Robert Duncan completes his four minute epic, and makes Ben Hur look like a short story…

DSC06435Soundtrack time, and my friend Tim Rice had agreed to do the voiceover – but he is a busy man and it was difficult to pin him down. So I made the earth shattering decision to narrate it myself. I spent a very satisfying few hours at Black Frog Studios under the kindly and patient direction of Steve, and came away with a pretty good vocal track. No music. No effects. But more of that later…

Back to Alan for yet another day of experimenting with techniques. In our business life he very often films me drawing mono cartoons and then makes the results go at ever changing speeds to fit the dialogue. So the section of the Jumblies when Edward Lear lists the things they picked up on the island covered in trees ( An owl and a useful cart, and a pound of rice and a cranberry tart, and a hive of silvery bees…) was home territory for us. Alan’s filming of this is totally faultless – every object is being drawn just as it is mentioned vocally, and the camera pulls out in a random way to frame every element perfectly.

More problems…the poem demands that the sieve goes round and round (and everyone cried
‘You’ll all be drowned…’) and I found it difficult mastering the inter-relationship of the four Jumblies, their tobacco pipe mast and their crockery jar. So I came up with an answer as I lay awake at about 3.30 in the morning. I made a clay model of the sieve and its contents, and took twenty four photographs of it revolving. I then traced the resulting pictures and voila! (or something…) Job done. That took care of ten seconds. Alan then placed them on a piece of film of the sea that I had taken with my iPhone, and for about the hundredth time showed off his talent, commitment and patience by moving the resulting spinning sieve to follow the flow of the waves. We decided we should use the drawings in their transparent state and not colour them, because otherwise it would appear as a rather bad bit of animation as opposed to a simple sketch idea. Happy with that, we decided to use the drawings again in a flick book. I made this out of photocopies and, amazingly, we filmed it in one take.

We were flying now. The Jumblies wrapped their feet in pinky paper all folded neat, so we did just that – me drawing the feet on pinky paper and then folding it up. We dragged on pieces of lined paper and used them at angles over the main scene. We screwed them up and pushed them away. We used paper with the serrations you get when you tear it off a wiro-binding. We even drew a section on an iPad but it never made the final edit because we didn’t think it was quite in the spirit of the thing.

In short, we drew and filmed loads of material, using every visual gimmick we could think of, and gradually assembled what we considered to be the best bits. Walt Disney probably did the same thing…

With the visuals nearly ready we set about adding sound effects to the narration. Lots of thunder and splashing waves. A coppery gong that Alan found seemed ideal for the bit that demanded a coppery gong. And all was complete, but sounded somewhat empty.

Music – that was the answer! A morning spent listening to library tracks left us unimpressed, and I finally had a golden moment… I remembered that I had bought an iPad app for two quid, with all the musical instruments you could possibly imagine. Trouble was, I hadn’t played a musical instrument since prep school, and then my piano sounded like a bad impersonation of Les Dawson. But what the hell? Let’s try it. After all, the Jumblies had sort of grown organically. Thorough examination of the app revealed that choral voices were a possibility, and could be played on a keyboard (which happened to be in the app) like any other instrument. “Keep it in fours” I said and, as Alan ran our movie, I played along in real time. Double tracking the result with percussion (which included whistles) completed the symphony. Thumping drums taking us through the end titles was the final icing.

Tim Rice said later that the music went well with the narrative. So there.

My darling wife Cathy, who knew I’d been missing for ages, but didn’t know what Alan and I were doing, was totally impressed with what we had produced, and came up with the idea of entering the Jumblies in film festivals. The amazing result is that we not only won a Diamond award at the IAC Film Festival, but we won Best Animation too. We went on to win awards in Colorado, Prague and St.Petersburg.

Are we chuffed? Damn right we are! We had a lovely weekend getting the IAC Award in
Chesterfield with Cathy and Alan’s fab wife Anne, and came back thinking the whole thing was
totally worth it… and what could we do with the Owl and the Pussycat?

Who knows?

Probably nothing – but I’ll try not to spill cider all over it…

Watch the Jumblies now. Bet you can’t wait: