by Edgar A. Poe's poem Annabel Lee, Poe himself comes to life through
the magic of stop-motion animation. Annabel Lee is quintessential Poe-
a haunted soul, a lost love and the nocturnal grave-quest. The epic
quality of this Orphic adventure includes expressionist visions of a
lone figure on a journey through a nightmarish landscape in order to
be re-united with his lost love...but first he must overcome the wrath
of the "Envious Angels" that ruined his world! This thrilling tale will
make you believe...even a puppet can love.
Stop-motion animation was the most logical choice of mediums because
you can create the illusion of life in any object. The goal was to create
characters that people would believe were real -- to create a world
beyond normal understanding, but to give the impression of a real place
-- and to transport the audience there for 20 minutes, to be a part
of that world and to feel for the characters. Stop-motion allowed for
this and more.
The medium itself has an inherently creepy feel to it. It's uncanny
and disturbing to watch puppets move on their own. With the medium itself
creating this aesthetic, Annabel Lee took this to the limit with specific
"horrific" visuals from the Poe Puppet's tortured mind, designed to
enhance this experience. It has a nightmare-quality that cannot be duplicated
in any other art form, including computer graphics. While computer images
may be designed with horrific elements, the fluidity is more dreamy
Annabel Lee owes a great debt stylistically to the early cinematic period
of German Expressionism and its short-lived avant-garde cousin American
Expressionism. The idea of "psychic acoustics," that is that the environment
taking on the characteristics of the protagonist's anguished mental
state, was found to be very inspiring and visually dynamic. Edvard Munch
(The Scream) is probably the best known painter that used that technique.
When the Poe Puppet was sculpted, both his works and those of Ivan Albright
(The Picture of Dorian Gray) were on the workbench. Other painters that
inspired the look of Annabel Lee include Beksinski, Bosch, Bacon, and
many Symbolist and Romantic artists, including Bocklin and Friedrichs.
Through "creative evolution," with the addition of high-key theatrical
lighting effects, all of these influences have been synthesized into
the style of the film, referred to as "Neon - Gothic!"
Annabel Lee (20 min.) is currently making
the worldwide journey to international film festivals, while seeking
distribution along the way. By visiting www.poepuppet.com, one can keep
up with its progress and get glimpses into the long process that went
into the creation of Edgar A. Poe's Annabel Lee.
Author: Edgar A. Poe (1809-1849) was an American poet, short
story writer, journalist and critic. He is most remembered for his classic
macabre tales of insanity and morbid obsessions. Annabel Lee was his
final poem, published posthumously within one month of his mysterious
The Voice: The Poe Puppet voice is that
of Jim Knipfel,
the author of
QUITTING THE NAIROBI TRIO. He's currently a staff writer at
NEW YORK PRESS. While attending a reading from Mr. Knipfel's book
SLACKJAW, director George Higham was so struck by his unique vocal talents
that he approached him to help bring the Poe Puppet to life which he
The Music: Bill Warford and Pat Gillis
are Northern Machine. The high Gothic melodrama of Annabel Lee's soundtrack
has taken them far afield from their industrial/ambient/ethno/space
music roots. Irrespective, it is somewhat of a return to the time when
Gillis supplied his classmates with music, sound effects and location
recordings while studying at New York City's School of Visual Arts.
Their music is available from
HC3 and draws from such diverse influences as Brian Eno, Cabaret
Voltaire, Marc Bolan, Throbbing Gristle, Tangerine Dream and Albert
Hofmann. To date, they have released two CDs and are looking forward
to completing another by the end of this year.
The Technique: Stop-motion animation is
the longest, most labor-intensive form of filmmaking ever created! It
works on the principle of persistence of vision, an optical phenomena
that causes the viewer to retain an image in their mind for a fraction
of a second after viewing it. That's the basis of viewing any film,
actually, but it is utilized in the creation of a stop-motion movie.
Normal film is projected at 24 frames per second, each frame being a
still image. Normally, you expose 24 frames per second while shooting.
With stop-motion, you expose one frame at a time, just like taking images
with a still camera. However, after you take one still, you manipulate
the puppet or object a fraction of an inch, then step back and take
another frame. 24 of these actions will give you one second of screen-time.
If you have several characters interacting, they have wings and you're
moving the camera ...you can imagine the concentration needed to maintain
the shot! Annabel Lee was shot using a Bolex camera on 16mm film, utilizing
this process. All of the post-production work was done digitally, in
order to take advantage of the numerous effects and compositing available
in that format