Saturday, December 02, 2006

Toy Theatre meets the Future

Still from DVD - Click to enlarge
There has been recent discussions on the toy theatre group about an exciting development. Despite earlier discouragement, a way has been found to capture the small stage digitally in a manner worthy of it. From Paul Weighall of Pollock's Toy Museum comes this wonderful news:

The DVD of Ali Baba is indeed hopefully the first of a deluge.

It was made by Steve Arnott for Pollock's Toy Theatres and it is software powered technology (as opposed to manual stop frame) using characters cut from the Pollock's published play. The computer makes the movement and animates the play as per story line within the frame of a toy theatre proscenium.

The animation has smooth movements, object shadows, character voices played by different actor/actress, character highlighting, a small amount of music between scene changes and other good stuff. It's like watching a TT performance with one's nose stuck right upto the stage front. Marvelous!

Still from DVD - Click to enlarge
It looks just like a normal performance but without the slides. Ali Baba runs for 13 minutes and I am told took 3 days to complete. Now the basics are understood we of course hope to complete many more. Cinderella is already ordered and Blackbeard the Pirate should follow. After doing the popular shortened 1970 version plays we hope
to tackle the more difficult ones.

The DVD has two visual tracks, one for computer which will work anywhere and one for TV. We are therefore doing 2 DVD versions, one for USA TV (NTSC format) and Europe TV (PAL format).

With Hugo churning out beautifully coloured and mono versions of complete plays and play texts from hi-res digital scans, Pollock's selling a new range of hi-res scanned copies of old prosceniums and Steve also doing hi-res digital animations for plays, we are hopefully looking at a modest revival of English TT albeit in a modern format.

If all that sounds a bit salesy then I am sorry but having spent 3 years pushing in this direction I am rather pleased with the results. The cost of mass printing has stopped us making TT stuff for years now but we hope that with the reduced cost of scanning etc. we will be able to make available all the stuff that has been unavailable for ages due simply to demand being low and costs being high. As it costs about the same to do a play that is well known as a play that is not well known we think we can now offer the widest range of material some of which has not been seen for maybe 100 years or even more.

We may even do a couple of brand new plays…


I think it's simply marvelous that there has been found a way to innovate and make a way to popularize toy theatre into the future. Bravo to all involved!!