After two years of working in fits and starts, I am very pleased to present "PeaceTime: A Royal Frog".
I got this idea a while back (2017-ish?) as an answer to the loud and obnoxious programming that is fed to kids, ad nauseum, through 24-hour cable and streaming video - yes, the stuff that pays my mortgage. I wrote the idea down in a sketchbook and let it ferment.
At some point, I talked about it with my old friend Winter Reign, a far-out progressive gal with two small kids and no TV. She loved it, somewhat surprised it came from such a Three Stooges loving, blue collar guy. She invited me to a Kundalini yoga class deep in the heart of Topanga Canyon. It seemed like a dare, and so I went.Class was held after work at a small studio in an old, out of the way strip mall I drove past twice before finding. As I opened the door, a quiet vibe hit me like I had broken through a membrane keeping the world of chaos at bay. There was no light save for candles arranged on the floor around a three foot tall gong in the back of the room. Apologetically, I closed the door as quickly and quietly as possible. Winter was already there, rolling her eyes at my Kramer-esque entrance. She guided me to where I could borrow a yoga mat. There was no changing room, so I had to take the class in the shirt and jeans I wore to work that day. I was batting 1.000!
I found a spot behind Winter and settled in. Two women in white linen robes sat cross legged in front of the candlelit gong display, Karina Guimaraes and Jess Lakin, our instructors. Winter glanced back to check on me, and I gave her my, "What the fuck have you dragged me into?" look. She suppressed a laugh and turned back to our robed instructors, who led us through a series of yoga poses that eventually had me cracking a sweat.
About an hour into class, Karina had us all lie flat on our backs, guiding us through a relaxation exercise. As she did so, a pulsating sound began to fill the room. Peeking, I saw Jess playing the gong in a way I had never heard before. The effect seemed synthesized, with pulses of sound layered over each other to create a "gong bath". Laying on the floor, I not only heard it, but could feel the vibration through my body. Then I began to see things through closed eyes. Abstract forms with intricate, colorful designs washed by like a stream in my head. I was tripping, but stone cold sober.
When it was over and the group sat recovering, Karina asked us about our experience.
"Do the gong again!" I blurted out from the back. They were kind enough not to throw me out.
The group mingled a bit after class over tea. Winter introduced me to Jess and urged me to tell her about "PeaceTime". Jess then told me of an exercise that she does with school children, and rattled off "A Royal Frog". I was blown away. I immediately asked if I could record her doing that.
I contacted Ian Rees, a film score composer who I have known since he was born, as he's the son of my good friends (and animation folk!) Jerry and Rebecca Rees. Ian has a studio behind his house where we recorded Jess. She did her entire piece, without a script, in one take - no edits. We recorded a second take, but didn't need it.
I set to animating in what used to be called Flash. It's now called Animate, but our relationship is still tempestuous. I animated the first minute, then put together a pitch and went around town trying to get it launched somewhere. I struck out. The project sat on back burner for about a year, then COVID happened. Instead of making bread or assembling puzzles, I finished the short.
Once finished, it was clear to me that I did not want to use sound effects, but representative music instead. I called Ian, who turned around a beautiful, heartwarming score in just a few days that brought a huge smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Everything suddenly came together as its own thing. Birth!
So what's next? More!