Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Flashbacks

Geoff Felix just sent me a picture of the two us hilariously soaked after hours under a toilet while filming Roger Rabbit!

Our tracksuits got soaked, and all they could come up with was paper suits (which got soaked - and anyway the water was running right up my sleeve!) OK, OK, it wasn't a real toilet, but the cold water that splashed every time 'Roger fell through the window' hit me every time!

Here's the story as I told it to T-Bone, a Star Wars fan:

T: What exactly did you do on Roger Rabbit? Tell me about that experience as a whole. It must have been quite exciting.

TP: Dave Barclay called me back from the top of a mountain in Spain, with yet another "state-of-the-art" job. He was the chief puppeteer, and put together a great puppet team of six versatile people whose job was to improvise solutions on the set. The SFX department had time and budget to work on effects. What we did was to dive in and find simple but effective methods of getting the shot. This is not the same as making a consistent method for live shows: get it in the can, and move on. Sometimes I would be above the set, manipulating live objects on "invisible" strings; sometimes hidden under a box, wobbling it when Roger jumped on; or in the ceiling (revolving a fan) when Roger was playing on it.

At one point Geoff Felix and I spent an afternoon with the second unit under a toilet! Roger came through the window, fell in, came up with a gun, then grabbed the toilet chain to pull himself up, and flushed himself away! Geoff had the gun on a wire, I had to spin and pull the chain with an invisible string. It’s been cut very short in the movie, but we spent hours down there, getting soaked. The crew gave us a round of applause at the end of that day!
Ian Tregonning; Toby Philpott; Christopher Leith -               (bottom row) Geoff Felix, David Barclay, Mike Quinn
Other days the puppeteers would be all together. The octopus barman is on screen for a split second, but all his props are real, and operated by marionette strings. Not having a reputation to lose (with string puppets) I was the first to try pouring real liquid from a bottle to a glass, but once I proved it could be done, that job went to the real marionette people. I lit the actress’s cigarette with a lighter (the supporting wires ran up to a battery, so I could both manipulate it AND light it!) My mixed background as puppeteer, juggler, acrobat and magician made me the go-for-it member of the team. The others were serious puppeteers – with specialized skills.


If interviews and such amuse you, you can find a compilation here, which is simply a tidied up version of the old interview page on the website.

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