Friday, 9 November 2012

The Little Match Girl Passion crowd animations

I've been working on some of the background animations for David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion that I'm making a live-animation for, commissioned by Opera North, and wanted to show you some of it.  I've only done a very rough edit so far - rough in terms of compositing, the visual side of it I'm happy with.  I mostly use animations in live shows to create skies, weather conditions, journeys - things that don't have actual people or animals in, and I was trying to justify why it was okay to have some things live and some things as filmed animations if there were people in the scenes, but to me I feel that the looping crowd scenes echo the looping text in the music, and I think its a way of saying to you as the viewer you can disregard these big groups of people as anything more important than all you see here, they are like the clouds going by, or the snow, repeating and never-ending, the brain gets the hang of a loop quite quickly I think and disengages if it looks like nothing is going to happen other than repetition, so I will be able to then puppet the main character  - the match girl - live in front of these crowds.  Its her story, it happens to be happening right now as we tell this story, whereas there will always be a crowd, the city is a never ending loop of anonymous people.  Maybe I need to condense those sentences down a bit if I want to try and talk about this again, haha, but I hope you understand what I mean.

I'm working in charcoal for this, it has a dirty and dusty quality that feels suitable, kind of like I'm drawing with her burnt out matches, and actually when I opened the packet, i'd not bought this variety before, it looked like a little prop from a puppet film for her matches . . .

I was inspired to work this way watching William Kentridge's films.  I'm sure other people work this way too, but I haven't seen anyone else with such a confident rawness.   The basic technique is to draw an image, take a shot, erase it and draw the next image over the top, and as you erase each image and move forward it leaves behind a ghostly trace of the sequence.

And also as bits of charcoal crumble off (if you are working on a horizontal flat surface) they build up nicely around where the crowd's feet are supposed to be and look like footprints and dirty snow.

In my head I was trying to live in the worlds of Edward Gorey,  Joel Stewart and Lemony Snicket, which would be a strange but fun world. . . .

Here is a rough edit of the film:


  1. What a beautiful piece of work - love the rawness of it. Also could I ask you if there's any chance you will be coming down to Devon to do some performances in the near future as I would love to come and see a show! :-)

    1. Thanks so much Caroline, I really appreciate that, glad you like my work! I have been trying to get a show down to exeter for a while, but it's not looking likely for a few months . . . soon though i hope! if you want to join my mailing list email me at then i can let you know if we do bring a show down there

      thanks for saying nice things!

  2. Thank you so much for your kind reply. Have just emailed you. :)