Michael Marczewski transforms household objects into animated hybrid creatures
For Found in Adobe Stock, It’s Nice That has commissioned two creatives to explore the world of Adobe Stock’s 3D collection to make a series of works using their individual discoveries. Starting from the same jumping off point, the project follows the journey each creative took as their paths diverged into the strange and wondrous depths of the huge collection, and how they used what they found to make beautiful and hypnotic final pieces.
The work of British director Michael Marczewski is bound to draw in a viewer for two main reasons. The first is that Michael uses something you recognise, everyday mundanities, particularly those you’ll have lying around the house; the second is the way he directs these objects, initially recreating them in a 3D modelling style, then animating them to move in a way that’s totally opposite to what you’d expect.
For Michael’s latest project using Adobe Stock he’s gone above and beyond; not only using these objects as protagonists but building an environment for them to interact in, too.
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Using Adobe Stock’s 3D collection Michael has made a microcosm for objects, made of objects. The initial idea was to create a film exploring “creatures expertly camouflaging in mundane environments,” the director describes; batteries, mugs, toasters and staplers all making appearances as creatures in his five shorts. It’s a concept that’s been bubbling away in Michael’s mind for some time, and these five shorts act as “a bit of a prequel” to a larger idea while remaining quite abstract.
Each object embodies a personality, and Michael describes his decision-making process in working out which items from Adobe Stock’s 3D collection he would use as being based on objects “that were visually interesting, or were interesting once they were combined together”. He chose items that would coexist “in the wild,” he says, rather than making random selections. “For example, staple removers could easily be the stapler’s mortal enemy or predator further up the food chain, like little carnivorous snapping piranhas.”
In turn, Michael’s shorts are almost like the stationary version of Toy Story, but directed from a nature documentary lens. “When you bring them to life, they can instantly become cute and fascinating just from the way they move,” he continues. “I didn’t want to overly characterise them or make them into caricatures but keep it fairly rooted in reality. Like it was a nature documentary featuring different species of household items.”
By using household items all audiences will recognise, Michael’s animations also instantly make you chuckle. Humour is a consistent method of engagement in his work and even a signature element that’s meant clients hit him up time and time again. It’s additionally what drives his work and the reason why he’s applied it in this new project, too: “Each idea has an element of humour and some are more slapstick than others, some are more subtle,” he says. “I want to enjoy making my animations and quickly exhale through my nose when I watch them back! A lot of the humour in this purely comes from the way the creatures move.”
Each movement of a creature Michael has formed is inspired by its day-to-day use. Batteries for example “move quite robotically and mechanically, the way I could imagine a species of animals made from them would,” he suggests.
Once Michael’s dreamt up the personality, chosen the Adobe Stock 3D models and the path his creatures will take, the fun continues when he starts to animate each of them. This process involves using what the director describes as “dynamic solutions”, where walk cycles and certain movements are created. “The resulting quirks of the movements come from that and sometimes surprise me. I often have a little chuckle at how they actually move once I’ve built them and connected the legs together.”
An example of Michael’s “dynamic walk cycle” approach is his aforementioned sweet hermit mug animation as its “legs are connected with pivots and animated with springs,” he explains. Starting sitting up-right the mug is used as a vessel holding pencils rather than a mug of tea and morphs into a hermit creature when nudged by a rubber edging towards it. Startled, it flips 180 degrees as the pencils seamlessly turn into skinny little legs moving quickly. “Hermit crabs are fascinating creatures and the way they scuttle instantly gives them a cute character,” the director explains.
However, animating the Adobe Stock elements into moving parts in such an unnatural way was a little tricky, and a “lot of tweaking was needed,” says Michael. “Then, when it came to needing it to flip over again, back into its dormant state, I had to do a bit of cheating with a couple of camera changes, which is actually cutting to a totally different animation.”
Nevertheless, Michael’s use of stock objects animated adoringly is endearing. “That motion gives it a lot of personality,” he points out. “I reckon a lot of people would like this desktop version in their office.”
The next choice from Adobe Stock’s 3D collection of household items is what Michael describes as an “oven hunt”. The short begins with a group of toasters – with slices of bread popping out the top to make them look as “cute and vulnerable as possible” – running off, or as it turns out to be away, from its enemy, an oven.
For the director, this “is the silliest one,” he says, “a lumbering oven monster chasing after his favourite toaster prey.”
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Despite being self-described as silly, the detail from Michael in this short is fascinating. Look closely and the toaster’s feet are actually spoons, while the giant oven which follows actually has legs made of graters. “It’s a combination of many kitchen-based appliances and looks like the stuff of nightmares,” he jokes.
Michael’s third animation is a “battery migration” an idea he came up with before this project, admitting that “actually, now I come to think of it, it’s based on a drawing I did when I was a kid!”
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Utilising many objects in Adobe Stock’s 3D collection – from a landline phone to a little cactus – the short begins with these items in frame before two little batteries, interconnected by the magnetic edges of its top and bottom, creep into shot. By being connected in this way, the batteries cleverly appear to the viewer’s eye as a pair of legs, “needing to migrate to find a new source of energy,” explains the director.
Soon you see the initial pair of batteries reach a group of fellow power suppliers, comically herding their way towards a rechargeable battery source, but at the last minute “they don’t quite make it!” Working with a stock object multiplied in this way adds to the personality of Michael’s battery creature, especially in its animation where the first two are simple keyframed animations while the other batteries are animated dynamically.
The director’s next animation sequence sees stationary objects at war with each other in a stapler face off. At first, when sketching the concept of a staple remover coming for a stapler, Michael thought “it would be quite goofy”. However, “when I put everything together it suddenly seemed really sad! But, there’s always a bit of tugging on the heartstrings in every nature doc!”
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Michael’s right. Although you know it’s obviously a joke as the stapler, with its flimsy cowering paper clip legs shuffles into the corner, you do feel a little sorry for it.
After all, staple removers are “definitely the most menacing looking thing in an office!” The sweet element of the stapler is then boosted by the fact it has baby staplers hiding behind it, making it “more like a herbivore, protecting its young from the pack of little attackers,” explains Michael.
Michael’s final animation sees the director return to more lighthearted themes, documenting household game objects jumping to life.
Initially, the concept was a “walking study of different creatures made of a random collection of sports equipment, but it wasn’t really doing it for me,” the director explains. However, one element that did stem from this initial concept was a sport in a pub setting as Michael imagined “having the pool table slightly drunkenly and obliviously marching”.
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The short begins with a calm game of chess, but all is not as it seems as two pieces begin to fight with one another. Before you even get a chance to look closer, the pool table charges in forcing all objects to go flying, “adding an extra level of humour”.
Transforming the shape and narrative of a completely normal stock object into a humorous short is a technique Michael knows well in his practice. Regularly using 3D model collections in his work is a consistent trick, “as 3D modelling is not a forte of mine!” he admits. “It’s great to make use of the huge wealth of stock assets available online. There’s no point trying to be a jack of all trades and struggling to create models when there’s that resource available.”
Using Adobe Stock’s 3D collection was an easy experience for Michael, allowing the project to kickstart easily before he delved into the narrative animation. Within Adobe Stock each of the models “are packaged up in the exact same way which allows you to work quickly,” he explains. “I think the uniformity in the presentation of everything is what is particularly good about this collection.” Additionally, when importing objects from the collection each is relative in scale, “extremely useful in a project like this when you are trying many different objects, dropping them into a scene and seeing what works best together,” continues the director. “In that sense, it gives you a lot of freedom.”
Now with his animated eye cast upon a dormant house, discovering objects clustering together and coming to life, the process of “squeezing characters out of stationary objects and getting personalities from the animation alone is something that I’ve really enjoyed,” says Michael. With plans to also take this into his wider work, maybe a feature film of running toasters, terrifying ovens, sinister stapler removers and lazy mugs will be on the cards too.
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About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.