Making Pollywog

Noah and Jeremy

So a couple of months ago Noah IMed me that he was sending the Barenaked Ladies a proposal to make a video for a song on their new children's album, Snacktime. "Awesome," I said, "Go for it. Dream big*. Can't hurt to ask. Just don't, you know, get your heart too set on it because... what? They said yes? Yay!"

The next month was pretty frantic for Noah, building a whole host of puppets (with the aid of his mom, Sue Ginex), building props (with the aid of his dad, Joe Ginex), and organizing the shoot (with the aid of J.P. Riley). A week before the shoot BNL was doing an in-store at a Borders out in Oak Brook and we got to go out and show them the in-progress puppets. It was invigorating to see how excited the band was by their puppets. They had exactly one suggestion for making the puppets better (different glasses for the Tyler otter) so we knew that we were on the right track.

The day of the shoot was... long. Very long. 22 hours long. We had a nice photo studio to shoot in; we had a great group of puppeteers from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Phoenix; we had an incredible for-reals film crew assembled by J.P. -- and we had them all for one day. So... we shot and shot and shot. (Well, they shot and shot and shot. Mostly, I made sure people had food. Yep -- Team Gerdes was craft services.)

A lot of the mystique of movies is focussed on the shoot. And obviously, it's very important to actually get the images on video. But even at 22 hours, the shoot was a definite minority of the time involved in making this video. After that day we took a few days off and then launched into a solid month of editing. Noah did the majority of the work, but I did some bits as well. For example, when all the pollywogs sing "Stump, stump", I animated all their tails by hand, frame-by-frame. That's right -- I'm that guy.

Noah and I also did a day of b-unit shooting: heading down to North Pond to get some actual nature stills and footage to layer into the video. We had been talking about trying to get out to a Forest Preserve when I remembered that there's a great nature preserve nestled right into the city. We had to get some careful angles on some of the shots to avoid getting buildings in the background, but I was really pleased with the way it all came out.

I think the hardest part of the whole thing was not talking about this huge project for two months. I wasn't under NDA or anything, but I'm kinda leery about talking about projects in progress, especially when it's not really my project. And now that I can talk about it, I can't remember half of the interesting things that happened along the way. Maybe next time (next time we're working on a video for international rock stars!) I'll secret-blog the whole thing and just make them public when it's all over.

So, anyway, the video is out! You can watch it at Yahoo! Kids (where it came out a week before anywhere else) or watch the short or extended version on YouTube. The short version just has a 28-second shorter intro, so unless you're really pressed for time I'd suggest the extended version.

Oh, and since I know there's been some confusion on this score, I'll lay it:
Tyler - otter
Steve - owl
Jim - fox
Andy - a shorter fox
Ed - flying squirrel
Kevin - possum

* As Jason Sudeikis says that Snoop Dogg said, "Dream big. You may never wake up."