Introducing the Octopus Project's Exquisite Corpse

The Austin Motion Artists Group frankensteins up a new music video

Just one frame in a wildly animated body of work
Just one frame in a wildly animated body of work

The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine, as the Surrealists discovered back in 1920s Paris. In these modern Texas times, though, it's more about the beer.

Travis Benn and Ryan Padgett, main instigators of the Austin Motion Artists Group, have teamed up with intrepid music outfit the Octopus Project to provide a challenge and a creative opportunity for local animation studios: Make an animated video for an Octopus Project song – one 12-second segment at a time, with one segment per studio, and with none of the studios knowing what the others might do – and all of it's got to be finished within 48 hours. Then: string all those segments together for one complete sequence. It's the creative gambit called Exquisite Corpse, although, classically, it was done with words or static drawings. But this is the 21st century, after all; and they're calling it an "anijam."

An animation jam, you see?

"The idea isn't original," admits Benn, an animator at Houndstooth Studio, one of this event's sponsors. "But what makes ours unique is the 48-hour aspect of it. There have been anijams before. There's one that's about 15 minutes long, called 'Anijam,' that came out in 1984. Ralph Bakshi was a part of it – it's really wacky, with this yellow guy running around and doing rude things. And a really cool one just happened in London with studios collaborating over the course of three or four months; it was about a superhero, and they did his birth, his childhood, his teenage years, his midlife, and then his death. It flowed together seamlessly."

That's the sort of goodness the AMAG social network is currently setting the stage – er, screen – for. "This anijam is our second public event," says Benn. "We did a thing at South by Southwest last year, a kind of a forum where local artists presented their work. And people who were here for South By came in and listened and drank beer. So for this second event, we wanted to do a more collaborative thing, and somebody at one of our meetups mentioned that Octopus Project would be cool to work with. So we got in touch with them, and they were all about it.

"So on Friday the 17th, we're gonna meet at Moontower VFX, the visual-effects studio that's playing host for everyone. As of right now we've got 15 teams, and we're literally going to hand everyone a USB drive, and each drive has a start-frame and an end-frame and a 12-second piece of audio."

"Each segment's actually four bars of music," says Padgett, a freelancer currently working with mobile app developer Chaotic Moon.

"And they'll animate to that," says Benn, "starting with the one frame and ending with the last one."

"Anything they wanna do," says Padgett. "From hand-drawn all the way up to 3-D animation, as long as it's within the general theme."

"And it has to be back by Sunday night at 8 o'clock," says Benn. "And then we're gonna take all those pieces and plug them into the computer and line them up."

Says Padgett, "In addition to contributions from Travis and me and Moontower and the Octopus Project people – they're also one of the animating teams – the other participants so far are Dustin Scott and Michael Ricks, Geoff Marslett, Diego Hernandez, and Niall Farrell."

"And Nick Walker of Zoticus," says Benn. "And Stephen Fishman, Wiley Wiggins, and Ryan Gallet."

"And then we're gonna screen the video during a little wrap party," says Padgett. "We'll have some beer, some snacks – and that's gonna be at Moontower. They have a lounge, a little screening room, and so ..."

And so, reader, if you want to see what comes of such odd collaboration, of this traditional process with a modern twist, animate yourself over to Moontower VFX (4600 Mueller Blvd. #1001) on Sunday, Jan. 19, at 8pm and witness what the AMAG and friends hath wrought.

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