Last year, while taking a children’s book illustration class at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, GA, Denise Plauché got her first chance to experiment with animation. “Typically, this class involves producing a book of ten illustrations,” she says, “but professor Julie Mueller-Brown, after discovering the work of illustrator Takahiro Kimura and animator Rui Miyoshi, asked our class if any of us were interested in trying our hand at an animated piece. Little did she know that indie animation had been a dream of mine since childhood that had gotten buried along the way. I leapt at the chance.” The result: a 3:20 reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glassthat was later named a winner of the first annual International Motion Art Awards.“I based my animation on a series of static illustrations I had done in an earlier class,” says Plauché.
International Motion Art Awards
Alice Through the Looking Glass
By Denise Plauché
“As a child, I liked Disney films, and I watched the Saturday morning TV cartoon schlock, like the rest of my generation,” says Denise Plauché. “However, it was while watching Zoom, a unique educational TV program that first aired in the 1970s and was later revived, that I first saw animated shorts produced by kids, with their own stories and drawings. I had to know how they did it.” She learned the basics of animation from books and made paper cutout figures that she imagined animating. But, she says, she knew her parents weren’t going to buy a movie camera with stop-motion capabilities. “I just pretended to make my own animated films,” she says.
A Louisiana native, Plauché went on to become an illustrator and graphic designer but never lost her desire for animation. It was while taking a course on illustrating children’s books at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, where she is pursuing an MFA, that Plauché finally got her chance to realize her dream.
“Typically, this class involves producing a book of ten illustrations,” she says, “But professor Julie Mueller-Brown, after discovering the work of illustrator Takahiro Kimura and animator Rui Miyoshi, asked our class if any of us were interested in trying our hand at an animated piece. I leapt at the chance.”
As the subject of her animation project, Plauché looked to what is perhaps the most famous piece of children’s literature in the English language—Lewis Carroll’s Alicestories. For an earlier illustration course, Plauché created a series of static illustrations based on Carroll’s tales. These became the basis for her 3:20 motion piece.
“Like a lot of my current illustration work, these consisted of Photoshop collages made up of watercolor/colored-pencil renderings and textured papers, which are easily imported as layers into Adobe After Effects,” says Plauché. “This was my first attempt at using After Effects, so rather than start with a storyboard, I just dove in and started animating the layers. As I taught myself the program, the project grew organically into a series of vignettes loosely based on the stories. I felt the layered Photoshop illustrations would lend themselves to an imitation of cutout-style animation, with its somewhat limited quirky movements, which is enhanced by an overlay of blank vintage footage.”
For a soundtrack, Plauché used an old recording of 1930s-era tango music that she had stumbled upon. “It completes the mood of poignant nostalgia,” she says.