"The Toll" was my graduation film for the bachelor of animation program at Queensland College of Art. It took nearly 2 years to get it from idea to the screen. So let me take you back to early 2015 where it all began *harp strum*.
So I was taking a script writing course and we had to write a script (weird I know). I liked the isolated tollbooth as a setting but I didn't know what to do with it. I needed a problem. So I asked myself; what would I do if I was a tollbooth operator, alone in the middle of nowhere? I would play with the gates. And that's when I had my "eureka moment"; what if he broke the gates? Then nobody can get through. Houston we have a premise.
The first draft was incredibly ambitious. The final film used about a third of the original script. There were tons of additional characters. I wanted characters to just keep rolling in one after the other so that by the end there was an interesting community of people with Basil right at the centre of it all. However, from a production standpoint, I didn't have the budget or the time to pull it off. It was looking like a 20 minute film.
Second half of 2015 was spent working on storyboards. Not much to talk about. Here's the opener of basil eating birthday cake in the storeroom which ended up being cut.
So the project was greenlit for production at the end of 2015. This meant I could start making things. I thought I would start with Basil's maquette.
There are always so many things to think about when building a set for stop motion. What are you going to make it out of? How big is it? how does it come apart if you need to move it? Can the animator (me) get to the puppet comfortably? How long do I have to make it?.... All these things. One problem in particular was accessing Basil when he's inside the booth. We ended up making the whole thing detachable from the set and it could break into two pieces if necessary. Then you could animate Basil easily and then put the booth back in exactly the same position using the cleverness of magnets.
3D printing is such a welcomed tool for me when time is of the essence. lots of things were 3D printed: the bin lid, the poles for the guard rails, the fan, the traffic cones, the steering wheel, the tyres. It's amazing what you can do with a desktop 3D printer.
The main 3D printing triumph was the replacement mouths. Basil and Sage's faces were modeled and rigged in maya and then posed into various mouth and brow shapes. These were printed, cleaned and painted ready to snap on and off of their respective heads. Time for some stats; 83 replacement pieces were printed for the film, around 12 of these are used to simulate basic speech. Just one of Basil's mouths takes half an hour to print and uses just 3.8g of filament.