Odd Planet Studios is based in Devon and was founded in 2013 by Simon Tytherleigh and Leon Cauchois, with a mission to make high-quality stop-motion animations. Their latest stop-motion puppet animation project, ‘The Legend of Jan Tregeagle’, is an exciting retelling of a classic Cornish legend. Amy Baker caught up with the film’s director, Simon Tytherleigh, to find out more about the production of this folktale from deepest, darkest Cornwall.
The Legend of Jan Tregeagle is your most recent film venture. What’s Jan’s story?
In one of the classic legends of Cornwall, Jan Tregeagle is a corrupt and greedy magistrate. A vision of Hell prompts a change of heart, but too late. The folk of Bodmin rejoice at his death, until by mistake he is summoned from his grave. What is now to be done with this wicked man? Should he ever be forgiven? Will the Hounds of Hell catch him? (Answer… you’ll have to watch the film!)
What stage is the production at the moment?
We have about 20% in the can, and the final movie looks like it will be between 17 and 20 minutes long, so an epic in stop motion terms! It moves very slowly, mostly because I want to have plenty of detail in the sets and puppets, and because we are reproducing some recognisable Cornish landmarks. Roos Mattaar in Bristol is doing some of the animating, and there are others on the team, but mostly it is driven forward by me. The film will be ‘coming dreckly’, as the Cornish say!
You’ve also been involved in, SFX makeup, theatre and boating! Do these things feed into your work?
Completely. I started out doing make-up effects in television, most memorably devising prosthetics for ‘Casualty’ in the early pioneering days. Working on TV and film drama gave me a sense of how to tell a story visually. I have also written, directed, and acted in a number of stage plays, which also taught me important lessons in dramatic construction. As for the boating, I built an ocean-going catamaran from scratch, which I sailed round the UK in 2018. It certainly taught me a lot about construction and materials, but the most important lesson was that persistence and determination win the day on long projects!
What’s next for you and Odd Planet Studios?
I have designed and built three motion control rigs, the latest using a lot of 3D printed parts and I am keen to make the files available for anyone who wants to build their own rig. I am also trying to pass on some of my knowledge by making YouTube videos. The latest was constructing thatched cottages with papier maché and cardboard, but I am also enthusing about 3D printing as another incredibly useful tool for model makers. I have been 3D printing mouldings and even working door latches for the film!
As for future projects… I can’t think beyond the next scene at the moment!
Interview with Amy Baker