Tundra is a studio project we made to push our visual storytelling. We wanted to tell a story with a focus on the environment and specifically species affected by ecosystem destruction. In this case we chose the Arctic fox. We enjoy crafting stories and best of all is if those stories can communicate themes that we are passionate about.

We used paper craft to tell this story, which is a medium we enjoy because it is visually striking and fun to work with. The bright colours and clean shapes you can achieve while still maintaining a handmade look are appealing. Studio projects like this are great opportunities to practice and experiment.

We chose the Arctic fox as a follow up to our Merry Foxmas zoetrope but with a snowy makeover. The pouncing actions are inspired by David Attenborough’s documentary series “Life Story” where foxes leap playfully on their prey. Jumps are also always a fun thing to animate.

Paper craft

Paper Craft

The set was made using paper to compliment the character design. This process is complicated as large sheets of paper shrink and expand with temperature changes. To counter this we always make sure to firmly secure it to our stage and then leave it to settle overnight.

Controlled Lighting

As with all our stop motion shoots we use Dragonframe. This allows us to program the camera, motion control and lights from the one application. Our London studio is fully equipped with Arri SkyPanels so we can control the brightness and colour temperature from our iMac.

Replacement Animation

The form of paper craft stop motion animation we used is a popular technique called replacement animation. This is where new models are used in every frame. A common use for this is in replacing mouth shapes to create different shapes when talking. Our animals are flat and their forms change entirely, meaning we have to replace them one by one in every frame.

We animate using 2D software. Once this is finalised we take each frame and cut out the separate elements to create the replacements. With 150 characters there is a lot to organise and keep track of!

Tundra was featured on the Dragonframe Blog and this is always an honour.


Design, Direction and Production: Picturesmith

Director of Photography: Peter Ellmore

Sound Design: Phonoteque