I am currently in a class called Poetry Everywhere, and the aim is to create projects that represent existing poetry in new media. One of our early assignments was to create an animated piece based on any existing poem. Both me and my project partner, Xuedi, thought we would have more fun with this if we picked a whimsical poem. Neither of us are very well-versed in poetry, so after a long digressive search we settled on “Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens” by children’s poet Jack Prelutsky:
Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.
They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners,
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens for as far as I could see…
when I woke today, I noticed there were eggs on top of me.
For the animation, we decided to go with the concept of a chicken dreaming of other chickens. Naturally, in order to get anything done, we had to photograph a ceramic chicken I own and also order a giant chicken suit from Amazon. After it arrived, we filmed our friend, chicken enthusiast, and all-around good sport David Rios against a greenscreen performing various actions that fit the poem.
Keying out the green screen was a new experience for me and it allowed me to learn the ins and outs of After Effects’ Keylight plugin. Before I knew it, I was a master of keying out adult human chickens. After that, both Xuedi and I set to creating additional assets in Photoshop and then animating. We also recorded Mary Fe narrating the poem and used it as our audio track.
In the end, after the whole process was finished, we ended up returning the chicken suit, much to my chagrin. However, I’m pretty proud of how the animation came out in the end.