An executive producer at a small L.A. animation studio went under the needle earlier this year to transform into a living zoetrope. The precursor to early film creates the illusion of motion by lining up a series of frames and spinning, and now so does Micah Cordy's abdomen.
Cordy's studio, Open the Portal (OTP), has worked with Disney as well as artists like Katy Perry, Hodgy, and E.L.O. The human zoetrope is a passion project for which they created a short video to demonstrate the process. OTP creative director David Braun designed the animation and local artist Sean Arnold of Spotlight Tattoos inked it in one long, eight-hour session.
"It was an idea that just came up in conversation," recounts producer Jason Milov. "We all love tattoos and have many of them! So it was only natural and inevitable that we put tattoos and animation together. After finding an artist that was interested in collaborating we went for a consultation and booked the next available session."
Timecrow, the character Cordy got tattooed, has its roots almost as deep in the history of animation as the zoetrope itself. "Like a scarecrow watching over fields at night, the Timecrow hovers in the back of our imaginations—a sentient shadow with a taste for mischief who controls the flow of time in human experience," Braun, who first came up with the avatar while studying experimental animation at CalArts, tells Creators.
Timecrow is a riff on late 1920s and 1930s icons like Mickey Mouse, Bimbo, Foxy, and Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid. "One thing all of these characters had in common was a sense of anarchy, both in the plasticity of their appearance, and their actions in the cartoon environments they were placed in," Braun explains. "One doesn't have to look too closely to see how inspired by the early renditions of Mickey Mouse he is."
For the first half of the looping animation, Braun rotoscoped Timecrow over a series of images by Edweard Muybridge. He then closed the loop with a Dali-esque melting clock sequence. "We are huge fans of combining the rotoscoping process with abstract stream of consciousness animation for the weird effect of mixed reality and fantasy it creates," he says.
It's clear that this is a character that has bloomed and flourished in the imagination of the OTB family, which makes it even cooler that Braun's executive producer committed to Timecrow so thoroughly. Watch the behind-the-scenes process of creating the human zoetrope below.