titus… the movie! look what we made!!!

I’m so lucky, I got to make a picture book with film director Anne Cottringer! (If you haven’t heard yet, it’s called When Titus Took the Train.) When Anne and I first met up, we mentioned that we’d always been hankering to try out hand at making a little stop-motion animation. So we did!

YouTube link

It’s for the official launch date of the Titus paperback, which is supposed to be on Thursday, but actually, you can already buy copies of it now. Please tell everyone about our little video, we spent waaay too long putting it together! (But it was such a laugh to make.)

Making Titus – We thought it was okay that our film was low-tech bits of cardboard and string because it matches up with the book: Titus sets off on what seems like it will be a mundane rail journey but as he’s writing and drawing little doodles in his journal, suddenly wild adventures start happening, and you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s coming out of his pencil and his vibrant imagination. So our film starts with me plucking a ukulele that Alex Milway left in our studio. (I don’t know how to play ukulele, as you can hear.) And then we push and prod bits of cardboard and paper and pull them around with string.

Anne rode the train from Hereford to my studio in an old police station in Deptford, where we filmed the animation on the top stairway landing. (Best light there, you see, and the studio itself is rather cluttered.) Amusingly, we turned up in almost exactly the same clothes (red top, grey trousers), which must be our Team Titus uniform. (You can read Anne’s version of the events here.)

Here’s Anne setting up her fancy-schmanzy camera.

I painted a bunch of stuff on cardboard before Anne arrived, but we had a lot of last-minute little tweaks and fiddles to make with scissors and pens. I think I’m cutting out a dinosaur eyeball here.

Here’s our pile of animation stuff.

Anne brought a big piece of black velvet to use as a backdrop and we marked the edges of the video with bits of masking tape.

Here’s the scene from the book where a big boulder comes hurtling toward the train. Except we thought it would be funny to have everything happening just to Titus, like we were trying to take him out. (Evil creators, we are!) Of course, Titus triumphs at the end. We even had a little voiceover thing we were going to do, but then it seemed better without.

Here’s a Titus with no eyeballs. I cut them out of paper so we could move them around.

I did a lot of scuffling around on the floor while Anne filmed.

Here’s the terrifying T-Rex. I think he actually looks rather sweet. I still have him stuck up on the wall of my studio, above my desk.

Here’s what he looks like on screen. (We tried to make the burp noise ourselves, but our burps were too wimpy, not a hardcore T-Rex belch, so we had to get one off the internet.)

The T-Rex also has moving eyeballs, since he can’t do much with his jaws other than flash his teeth about.

It took ages to film the bit where the train bashes through all the title lettering and sends it flying. We had to stop the camera loads of times to push the tiny letters just a bit further away from the train, and the whole time I was just guessing what they’d look like in motion. I think it came out looking pretty cool, though. We forgot to move a little ‘e’ and it hung around looking lonely, but Anne took it out in Photoshop.

Anne did all of the editing because she knows how to use Final Cut Pro. I had fun watching and learning a little bit about fitting an animation together frame by frame. SO much of the time goes into the editing, Anne only finished part of it that day. Then we mucked around with a ukulele and whatever we could find lying around to make a few other sound effects. I think I dropped a whole stack of Beano magazines to make the boulder sound, but I’m not sure if that’s the one Anne used.

And then we celebrated at the end! We went to my favourite café in Deptford called Panda Panda and ordered fruity Hong Kong bubble teas. (They’re basically fruit juice with strange oval gummy sweets in the bottom that feel strange when they come shooting up through the straw.) Hurrah for us! A good day’s work.

HEY! You can download a free Titus adventure board game from my website here! And go read Anne Cottringer’s write-up about our day of making Titus, the Movie!

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