Wired For the Holidays

Technical Details:

completed September, 1996
Digital Beta (filmed in 16mm)
7min 30 sec.

Notes from Doug:

As I said in the notes for "Wire We Here", I had no plans to make another Pipe Cleaner film. By the summer of 1995 I had completed my first computer film, "Fluffy", which in many ways was a bigger hit than "Wire We Here". So plans started for making it's sequel, "Fluffy's Brain". At Christmas time Will Vinton Studios chose to use a photo of Fluffy on the cover of their Holiday card and sent these to all their clients. Someone (I don't know who) sent a card and a tape of "Fluffy" to Jay Doniger, who had worked with the studio during that year. I can picture in my mind Jay sitting at home, holding the video in one hand and the card in the other, then slowly bringing them together until one fits inside the other. He takes them apart, then slides them back together. A light bulb goes off.

The day after Christmas I get a call at home from Jay. "Wouldn't this make a wonderful product? A card...that's a gift!" he says. You can't help but be infected by that kind of talk. Before I know it we've shifted from Fluffy to the Pipe Cleaner Family (thinking there might be a more main-stream audience there), and I'm writing down ideas for both a short 5-minute film and the card itself. The card was harder. By March there is a prototype script and a prototype card and prototype photographs so Jay and his son Scott can start pitching the idea. I dragged Scott Sundholm back into the Pipe Cleaner realm to co-produce and edit, and Robin Ator, who was so helpful with the designing of Fluffy, agreed to help with sets and do some of the animation.

But that brought up another problem. Most of the animation for the first film was done in my home, and because of my remote location it makes it difficult for others to use my home as a base for animation. In Robin's case we wanted to find a spot where he could shoot his sequences near where he lives. We tried setting something up in his home, but the floors were covered with rugs and for some strange reason he seemed reluctant to pull them up.

Salvation came in the form of a friend of mine, Ray DiCarlo, who allowed us to shoot in the basement of a building he owned near Robin's home. There was a coffee shop right above the set, and every time Robin plugged in the voltage regulator to turn on the set lights, I suspect the people in the shop saw their lighting dim momentarily. On the whole, though, I don't think anyone knew we were there.

Since this new episode was to be a Christmas show, we had to finish by September of 96. That meant we had to start shooting by late May. And that was just a guess; remember that the first pipe cleaner film took 2 1/2 years to finish. I was HOPING we could shoot this one in three months. It took almost a month just to re-assemble the old street set and cover everything with a thin layer of cardboard...I mean snow. At the same time I finished the script, plus a script for a Valentine episode, so we could tape the voices all at once.

Now we needed someone to do the voices for Mom and Sis. The first film had no female characters; I did the voices for both Junior and Dad. Scott and I both began to ask around, but everyone who seemed good for the part was not available. It came down to the very day we needed to record the voices (which has to be done before filming) when Scott, who is the post production supervisor at Will Vinton Studios, was asked if he would take a call from someone who was looking to do voice work. Now, normally he doesn't get this kind of call, and it must have been routed to him by accident. Lucky accident. As he's listening to this woman talk, he begins to hear the voices we need. "Try a little girl's voice," he suggests, and then "Try a little baby!". She does them, and Scott is sold. That is how we found Bonny Metoxen, who has been all the female voices in all the subsequent pipe cleaner films. Her work has enriched these films tremendously, and I'm continually grateful for that "lucky accident".

Filming began only slightly behind schedule and we finished in August of 96' leaving a good month for Jamie Haggerty's music and Scott's final cut. We finished on video (no film finish, a first for me; someday I hope to go back and do that) and delivered the tape to Jay on time. Then we sat back to rake in the big bucks. Of course, it hasn't happened like that; trying to pitch a new product is a very difficult thing. If only I could pay back the loan from my father-in-law...