mose”, “The Tortoise & the Hare”, and “Monster Safari”, which is currently being developed as a feature film. The trio was instrumental in launching “Robot Chicken” and “Moral Orel” for Adult Swim and has directed segments for Cartoon Network’s “Chowder”, “Flapjack”, and “Adventure Time.” They’ve done bits for Seth McFarlane on “Family Guy” and for the 2013 Oscars.  They have also contributed to Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob Squarepants”, including a revamp of the title sequence and a popular ½ hour Christmas special.

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49 Responses to Week eight: Screen Novelties

  1. Lanzhu Jian says:

    Crazy stop motion talent people! thanks for giving so many good advise.The working relationship between them are so good. It makes me want to build my own studio with friends. And develop good work.

  2. Maggie Harbaugh says:

    This was such a refreshing and inspiring seminar. Their passion and enthusiasm for what they do was abundantly apparent. They obviously love what they do and I admire them for constantly striving to push the envelope and to be different. They way they spoke about their heroes and inspirations was also endearing. I quite enjoy that they can approach their work as an art, yet it is still profitable. The animation itself is also enjoyable and very well done. Their characters and the worlds they have created for them (especially Krampus) are creative and appealing. I hope they have a chance to work on their own projects in the near future because I think they will create great things!

    Thank you for the positive vibes Screen Novelties!

  3. Joanna Barondess says:

    Gah! Maggie took everything I was going to say!

    Well, I do agree with her–the guys from Screen Novelties showed a large amount of enthusiasm for their work, as well as the inspiration for their work. It’s that kind of passion that produces great work. I love their sense of style in their pieces–using familiar textures with their puppets, altering original, classic designs for stop motion that keep the character alive in a new way, etc. What intrigued me about their style was the fact that each puppet looked way more miniature than the actual scale, which was why I asked about set to character size ratio. I really wish I could have seen more of their own work, such as the Flinstones short. I cannot wait to see what they produce in the future.

  4. Ha! And now I’m going to try and say something original after Maggie and Joanna already captured my initial reactions . . .

    It was great to hear about how the guys from Screen Novelties look back through the history of animation for inspiration and education, and it really made me smile about how our MFA program is bolstered with history. I kept thinking about how animation truly is a language that has such specific tones and phrasing, and the crazy part is that it really isn’t that obvious until you start studying and doing animation. The way Laika animation moves compared to the Screen Novelties’ is worlds apart, and I really was inspired by the Screen Novelties guys’ understanding of their preferences in aesthetic and motion.

    Another thing they mentioned really stood out to me was how lots of animation tends to look and move the same these days, and I couldn’t help but attribute that to computers. I’ve been challenged in my own animation because I love the ease of using computer software, whether it’s Flash or After Effects, and being able to make changes much easier than if I were to do a more traditional style, but it seems much harder to craft a really personalized style!

    How do you guys deal with this situation??

    Anyhow, I really liked Screen Novelties’ presentation because they were passionate about their craft, but laid back, and their work was really fun to watch.

  5. Ruthie Williams says:

    It was great to hear from Screen Novelties! I love their approach to stop-motion because it is really inspiring for independent filmmakers. It’s also nice to see how they put certain shots together, like the wipe for “Monster Safari” and the genius construction of the backgrounds in the Flintstones short with shower sliders! It was also cool to know a little bit more about their influences and see some examples. Here is the low rez clip they mentioned of The Wizard of Space and Time by Mike Jittlov http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoLhLn9hVkE It is pretty fantastic.

  6. Ryan Gillis says:

    I thought the Screen Novelties guys’ enthusiasm for animation was infectious. Seeing some of their favorite stop-mo shorts was a lot of fun. I hadn’t seen any of the work they showed before.
    It seems like they carved out a pretty nice life for themselves, working on a variety of projects and keeping a roof over their heads. But the other highlight for me was when they talked openly about the pros and cons over owning your own studio. You’d think starting your own would guarantee a certain amount of control over your life, and the films you get to work on, but I guess everything is a double-edged sword. It was a fun seminar though. Stop motion is hard.

  7. Yizhou Li says:

    I thought Screen Novelties guys were really cool! I like their approach to stop motion, and I feel they are making a lot of very interesting things at their studio. It is interesting how they are able to do so much work with such a small group, and their animation is fun to see. It is easy to see how their influences are part of their current work.

    I feel their “low fi” technique is very nice to have in stopmotion, since it is so simple and can help encourage other people to get interested into stopmotion. Their style is very unique, and I feel it must be a lot of fun to work there with them.

  8. Dustin Reno says:

    Screen Novelties were excellent, and I am glad we were able to finally have some stopmotion people come in to present. The designs of their work definitely harken back to an older era of animation, and the simplicity of their characters/sets really communicate strongly. I have long since been a fan of lo-fi techniques, and they really execute it at such a high quality. The guys all seemed very affable, and their ambitions seem to have carried them so far. It’s really inspiring to see a handful of people decide they want to do things their own way and actually manage to pull it off!

  9. Andrew Malek says:

    Obviously I really enjoyed the presentation from the dudes of Screen Novelties, I’ve admired their studio from afar for quite a while and it was a real treat to finally meet them. One of my favorite parts of the presentation was when they shared their influences and explained what they liked and how it it contributes to their style. It is clearly something they think about deeply and has served them well. Having a studio style that is distinct creates an incredible advantage to staying afloat in the industry because you provide something no one else can replicate.
    I also appreciated that there was no deeper reason behind their style other than its what they like. In my opinion Screen Novelties approach to animation is like that of Rock n’ Roll, in order to stay classic you have to be aware of the history and if you push to far away from it it becomes something else, at the same time you have to put a unique personal spin on it. I think Screen Novelties walks this tightrope with the best of them.

  10. Ivan Sayon says:

    I very much enjoyed the presentation Screen Novelties gave. It really shows how close and cooperative Chris, Mark, and Seamus are when presenting their method to the madness of their craft and their influences from the past which drive their passion for the medium. I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes perspective of their process like how they rig/mount characters into the shot and how the background and characters are fabricated. It was also fascinating to see how they take an already established character design from another studio with a different style of animation and convert it into their own form style. Lastly, I also value their insight and experience in running a small company as it somewhat pertains to what I would like to pursue. Overall a very fun and inspiring seminar.

  11. Amelia says:

    I agree with everyone here. I loved these guys. How fun! I do wish they’d gone a little bit slower through the photos because they were so interesting. I was very inspired by the fact that they make what they want to make and that they consider their art to be special. I often grapple with my future career choices and I know for sure that I want to make something that is not necessarily mass-produced. The Screen Novelties guys made this goal seem completely achievable.

  12. linhui wang says:

    The stop-motion style from Screen Novelties was really unique and great! Especially when they mentioned that to try move the object frame by frame without the “onion tool”. This exercise can train people to more sense about what’s the motion between 24/frs, once the one used to the feeling, they will very easily figure out how to play the “one-arm bandit”, and catch up the path of coin drop.

  13. Jason Ronzani says:

    I’ve had the privilege of interning with these guys for the past year, and they’ve shared with me lots of knowledge and stories of their personal experiences in animation. I thought it was excellent that the whole graduate animation class got to hear from them. I love how they approach stop motion almost with a 2D animation sensibility. They don’t let the stop motion medium limit what’s possible in their work and they take advantage of the physical qualities of the medium when it’s appropriate for a laugh. I especially loved how they shared some stop motion history with us. I’ve heard they have an amazing DVD collection!

  14. Evan Harbuck says:

    I really admire the work that the group from Screen Novelties presented in seminar. I enjoy how they bring a very 2D sensibility to their animation style by using replacement to create squash and stretch. I think they’re style is wonderfully unique. Seeing stop-motion work, especially the behind the scenes photos always reminds me how difficult stop motion is compared to other forms of animation. I have much respect for the talented people who choose to work in this medium.

  15. Tristan says:

    Screen Novelties was great! They clearly love what they do and it comes through in their work. I really enjoyed the Harryhausen stories. The old stop-mo clips were great and so were the BTS photos. It was very generous of them to tour the cubicles and look at some of the student’s work as well. I thought they would find my work to be the devil incarnate since they do as much as they can in camera but I was pleasantly surprised to see they were interested and enthusiastic about it. I wish them the best of luck with their Krampus pitches, I would love see what they did with something long format.

  16. Jake Zhang says:

    Screen Novelties’s stop-motion works are very impressive and unique! The strategy they develop their stories and visual is very clear which is importing 2d characteristics into the stop-motions. It was very fun to see the SpongeBob to act in a “real space” and tell new stories, and the most important thing is the animation is so matching the original feeling. The inspirations they showed such as “what ho she bumps” and “Mondey and the Crab” are great, and I can see the original source and initial interests of their works through these great stuffs.

  17. Josh Weisbrod says:

    I love the work of Screen Novelties. They manage to give their work such a personal touch while at the same time working with established characters. I also liked how they told stories about the time they made work for Disney even though they felt they had no chance of landing the job, and I especially liked their advice about only doing work for less money than it’s worth if it is something that you know will benefit you in the long run (but only do it once!)

  18. Jessie Wang says:

    Although I am not a stop motion guy, I found their work very interesting and makes me want to try stop motion. I especially like their color and character designs, I really enjoyed looking at them.

  19. Catalina says:

    This one was my favorite seminar so far! It was really inspiring the fact that they have found a place where they can do the work that they love without doing so many concessions. I think their work is very cool because it can’t be categorized all the commissioned work is very unique, and their personal projects are really good. I like that they experiment with their characters and the movements of their puppets is very crazy and extraordinary.

  20. joseph Yeh says:

    These guys seems awesome! I wish I could have made it to this one if I had like a lot of wishes. I hit up Jason on his experience working with Screen Novelities and he said it was da bomb and something along those lines. It must be a great collaborative atmosphere to create magic at this studio!

  21. Christina Brous says:

    This was a really great seminar. Obviously their work mirrors my own interests, but besides that, the guys were really engaging and totally enthusiastic about everything they were doing. I love that they’re not afraid to keep things looking imperfect as a commentary to the medium and also were completely comfortable with showing us backstage photos. It’s so helpful to see the process sometimes, especially with Stop-Motion. I would love if we could have more seminars like this.

  22. Tim says:

    My favorite seminar to-date. As everyone else has already said, their passion for what they do really shone through, so the whole talk was very positive and uplifting. I like that they don’t want their models to look too polished or rigid, instead choosing to focus on real squash and stretch principles of animation with tactile puppets. I would love to commission these guys to make a stop-mo episode for my own show some day!!!!!!!!

  23. Brian Rhodes says:

    Their work was awesome. They also talked about what it’s like to be an independent animation production company, something that I am interested in. Thank you for bringing them in!

  24. I really like their aesthetic and I hope they get to do a feature film with the same wackyness they treat their shorts. Their sense of design is great and their business plan to make what they love is admirable. Work like theirs makes me want to try stop motion

  25. earnason says:

    Screen Novelties were fun and inspiring to see. Very cool work and exciting to see those three just go for it and start their own studio. One of them recognized me for my devilry when I received them at the front lobby and asked whether I had made “that short Catatonic”. That was a fun bonus.

    I sincerely hope Screen Novelties will make their own feature.

  26. Sophie Xing says:

    I love the stop motion they made for Spongebob, I wish to see more stop motion of Spongebob. They did great jobs. The characters they made are so adorable. All the stop motion works are fun to watch.

  27. Caress says:

    I really enjoy Screen Novelties’ dedication to the type of stop motion work they do. Their attention to texture and animation techniques (like animating stop-motion smears) is really inspirational in an age where stop motion is starting to just look like 3D rendering. Their presentation made me really think about how important it is to have a purpose being animation technique–not just the content.

  28. Yifu Zhou says:

    Stop Motion Animation always does something to me. I don’t know why I always feel death and sometimes I feel fear. Even the content in the stop motion is about funny. I like the way they talk and the way they work together. Even the animation I saw is a little dark to me. However, I feel that their speech is very positive and inspiring. Always look at the bright side.

  29. emily says:

    Screen Novelties’s stop-motion works are very excellent and wonderful. I love it. Some people think their work is a little dark; however, I really love it! Cool seminar!

  30. Fernando Rabelo says:

    This seminar was too easy to like. For a stop motion animator who already knew about the studio, this was an astonishing occasion to finally meet the names behind Screen Novelties. Their work is fantastic and the behind the scenes they showed us is one of the favorite parts about seminar: the chance to see how it was done. They are incredible talented artists and nice people as they proved in their after seminar visit to our cubicles. It was awesome to have them visiting and giving us feedback right there in our place. Please, bring more of this!

  31. Screen Novelties Studios have a really fresh and beatifull Stop-motion Style. They vary a lot in their medium, always giving a high end touch, making it one of the best studios i’ve ever seen, honestly. Although i’m not a stop motion artist myself, i would be delighted to work on such high quality projects.

  32. Sijia Huang says:

    I really like the pics they posted on the slide ~ Their speech is touching and inspiring. And they really enjoy the working condition and keep moving forward.

  33. Zheng Kang says:

    The stop-motion style from Screen Novelties was unique and great. I am not good at making stop-motion animations. But I really enjoyed these artworks. I enjoyed the way they talk, move and performance, working together very well. Also I really like their aesthetic, sense of design, color and characters. It was so great and I really enjoyed looking at them.

  34. The guys from Screen Novelties leverage the magical math called synergy – where 1 +1 is greater than 2. And they enjoy its benefits of their collaboration (and cooperation,) by getting to run their own studio – and prioritizing playtime. They seem to have figured out how to have fun and get paid. It’s inspiring – and contagious, as I see similar synergy in many of the final projects.

  35. Eric Cheng says:

    I am not a stop motion guy, but I have known Screen Novelties for a long time, and I got a lot of fun to see their animation in seminar. I like they keep the texture and rough material in their film nor just pursue realistic feel like Laika.
    Also, their speech inspire me a lot on doing cooperative works.

  36. I hate to make a comment as snarky as “artisanal” for an animation company, but I definitely feel that with these guys. I always appreciate a studio that understands that some people LIKE the fact that something was crafted or homemade, even in the context of animation. It’s why South Park still has the cardboard texture or why the Muppets are still made of wool. Sometimes trying so hard to mask the aesthetic quality of a medium, you end up losing something. It’s like a painting where you can still see the sides of the canvas and know that it was handcrafted and not just scanned onto it. So I give a lot of credit of Screen Novelties staying committed to that playful artisanal (there’s that word again…) quality that stop motion can have.

  37. Li,Xia says:

    These guys are so cool. They make me feel this world full of endless possibilities.
    The most important thing I got from these guys is do whatever you want. think different.

  38. Yawen Zheng says:

    after I saw Screen Novelties’s animation, I totally Hooked. They successfully combined art and commerce, always been creative and enjoyable. This is a lovely studio. after the presentation, they came and had a look at our works, they gave me lots of advise and after that I decided to take the stop-motion class next semester.

  39. Reggie says:

    I enjoyed Screen Novelties’ presentation. What makes them standout is their love for great character design and fun character animation. I’m familiar with their work, and I’m always floored by their level of craft. The Flintstones’ short, the Krampus Christmas Card, and the Spongebob Christmas episode are some of the most charming work I have ever seen. While most people think of stop motion as having a creepy design, such as Henry Selick’s work and a handful of horror films, it’s cool to see very cartoony, stylized stop motion films, which Screen Novelties produce.

    I’m glad they shared their behind the scenes photos and production stories, including the collaboration with the late Ray Harryhausen. It’s amazing Chris, Mark, and Semus were able to follow their passion and build a small company around it. Their work and experience are inspiring.

  40. Ning Xu says:

    Glad I listen to so many insightful information about stop-motion industry. Chris Finnegan, Mark Caballero, and Seamus Walsh are very nice and generous. They are like the great mentor for me. I learned a lot in the seminar and I will keep learning from great animators like them.

  41. Simo Liu says:

    Screen Novelties’s stop motion films are very fun to watch. The characters they created are very fun and individual. I can see their passion to create animation and build company. Their works are very inspiring.

  42. Frank Gu says:

    Such a fantastic seminar. I love their stop motion work! I personally like their puppet design. Cool stuff ever!?

  43. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    Without Enthusiastic stop-motion animators, there won’t be great works to inspire people, and good luck to their company.

  44. Fan Feng says:

    Stop motion is a very big team work. A lot of thing to do. They are so good, really very good. They were so lucky , they found the right person to work with.

  45. this was a very interesting seminar. the screen novelties showed me a good way you should work as a team. the way the company started represents the kind of attitude we all should have as students/beginning animators. the thing that most influenced me was their peculiarity about their final work. by watching their animated pieces i really got inspired to make better animation myself

  46. this was a very refreshing seminar. I love it how they push stop motion to its extremes, using 2d for extreme poses for example. I also love the fact that they are so approachable and they actually took some time after the seminar to talk to us watch are reels and puppets and so on. That is the work environment I feel that I would feel great working in. Their humour is so dark and really makes me laugh. I am so happy there are so many inspiring things happening in stopmotion right now

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