So, I made my first stop motion video. It's not exactly Oscar worthy but I'm happy with it.
Nintendo had released a series stop motion videos using adapted versions of the Yarn Yoshi amiibo for promotion of the 3DS version of "Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World". These were produced by a professional stop-motion animation studio in Japan that used the Yarn Yoshi and Yarn Poochy amiibo - but modified them so that they had longer limbs, different eyes and presumably a wire skeleton to make them posable. The results... well, they were good. Really good in fact. As someone who grew up watching Wallace and Gromit they were right up my alley.
Consequently, Nintendo UK decided it would be a good idea to run a competition that invited fans to submit their own stop-motion videos, using their own amiibo - which of course, are not posable in any way whatsoever.
Not only that, but they also didn't release any sound effects that could be used in the process or any tips on how to produce the videos at all, other than their short-but-interesting behind the scenes video on YouTube.
The pick up wasn't huge - in fact, for the first week of the competition I was literally the only person using the designated "#PoochyYoshiStopMotion" hashtag. Admittedly this was meant to be a UK only competition but the followings of Nintendo UK on Twitter and Facebook are reasonably sizeable and they put marketing spend behind it. I know that because the advert on Facebook came up as "sponsored".
Even so, I thought I'd give it a go because it would be a nice challenge. And I'm saying that it would be a challenge speaking as a filmmaker - not just your average fan who wanted to win one of the Mega Yarn Yoshi signed by the game's producer Takashi Tezuka, that was promised to three winners. Although I did want to win one because I love the game.
So I put together a quick storyboard of the different coloured Yoshis changing their colour when ingesting different coloured Mario power-up mushrooms.
As I couldn't get hold of any toy Mario mushrooms (especially those in different colours) I decided to make them in a perler bead style using a product called "Quixels". I made a yarn ball for Yoshi to throw, and also some background "set-dressing" which included half-finished LEGO versions of Mario, Yoshi, Kirby and a Mario Mushroom.
I then went out to try and buy spare Yoshis, incase I decided to try and modify them to make the shoot a bit more polished - but considering Nintendo gave potential entrants a little over 11 days (8 of which being weekdays) that was never going to happen.
Not to mention the fact that Yarn Yoshis are getting hard to find. The Wii U game, 'Yoshi's Woolly World', was released two years ago and there doesn't appear to have been another run of Yarn Yoshi amiibo released for the 3DS version. There may have been a few pack-ins and the release of the Poochy amiibo but generally speaking there has been no increase in the original amiibo available. Which means that many distributers have either moved what stock they have left into clearance (while they make room for however many Switch consoles and games they can get their hands on) or have just sold out of stock completely... including Nintendo.
Once I had everything that I needed, I started experimenting with what limited movement I'd be able to create with the amiibo - starting with making Poochy bark using green LEGO bricks as a form of "green screen".
I pick the story up in the video below:
Now the thing is, I actually really liked this competition. I had fun doing it and I'm grateful that I won. I had Nintendo - a company that I love - recognise a piece of fan-made work that I did. One of my favourite games was sharing my content and even YouTubers I admire were taking notice of it. Not to mention the fact that I won a signed amiibo as well. It's not the best video I've ever done but hey, people liked it.
And as fun as the competition was, it is pretty clear that it was thought up on the spot. They had some signed Mega Yarn Yoshi which they could either give away or put in a cupboard and they probably had some marketing budget - that wasn't allocated to the Switch - that needed using up before the end of the financial year. I get it... I've worked in the business.
But i suppose it's a shame that the winner of the competition was a filmmaker. Particularly as the only way that I could get the sound effects required was to rip them from Nintendo's own YouTube videos. Given Nintendo's corporate policies surrounding copyright and YouTube it's a little strange.
But then again, who else entered? From what I could tell, not many - and I don't mean to toot my own horn but it was the better of the few that entered. Incidentally you can see the winners here.
Now I'll admit, I made this video as more of a fan of the games than as a filmmaker or as somebody trying to make some sort of statement. And to that end, I don't mean to sound snarky or critical of Nintendo as the competition is what it is. Often as a marketer you can either do something or do nothing - but often times doing "something" is the option that brings criticism and that can be depressing. Not to mention I'm just sounding like an ungrateful arsehole.
But honestly, I only criticise it because I would have loved to see more of these videos. I get that this was probably just something to eat up a pocket of marketing budget but I'm a little upset it didn't get picked up more. Not that it could have done really, given the time constraints but still, as someone who really loves 'Yoshi's Woolly World' on the Wii U and 3DS I would have loved to see more. Especially as it's wonderful to see a company embrace fan-made projects.
Even so, I'm glad I stumbled across the competition. And while my video is nowhere near as good as the professionals' work, i hope it brought a smile to a few faces. Because it brought one to mine.