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h Magazine - The Strange and Miniature World of Daryl Orenge

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h On L.A.

9/6/08 8:40 PM

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The Strange & Miniature World of

Daryl Orenge words by Jen Kay, photos by Robert Todd Williamson Daryl Orenge is the Paul Bunyan of directors, at least to his undersized actors. As the gargantuan lord of his self-created world, Mr. Orenge creates characters out of clay, and brings them to life in his laboratory / movie studio. More similar to retro shows like Gumby and Mr. Bill, stopmotion animation rejects the ease of computer graphics in a throw back to a much more maddening process, with a charming result. Think back to unforgettable characters like The Snow Miser and Rudolph from those timeless holiday Claymation specials. Animating characters frame-by-frame is a labor of love, and thanks to technology, has become a lost art. As the process became too inconvenient for most studios, Daryl formed Procrastinato Productions to specialize in resurrecting this medium with a twisted modern edge. Daryl’s characters and storylines resonate more with the South Park crowd than Davey and Goliath’s Latter Day Saints. Oh, Davey. We caught up with him to hear about his miniature kingdom and his long-anticipated pilot for the stopanimation series The Belmont Heights, a sitcom about a pimp named “Tyrell” and his struggle to survive the trials and tribulations of life in the ghetto. h: When did you first start doing miniature stop-motion animation? Daryl: I messed around with it in the 80’s when I was a kid – mostly naughty bits, you know childish stuff. We’re much more mature now.

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h: How did you learn the intricacies of the medium? Not only do must you find a way to make the characters and scenes work technically, but you also have the added responsibility to have the pieces make sense in a directorial way, as well. Daryl: I’m self-taught. In fact I’m sure we do many things the wrong or long way. Most companies that I’ve ever approached for animation apprenticeships aren’t interested in what they think is a long-dead concept. I guess it’s me against the world, or at least Hollywood. I can name names if you like. h: How many hours are necessary to film approximately one minute of footage? Daryl: Between one and eight hours, depending on the action involved, amount of characters and tightness of the shot and how much my partner Mike Grau drank the night before.

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h Magazine - The Strange and Miniature World of Daryl Orenge

9/6/08 8:40 PM

h: Do you construct or buy your mini-items? Daryl: The sets we usually build are from scratch using wood, metal, fabric, glue-guns etc. Our dolls used to be customized toys, but now it’s us, and a clay sculptor by the name of Nora Jean Gatine who makes ‘em all out of clay. h: What is the one thing in miniature you are currently looking to find? Daryl: Hmmmm, well one day Mike and I spent about two hours looking for a mini pack of Menthol cigarettes we had made the week before. Sometime after the second hour of searching we had the revelation that the missing item in question only took us about 15 minutes to make in the first place. That gave us a good chuckle. h: Have your characters ever engaged in adult activities? Daryl: If by adult content you mean full frontal nudity, penetration, extreme violence, and aberrational behavior…well, then yes. But these ARE just dolls after all. h: What was your first stop-motion project? Daryl: We did the intro for a Reality Show called HollyLand (based on blonde Playboy Bunny Holly Madison) h: What is the most difficult part of the process? Daryl: I think it would have to be the editing. There’s nothing like spending days on a scene (writing, story-boarding, building etc.) to find that the episode would flow better if an entire scene were left on the cutting room floor. Very painful indeed. h: What stop-motion did you watch as a kid? Daryl: I loved Gumby (do you see the connection between me and Tyrell?) and anything by Rankin and Bass. I still feel giddy when I see those Rankin Bass Holiday Specials. h: Do you have any stop-motion heroes? Daryl: Ron Dexter, Rankin and Bass, and Ralph Bakshi. h: What was the most outlandish scene that required the most prep? Daryl: I’d have to say the battle scene from episode one of The Belmont Heights.... it took about eight days to shoot. A documentary-maker friend of ours did a behind-the-scenes on the show that features the making of this scene. You can see it at h: Describe the characters in Belmont Heights. Daryl: The main character, Tyrell, is a street pimp with a big heart. He can be tough as nails at times, but it’s not uncommon for him to display a caring, compassionate side, contrary to his apparent nature. I think his days of really bad behavior are behind him now and with the help of family and friends he is finding his road to redemption. Marlin is Tyrell’s best friend. He’s a free-loving, pot-smoking pacifist who manages the local car wash. The ladies love him! Jerry-Curl is the bad apple of the gang. An instigator of chaos to the core, he’s spent most of his childhood in and out of detention centers. I think that Tyrell sees Jerry-Curl thru rose-colored glasses whereas the others in the group know better. Then we have Junior. This character is book-smart, street-gullible, and borderline morbidly obese. He can name the capitols of all 50 states, but can be taken down in an instant by a 3-Card Monte hustler. The leading lady of the series is Wanda. She’s Tyrell’s head hooker. She helps out Tyrell by keeping an eye on the other members of the ‘Evening Staff’. Secretly, she pines for Tyrell’s affection. Oh, I really should mention Rudy the legless crack addict. He gets around town on a skateboard with two bricks. He’s the town watchdog and resides at various squats around Belmont. h: Who is the most recent character you’ve developed for The Belmont Heights? Daryl: “Fro-bie”... He’s the star of a stop-animation show that “Tyrell” and gang from Belmont used to watch Saturday morning TV as kids. h: Who is the most misunderstood Belmont Heights character? Daryl: That would have to be Little Billy. He has such a speech impediment that we have to roll subtitles whenever he speaks. h: Where do you get the music for the show? Daryl: The music in the show is heavily influenced by pop culture and 70’s Funk and Soul. When we’re not using the classics, we do record our own bits. I have a rad vintage keyboard collection that helps to capture just the right vibe that we’re looking for. That’s me singing the theme song.

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h Magazine - The Strange and Miniature World of Daryl Orenge

9/6/08 8:40 PM

that we’re looking for. That’s me singing the theme song. I’m otherwise known as the 5th BeeGee, have you seen my teeth? h: What other mediums do you specialize in? Daryl: My partner Mike and I are both musicians. Sometimes I compose for film and TV.... I just finished composing a new series for Jim Henson/Warner Brothers called S.U.D.S. h: How did you and Mike meet? Daryl: We both played together in a band called The Roofies. People either loved us or hated us...or they just thought we were alright. h: Do you have any other projects currently in the works? Daryl: Well, we just started shooting footage for the new “Godhead” video that should be out later this summer. We’re also developing another series called We-Ho Boyz that’s based on the West Hollywood Gay scene. We hope to have the first episode ready to premiere at this years’ Halloween Parade in West Hollywood.

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