[Interview] Georgina Hayns: Master of Puppets

Originally published online at MANIA Magazine.

Georgina Hayns is the Creative Supervisor at Studio Laika. She’s in charge of supervising the fabrication of all the amazing little puppets that are used to make awesome films like ParaNorman, Coraline and The Boxtrolls. We caught up with Georgina to talk about the puppets used in Kubo and the Two Strings!

MANIA: How did you get into stop-motion animation?
GEORGINA: “I got into it through being really hopeless at everything at school except for art. I had no focus; I love drawing, I love painting, I love sewing, I love sculpting. I went to art school when I was older and I was really interested in old Victorian dolls. I decided that I wanted to make dolls as a career, so I tried to convince my teachers that doll making was the way to go! They weren’t very impressed, haha. Puppet making was kind of a way for me to get around my teachers – puppets are like an artistic form of dolls. I really didn’t know much about stop-motion animation at the time, but I managed to get an internship at a stop-motion animation studio while at university. It really opened my eyes to a whole new world where all my skill sets were usable!”

MANIA: Was there any particular influences on your art?
GEORGINA: “When I decided I was going to do puppets I went out and found as many movies and TV shows that I could. I watched Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal and it blew my mind! It was exactly what I wanted to do.”

MANIA: How long does it take to create a puppet?
GEORGINA: “To make the first version of the puppet, it could take anywhere from three months to six months. It depends how complex it is. When you’re making the production line of puppets, it takes about six to eight weeks.”

MANIA: What was the most difficult thing you’ve had to make/sculpt?
GEORGINA: “It’s very hard to predict what the material you’re using will do when the puppet becomes moveable. There are a lot of weird little things, like adding too much flesh under at armpit. So when the arm moves down it makes a bulge where don’t want one! You have to really try with all your knowledge to make your best guess of how they might react when you move the puppet.”

MANIA: What size do the puppets range from?
GEORGINA: “The Giant Skeleton from Kubo was a completely new thing for Laika. He’s the largest thing we’ve done. The smallest thing we’ve done is the tiny Little Hanzo origami that hangs out with Kubo. That had limited performance due to its size. If there’s a really small character in a movie, usually we build it over-sized and then digitally insert it in with visual effects. That allows us to get a better quality performance.”

MANIA: I know they used a bowling ball to help animate the Garden of Eyes monster. Are there any everyday household objects that you repurposed for the puppet?
GEORGINA: “On Beetle we had to figure out how we were going to make his leg work and how they join his body. We used the rubber-housing on a car’s gearstick as inspiration.”

MANIA: Do you have a favourite character design?
GEORGINA: “The Sisters. I love their design and they look amazing in every pose. You instantly know they’re baddies the moment they show up!”

MANIA: How do you keep track of small pieces, like Monkey’s fur and the Sister’s coats, without them looking completely different in every shot?
GEORGINA: “It was much easier to keep track of the Sister’s capes. We actually laid out the 485 feathers for each cape, and we had a pattern so we knew what size feather would go where. We made Monkey’s individual fur pieces by combing silicon through a fur-fabric and then hand-trimming the pieces into those shapes. I think if you line up all of our Monkey puppets, they’re never going to be exactly the same. But you never see two Monkeys in the same shot, so it’s okay. She’s always so active that you’re never going to notice that one hair is different.”

Join Kubo, Beetle and Monkey on their amazing adventure in Kubo And The Two Strings. Out now on DVD and Blu-ray!

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