Wayne the Stegosaurus
Tiny brain, dinosaur-sized heart.
We talked with “Wayne the Stegosaurus” poet Kenn Nesbitt and The Mill’s creative team of filmmakers.
Interview with Kenn Nesbitt, Children’s Poet Laureate
by Alicia Cole
What was your inspiration for “Wayne the Stegosaurus?”
I wish I could tell you that there was some spark of insight or serendipitous event that inspired “Wayne the Stegosaurus,” but the answer is a lot more prosaic than that. I was commissioned to write a series of six poems for three English-language textbooks for Oxford University Press Mexico. The theme for the fourth-grade textbook was dinosaurs. They asked me to write one poem about a stegosaurus and his small brain, and another about a cowardly t-rex. So “Wayne the Stegosaurus” was simply my interpretation of their idea.
What do you feel is the role of poetry in education, particularly for reluctant readers?
I could go on for days on this subject, but I’ll try to give you the short version. The hallmark of good poetry is its ability—through heightened and condensed language—to evoke an emotional response in the reader, usually in a matter of just a few pages, or even a few stanzas or lines. For children, this means that they read just a page or two and get a positive emotional reward. This encourages them to turn the page and continue reading. Reading poetry becomes a kind of treasure hunt; children discover quickly that each page has it’s own reward, and that poetry books are meant to be explored and savored.
For reluctant readers, poetry is especially useful. Children who may be daunted by the prospect of reading several hundred pages will gladly read a page or two of poetry. And when they find that poem was fun to read, they will turn the page and read another, and another until the entire book is done.
What was the experience of having your poem made into a motionpoem?
I’m honored that Motionpoems chose my work to animate. I really didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t see anything until the motionpoem was nearly complete. Needless to say, I was floored by the result. I’m so impressed by every aspect of the production; the reading, the animation, the sound design are all so good I can hardly believe this many creative people put all that work into bringing my little poem to life.
What’s your favorite children’s poem and why?
I don’t know that it’s possible to pick a single favorite children’s poem when there are so many amazing poems to choose from. But, if I were forced to pick just one, I suppose it would have to be Eugene Field’s “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.” It brings me to tears every time I read it, and that is a sure sign of a very, very good poem.
Interview with The Mill’s Creative Team: Designer, Aran Quin; Creative Director, Rob Pietre; and Primary CG Artist, Jeff Dates
by Alicia Cole
What medium was used for the animation in this film?
This ended up being completely digital. It’s a huge mix of 3D and cell animation. I really wanted to push my illustrations into a 3D environment but keep the hand-drawn look dominant. Wayne was made in 3D, and his boiling painterly skin was an animated texture painted in Photoshop.
Programs that were used: The 3D side of it was mainly operated in XSi. ZBrush was also used for Wayne himself. The cell animation was animated in flash and then painted over with Photoshop brushes to get that watercolor handmade look. Everything was then comped in Nuke and AE.
How did you approach this collaborative short film?
I came up with the illustrations and design. Based on this approach, Jeff and I were able to build a 2D/3D visual look that felt well balanced. I focused on boarding out a rough animatic to portray the poem’s tale through a series of simple vignettes. Once the initial story was there, there was a lot of discussion, shot-by-shot, between Jeff and I until we were both happy with each scene’s visual story. It was a very collaborative pipeline between us, finessing the story and compositions until the very end. Jeff animated Wayne and other 3D elements, and I animated the birds, sun, and moon along with any other 2D elements that needed cell animation, with the help of designers and 3D artists that I could grab in their down-time.
What is the role of sound in this film? How does it interplay and juxtapose with the words of the poem?
Christopher Lukas, the voiceover talent, had such a strong texture and presence to his voice, so the sound was—like Wayne—about simplicity and subtlety. I wanted an obvious contrast between Wayne’s character and Lukas’s deep and textured, wise voice. This juxtaposition helped amplify the silliness of Wayne’s simple mind. Because of this, the sound was a subtle layer that aided the jokes. They were necessary to help hit the punch lines for most of the gags (like farts, disco beats and thunder-strikes).
Are you using folio or is the sound computer-generated?
The sound overlay was made at Sound Lounge. We wanted it to sound organic and to, overall, stay clear of the article sounds, bar one or two moments, so that it would gel nicely with the hand-drawn visual aesthetic.
Alicia Cole is a poet and fiction writer. She edits for Rampant Loon Press, a speculative publishing house. She spends much of her time either freelancing or playing with a menagerie of animals. Updates on her writing and editing career can be found here.