Skeleton Dance Recital

We’re going real fast on the 2017 edition of Graveyard Swing. One of the most disappointing things to me about the original iteration was how little movement found its way into the show, so I’m trying hard to make this one twist and wiggle and move as much as possible.

The first gag I ever conceived for the Halloween show was a pair of skeletons playing catch with a third skeleton’s skull, while the third one scrapes around on the ground looking for it. The big, quick, back-and-forth motion that gag would require has proven to be difficult for me to accomplish, so I tried scaling it back.

Here’s a tabletop-sized mockup of a variation of this idea: one skeleton bouncing a skull back and forth on its knees like a soccer ball.

A small cardboard skeleton with a skull floating in front of it

The skeleton’s body is on a rod that pivots close to the ground, while strings run from its knees up and back down to the ground. As the rod swings back and forth, like a metronome, it adjusts the tension in those strings, pulling the knees up in sequence. This actually works! Wow!

The juggled skull was just hanging there for reference, because trying to get that thing working at this small size would be annoying. I needed to go…bigger.

So I did! Click for video!

A small cardboard skeleton with a skull floating in front of it

This is that same thing, but bigger. Nearly the full scale of the show! I’m holding it in place here just because I didn’t take the time to make this rigid, but imagine that the pipe holding the skull (which I’m holding with my left hand) is staying still, and the pipe holding the skeleton (which I’m holding with my right hand) is rocking back and forth, pulled by a weight in one direction and the animation rig in the other. The body, the legs, and the skull are all controlled by that one motion! It doesn’t quite line up here, but with some tweaks, it’ll look exactly right. Concept proven.

The next animation to figure out will be much more complicated: a skeleton is trying to pull an overturned tombstone upright; one of its arms falls out of its socket; it uses its other arm to re-attach the fallen one; and continues pulling the tombstone. I’ve drawn this one, but that’s just the beginning. To be continued!

Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about the space we’ll put this in. I talked to my top choice for a venue—a studio space near Union Square—and they don’t think this sort of format will work for them. I can’t disagree. They say I should try to book a popup retail space. They’re not wrong!

More to come! See you next week!