Graveyard Swing

Three skeletons, sculpted out of clay and placed in our scale model

So much has happened since the last update. Story updates, tech updates, fabrication updates!

First up, I reworked the layout of the show! I’m still updating the scale model but here’s a sketch:

A rough sketch of the revised show layout
  1. Two skeletons passing a skull back and forth (one is chest-bumping it, the other is tossing it underhand). Lots of opportunities for funny percussion sounds.

  2. A third skeleton nearby, headless and feeling around on the ground for its missing skull.

  3. One or two small, blob-shaped ghosts who appear intermittently amongst the skeletons. Every time they appear, they make a sound: scatting, singing, whistling—something in time with the music we can hear in the distance.

  4. A short walk from the skeletons, there’s a group of animals. There are yowling cats, hooting owls, and…another one of those scat ghosts! These ghosts are a little more well-defined, a little less blobby, and a little more excited. The music is getting louder.

  5. From the animal scene we see, just around the corner, a steady stream of ghosts floating further along the path (projected on the wall). If we follow their lead and continue on, we discover…

  6. A ghost band! We’re suddenly surrounded by an ethereal jazz quartet. The scat ghosts are also here, floating around and providing backup.

In other words: I moved the ghost band to the end and split them up into two groups which work as one scene, but allow the audience to pass directly through the tableau. I also added hints of a ghostly presence all through the rest of the show, to add some buildup and treat the band like a proper finale. This gives us a more cohesive story—you’re traveling deeper and deeper into the cemetery to find the main attraction—and gives us what might be our final title: Graveyard Swing.

I removed the first gag (the man in the top hat) because I couldn’t get it to fit. The animal scene is not fleshed out at all and might still change completely; it provides a nice contrast between the skeleton-heavy scene and the ghost-heavy scene, but doesn’t add much to the theme.

I’ve sculpted scale models of all the skeletons (pictured at the beginning of this update) and two of the ghosts:

Two ghosts, sculpted out of clay and placed in the model

Since sculpting the ghosts, I changed their designs up a bit. They’re going to be blobbier and even less humanoid than they were before:

Concept sketches for the new ghosts

I cut one of these out of cardboard at full-scale:

I refuse to turn on the A/C yet, anyway here’s a big ghost playing a trumpet

— John Holdun (@johnholdun) May 27, 2016

I want to try making these out of wire wrapped in tulle, so they have some dimension and translucency. We’ll see!

I also made a cardboard prototype of one of the scat ghosts full-size and painted it:

A full-size example of the smaller scat ghosts, painted and resting on the floor

Finally, I bought some lights and started testing some technical solutions. The bulk of the lighting will come from conventional LED flood lamps, which are inexpensive, easy to find, and run cool. They’re also dimmable, which means I can control them with DMX and sync them to sound cues. I’ll have a minimum of 4 distinct light channels and 8 audio channels. Because there will be partitions between the scenes, I can reuse some of those channels, so the scat ghosts that appear in scenes 1 and 2 can reappear in scene 3 and do the exact same things they’re doing in earlier scenes, but because the whole sequence will be longer than the duration of the show, the audience will never know. Does that make sense? We’ll go over it more deeply in the future.

We also have to talk about that projection I snuck in here. I’m going to keep it very low-tech, and it gives me another opportunity to nod to Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Great!

That’s all I have for you this week. Now I’m going to go finish the new floor plan in the scale model, sculpt the other two ghosts at scale, and start building the armatures for the real, final, full-size skeletons. See you later!