Prepare to enter the realm of the imagination

The story of a mortal’s dream struggle with the gods was Paul Hanson’s choice for his first amateur animated film. Three years, 1800 cels and 50 background paintings later he had a 14 minute film with lip sync and a multitude of special effects. Paul tells us how he did it.

Paul Hanson.

The majority of amateur animation films have tended to use animation as a comic medium. Dreamscape is an attempt to portray a serious and in some parts even dramatic story. By serious I do not mean real life situations, as there is no point in animating a subject which could just as easily be filmed in live action. This film is pure fantasy; I have always felt that animation has great potential in this area.

I had originally decided to call the film “Dream world of the nightmare” but as the title nightmare had previously been used in a recent amateur film I searched for another title. The film basically concerns two gods entering a mortals dream and battling for the possession of his mind. The characters were therefore travelling through the landscape of a dream, so an appropriate title seemed to be “Dreamscape”. It appears that I was not alone in thinking this a good title, for a month after completing the film, to my amazement a professional film was released with the same title!

The film took a total of three years to make using 1800 cels and 50 background paintings. The total running time is 14 minutes. It was not the original intention to make a film of this length but it grew in the making.

The basic story was written and a storyboard drawn up, but as I began working on the animation, different visual ideas sprung to mind which seemed to fit neatly into place in the original story, so a revised storyboard was made which became the final basis of the film.
This was my first attempt at animation, it was therefore essential to do some pencil tests before transferring the drawings onto cels. It would have been too much to pencil test all the animation, so I selected key sequences sufficient to give guidance on difficulties I may
encounter on the whole film, this totalled 50 feet. Seeing the drawings come to life for the first time gave me the encouragement needed to continue, and it was then that I discovered the most difficult thing to animate is a walk. Even in the completed film the heroine walks with a slight limp (and that’s before she does battle with the villain!). The main characters are realistic people, but there is a lack of books giving any guidance on how to animate realistically. The books of Eadweard Muybridge help to fill this gap now but at the time these books were not available.

The background paintings had to convey the atmosphere of a dream. I used an airbrush for these because of its ability to create soft tones. It was particularly effective to create the hanging mist in the swamp scenes and the domed city of the gods where I wanted to create the impression of an immense futuristic city with pinpoints of light glowing through and catching highlights on the domed enclosure.

Super 8 camera on a rostrum.

The cels were done in the conventional way with the animated drawings traced in ink on the front and blocked in with acrylic paint on the back. This was the tedious part, at that stage I began to wish I hadn’t been so enthusiastic with the drawings, 1800 cels are a lot to paint but I did receive some help. One of the most difficult problems (apart from the amount of work!) was where to lay them out to dry, the answer is any flat surface available, but remembering to leave foot spaces on the floor so you can leave the room!

One day while sweating over a hot light box, I was listening to a Tangerine Dream album called Cyclone. The lyrics of one particular song seemed to fit so well with the subject matter of the film, I just had to use it. But it is a commercial record so there was no chance of the I.A.C. copyright licences covering it and the kind of fee the music publishers were sure to charge me I was sure would be beyond the realm of imagination! But nothing ventured nothing gained, so I drafted a letter explaining that I was an amateur film maker, the film was non-profit making and the only gain I may obtain from it would be any possible success in film competitions. I was greatly surprised to receive a reply granting permission for the use of the track for no fee on the understanding that the film was shown only to a non-fee paying audience.

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