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VIDEO: Local dad turns quarantine time into stop motion cuteness

Curt O'Neil and his two kids, aged 8 and 5, make the best of some extended time at home with the release of their stop motion animation creation 'Chase the Moon'

Sault photographer and father of two, Curt O'Neil, recently proved that with a bit of creativity and a lot of time, masterpieces can be made.

Or at least sixty-five seconds of cuteness.

O'Neil along with his daughter Reese, 8, and son Finn, 5, released Chase the Moon last week, a stop motion creation that sprung from a game he and the kids used to play.

As a photographer, stop motion animation is a creative avenue O'Neil has wanted to explore for some time, he told SooToday. But finding the time was always difficult.

"I can’t draw or paint or do anything else visual besides photography. Somehow photography works for me and stop motion is taking still frames and combining them for animation."

The idea for the story began in the summer of 2018 when he and the kids would drive around in the family RAV4.

"Any time I was driving, they would pretend we were in a chase with the moon and that evolved into other things they’d see on the road," O'Neil explained. "Any time motorcycles were close to us, they were controlled by the moon and the same with white cars. Essentially, the moon had a posse to do its bidding for him. I thought the whole concept was hilarious and that it would make a fun project to try to do with the kids and get that stop motion idea off the ground."

The bones of the project began to take shape as Reese started to plot out the story and a title sequence was created in August 2018. Original music was recorded, dialog was written, and some of the props were created around that same time before the project ended up in a box, unfinished.

"From the original idea and work, we had the intro, our main vehicle (which is supposed to resemble our family RAV4) and the moon made. That was it. Everything was in a box waiting to be resurrected," O'Neil said.  

"After I realized we’d all be stuck inside for at least three weeks (around March Break), I thought there was no better time to revive the project."

When he asked Reese if she'd be interested in reviving the stop motion project, she was very excited, O'Neil said.

Reese created the cardboard characters, designed the backdrops, and even helped her dad with a bit of trouble-shooting.

"Her problem solving through the process was great to see and she actually provided solutions for the final shot as well as our voice interaction with the moon as I was confused on how we would animate it," he explained. "And when you see the final piece in the movie, it’s perfect and I couldn’t see it done any other way."

The kids played all the instruments to create the short's soundtrack – Reese on ukulele and Finn on harmonica. Reese provided feedback throughout the entire editing process, O'Neil said.

"Every movie we’ve made, she’s had final say on how it looks and the songs in it."

Chase the Moon combines 332 images that O'Neil painstakingly shot and edited in order to maintain visual continuity. Some reshoots were required, he said, because he had "the worst camera setup imagined."

The project took about two or three weeks to complete when all was said and done, and O'Neil told us that Reese was talking about a second installment even before Chase the Moon was finished.

"Seeing the quarantine being extended and trying to plan for days with the kids, it seems like at least a sequel will be in the works. Maybe out in another year and a half," he joked.