Sunday, November 9, 2014

Stop Motion Nightmares: An Interview w/ Claymation Virtuoso Lee Hardcastle

Lee Hardcastle is my hero. For those not in the know, Hardcastle makes wonderfully gory claymation horror films. Sometimes originals, sometimes spoofs on classic horror movies, tv shows, and other pop culture, his creations have garnered him accolades and acclaim from around the world. Lee Hardcastle began claymation full-time in 2010 after online success with a little claymation titled The Evil Dead in 60 Seconds. The following year he sold all his belongings to support an unpaid career and created short films that screened at Cannes and won a place in the feature film ABCs Of Death. He's gone on to work with Momentum Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sufjan Stevens, Kill The Noise, Portugal The Man. He has been a finalist on more than one occasion for the Empire Awards, an annual British awards ceremony honoring cinematic achievements in the local and global film industry.

Courtesy of Skwigly Online
Animation Magazine
Other notable achievements include the video Pingu's The Thingin which the beloved European children's stop motion television penguin Pingu re-enacts the the infamous 80s horror movie, skittering severed head and all. This landed him in trouble with Pingu but also garnered him praise by John Carpenter. His fan film Claycat's The Raid was included on the movie's international home video release. Most recently, he received the 2013 MTV Clubland Music Video of Year award for Kill The Noise.

Hardcastle is not only amazing at making claymation films, he does an incredible job intertwining claymation with live action. For example, he took Mark Zuckerberg's Ice Bucket Challenge video and swapped the water for a bucket of acid. I giggled like a schoolgirl as I watched Zuckerberg's head melt. And, you absolutely have to watch the hilarious Mario vs. Pokemon: Game Boy Movie. It will be the first video shown below. Or, if you want to watch a creepy short film Hardcastle did that doesn't play up the laughs, check out There's Something in the Attic

Thankfully, Lee Hardcastle was willing to take sometime out of his busy schedule to do an interview with us! After reading, if you would like to explore more of Hardcastle's world on your own, I suggest his YouTube Channel, Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Q: Do you remember the first claymation video you ever made? What was it about? What was the death count?
Hardcastle: I'd experimented with stop motion long ago but the first full on experience was when I was at Uni I got super creative with some software and little action figures one night. It was incredible how easy it was and how cool the results were! The body count was 4 and you can see it here.

Q: I love that some of your female characters are hilariously portrayed by men. How many of the voices do you perform?
Hardcastle: I've always done them myself, really. I mean, I was never aiming for awards or critical acclaim when I made a lot of the videos that went on my YouTube channel. I was doing them for people to discover and enjoy. Female actresses for female parts happens when I'm attempting something more ambitious. When I'm being ambitious, I try to avoid doing any voices all together and use myself as a last resort. In context, my voice works, it's funny! I have a ridiculous accent.

Q: Which are you more proud of…being perhaps the only animator ever to fight off a zombie with a giant red dildo or being the first to disembowel Santa Claus in an indie rock video?
Hardcastle: The dildo. The Santa Claus gag wasn't my idea. Sufjan Stevens scripted that video. In fact, his script was a 10 minute video. There was LOADS of gags and violence in it and the song is only 2 minutes. So, I condensed his 10 min script into 2 minutes.

Q: You brilliantly spoof a lot of horror flicks. What are some of your favorite scary movies?
Hardcastle: John Carpenter's The Thing, Candyman, The Blair Witch Project, Alien 3, Jaws - I mean, this list is without going outside the limits of films I find 'scary' and absolutely adore. There's not that many more movies beyond that list. The last scary movie I had a lot of fun watching was Sinister, I really enjoyed that one.

Q:  How cathartic was it to melt Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s face with acid?
Hardcastle: I like the film Social Network and Mark's story and his success is incredible. I'm a bit envious like a lot of people, sure. But I only did it because there was this ice bucket craze and he seemed to be the guy that kicked it off. I dunno? But, I just thought it'd be funny and topical.

Q:  I really couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the Hamster Hell video, especially the opportunistic caught in the tape sequence. How many dreadful ideas did you come up with but decided not to use?
Hardcastle: None, I don't think. The idea was really beautiful in my mind for this character to be a perfectly normal kid behind a closed door. He's not evil or disturbed. He's a normal young human being. So, the ideas were never about gory details and senseless violence. Most of the ideas that ended up in the film are from real stories I'd heard while in high school. I heard loads of animal horror stories but they were never really evil stories, just sort of, "I put my hamster in a sock because I wanted it him to feel g-force" or "I build a house out of card and tape for my hamster, I woke up the next morning and the hamster was stuck to the tape."

Q:  Your version of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” featuring beloved children’s television character Pingu lead the horror master himself to tweet “Better than the original…?” What was Team Pingu’s reaction?
Hardcastle: I actually got an email from a guy who works on Pingu and he loved it and was impressed! He sent me photographs of the behind the scenes and the sets and stuff! But the owners of the Pingu brand were understandable pissed off and went all medieval on the video.

Q:  I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. All of my friends think I am poop obsessed, but I look like a rank amateur compared to you. Is there anything funnier than toilet humor?
Hardcastle: Yeah, sure there is! But toilets are awesome and it's a cool place to set a story.

Q: Will there ever be a triumphant return of Claycat?!
Hardcastle: Not at the minute, there is zero plans, I have thought about it but I'm trying to move forward and Claycat never gained enough demand to continue doing more.

Q:  Unicorns….or Narwhals? Who would win in a fight?
Hardcastle: Don't fight, make love. Peace.

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