Do you remember the regrettable tale of the world’s last major motion picture that utilized 1:6 scale “puppetry” in lieu of real, live human actors? We’re referring, of course, to 2010’s box office BOMB— Jackboots on Whitehall (JOW); a film that then, as now, was universally derided for its amateurish attempts at humor and the almost oppressive DULLNESS of its screenplay.
Well, Good News, 1:6 Scalers! Now you can take whatever money you saved by not buying a copy of Jackboots, and apply it instead, towards a ticket to see Anomalisa; a fascinating, delightful and touching 1:6 scale animated film, that is head-n-shoulders above Jackboots in every possible way.
Decidedly Different— Unlike the abysmal 2010 1:6 scale film, Jackboots in Whitehall, in which explosions and special effects were the focus and di regueur of the film, Anomalisa, by contrast, is completely and utterly character-driven. In fact, while the film’s backgrounds and sets add superb believability and visual context to each scene, viewers will tune all that out, focusing instead, on the touching and emotional lives of its 1:6 scale humans. (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
In our 2015 review and analysis of Jackboots (see article HERE), we discussed in detail how that film’s dreadful screenplay and scattershot 1:6 scale puppet quality all contributed to its calamitous—yet predictable—failure at the box office. At that time, we acknowledged how incomprehensible it seemed (to us) that ANY film using 1:6 scale action figures (or “puppets”) and costing $6 million dollars to make, could go on to gross a mere $20,776. In fact, the financial failure of Jackboots had been SO bad, the prospects for future 1:6 scale films appeared to be slim—to none.
Careful!— Posing (and remembering) each incremental second of action in a 1:6 scale film requires intense concentration, skill and dedication. Simply exiting an elevator in Anomalisa required MANY hours to stage and film convincingly. Note too, the filmmaker’s use of a variety of realistic (non-Barbie doll style) body types. Absolutely Out-STANDING attention to detail! (Photo: Paramount Animation)
Thankfully… MANY lessons were learned from Jackboots tragic and utter failure. And we can happily report that the creators of Anomalisa, co-directors, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson have deftly and expertly avoided ALL of JOW’s pitfalls. Their new film is superbly character-driven, inspirational AND entertaining. Of course, for us 1:6 scalers, it’s especially exciting to see someone else pick up the mantle of 1:6 scale filmmaking and prove that stop-motion films (in this scale) can indeed be made to be both entertaining and financially successful.
Parts, Parts, Parts— This prop room photo of the film’s collection of body parts will look VERY familiar to any collector of 1:6 scale action figures. (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
It’s all in the Details— With cameras photographing from only inches away, prop masters need to carefully check every little detail before a shot. (Photo: Paramount Animaton) Click to enlarge.
Lighting is Crucial— You can have the best scale sets in the world, but scenes like this airport exterior would fall flat without all the tiny added details created by effective lighting. Note the glow from the streetlight, both near and far away, the car’s headlights and the building in the distance showing glowing windows with curtains and little blue roof lights. Even the airport terminal building shows the correct (i.e. less “warm”) coloring of drab, florescent lighting. WOW! (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
Posing Figures? No Problem!— With all the years of experience 1:6 scalers and Joeheads have with posing action figures, it seems that we’d be able to easily get jobs working as prop masters on some of these labor-intensive 1:6 scale animated movies. HA! (Photo: Paramount Animation)
Build your sets up on TABLES— Utilizing a method that would benefit many 1:6 scale diorama projects, the production designers (John Joyce, pictured above) placed many of their sets on easily accessible tables. That saves a lot of wear and tear on your knees! (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
It Takes a Director’s Eye— To properly “frame a shot,” director Duke Johnson has to get down in close and imagines what the scene would look like in real life in order to recreate it convincingly at 1:6 scale. (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
Having a Drink Together— The two main characters of Anomalisa get to know each other over a quiet drink in the film’s superb 1:6 scale recreation of a hotel bar. Imagine all the scenarios you could recreate with an outstanding diorama like this. WOW! (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
Working in a World of Miniature— The creators of Anomalisa surrounded themselves with the multitude of props and specialized equipment required to create their amazing 1:6 scale film. (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
The Men to Thank— Co-Directors Charlie Kaufman (left) and Duke Johnson (right) on the set of Anomalisa. Fans of 1:6 scale owe these two gentlemen a great deal of thanks for helping to keep the unique genre of 1:6 scale filmmaking alive. (Photo: Paramount Animation) Click to enlarge.
Bottom Line: Fans of 1:6 scale (and GIjOEs in particular) continue to dream of a special sort of 1:6 scale animated GIjOE film, possibly Adventure Team-themed, perhaps along the lines of the classic 1960s Jonny Quest cartoons. But until such a film is made (if it ever is), we highly recommend that you check your local theater listings for showings of Anomalisa so as to (financially) reward all of Kaufman and Johnson’s hard work. Finally, here’s another video that has some good shots of Anomalisa’s various body molds, head sculpts, props and costumes, which will give you a better idea of the superb artistry required to create the 1:6 scale “puppets” in this amazing film. Enjoy!