Although the backgrounds are models they have the texture of a painting. “If they had been made to look like real rooms, which model maker Errol Bryant was quite capable of doing, the animators would not have been able to blend in the characters the way they did.”
The background models were shot at ‘The Film Company’ studio in London, with Ken Friswell as lighting director. “The scale of the sets was decided by doing some line-ups in the studio to find the most manageable size in terms of the miniaturisation of props coupled with the flexibility of camera movement,” explains Friswell. “We settled on a room size around two-and-a- half feet deep.
The set was built as a complete house with the rooms in the correct relationship to one another. They did cheat by having five rooms, whereas the house looks like a normal two-up, two-down type from the outside. It was built exactly to Raymond Brigg’s book which had a middle room where Jim built the shelter. “When Raymond produced the book he did not sit down and design the house as an architect would. Why should he? We thought he may have based it on his own house but when we visited there it turned out not to be so,” comments Turner.
Peter Turner and Ken Friswell go back a long way together. When Turner started in special effects at Pinewood in 1957 Friswell was already there. The use of stop-motion animation was an essential part of special effects photography. “We don’t consider it as stop-motion work, we see it as just another technical approach to whatever problem we may have,” says Friswell. “When we are shooting miniature work one section may be stop-motion, there could be a section at ultra high speed and another with normal shooting. It is simply another method to achieve your objective. Each part has to be compatible with what went before, you shouldn’t be able to pick it out. We shot the models for When The Wind Blows on single frame although people are surprised when we tell them this because the camera-work is so smooth.”
The Mitchell camera used on the background shoot is very old, it came from Pine-wood originally. It is a hybrid Bell/Mitchell containing a clapper gate with positive four-pin registration. It is as steady as a rock. Friswell has made as many as seventy-two passes on one piece of film with this camera, running backwards and forwards seventy-two times to create a multiple effects shot in the camera.