A mom gets her son a very special present for his birthday, though it’s not exactly the present she’d planned! ‘The Champ,’ by Rosemary Travale, is a fun stop-motion film created as her thesis for her last year in the Sheridan Animation Program. The felt puppets she created for the film are cheeky and vibrant, and though the film is brief, her clever use of set design and characterization define a world in which you can imagine the characters living beyond the scope of the film itself:

I could easily watch an entire series of shorts with these characters. Their proportions and expressions are suggestive of a Saturday morning cartoon show, while the stop-motion techniques lend the animation an air of reality. The way Rosemary constructed the boy’s room with all the posters and fan art of Brent show an obsession that goes far beyond the scope of the project, suggesting this small piece is part of a larger world. The characters she created are so expressive that they feel larger than the film itself; The excitement of the boy (both before and after being beaten up) is palpable, and the way a frothing Brent shows up uninvited in the boy’s room demonstrates a fun internal logic that would make for a very entertaining series. I caught up with Rosemary to ask her a little bit about her work:

Rosemary Travale's The Champ Brent Design

Where did the inspiration for ‘The Champ’ come from?

I’m a big professional wrestling fan, actually! I love the ridiculous high action drama that comes out of it and just wanted to make a film that was fun and would keep me excited since I had to spend a year developing it for my final thesis at Sheridan.

The characters and setting of your film are very vibrant. Can you speak a little bit about the process that went in to the design of the film?

Thank you! Since a big part of this film is a little kid getting the snot beat out of him, I wanted to keep the aesthetic really cartoony and friendly to sort of combat that. I wanted it to come across as silly and funny, a larger than life story with larger than life characters to match. When I first started working out the characters I went with a basic shape to work off of. Large triangle for Brent, rectangle for mom, a little oval for Damien, and a big circle for the Ref. Then just through research and more drawing they developed into what they are. Brent is really inspired by a few specific WWE wrestlers; Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H. The bedroom is based off of the one I had as a kid! Same blue walls, and one covered in posters, though it wasn’t limited to wrestlers.

How long did the project take from beginning to end?

The project was my 4th year thesis film in the B.A. Animation program at Sheridan College. I started working out the idea in August so I could apply for a stop motion studio space at Sheridan, which I thankfully received. Then September to mid December focused on story and character development, as well as the majority of puppet prop and set fabrication and then the rest of fabrication continued in January and moved into animation and post production. The final cut of the film was finished around the start of April.

Who are your artistic influences?

There’s so many! It’s hard to narrow it down really! But I will mention a book that had a huge impact on me as a kid and still to this day: ‘Walt Disney Imagineering: A behind the dreams look at making the magic real’. It’s all about how the Disney Parks are designed, the staging and story telling that goes into every little detail down to things like wall paper patterns. I just poured over those pages as a kid. It’s probably the first thing that really made me realize that I could spend my life making things that other people could enjoy.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on some stop motion projects for JibJab Media and I’ve got a couple personal projects I’m developing as well.

Do you have any advice for aspiring stop-motion animators?

Don’t be afraid to do it! I learned so much from the actual DOING on this project and it’s an awesome thing to be able to see your work improve and come together. It’s easy to just sit on a project forever and keep changing and ‘perfecting’ it, but that doesn’t help you in the long run. Just get going and make the thing you want to make! Once it’s done you can make the next project even better.

I really enjoy your work and look forward to seeing more of it in the future!

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking some time to check out my film!

For a deeper look at how the film was made, check out the making of video below. You can view more or Rosemary’s work on her website or follow her on Twitter.