“Meat Grinder” was created for a high school project requiring that I produce a short film using any type of animation. Inspired by grotesque cartoons like “Robot Chicken” and “Happy Tree Friends,” I wanted to film a darkly comedic scene of slapstick violence and over-the-top gore.
The initial candidates for the film’s subject included such unfortunate events as a gruesome grizzly bear encounter, a fatal treadmill accident, and a sword swallowing gone horribly wrong. However, upon discovering an old hand crank meat grinder in a school junk pile, the idea of a gut-tearing slaughterhouse mishap took center stage. Clamping the grinder between two coffee tables, the set’s remainder was fashioned using scrap sheets of wood jazzed up with construction paper and hand drawn cow carcasses. After buying the film’s characters (two knockoff GI Joe figurines found in a questionably viscous bargain bin) at my local comic store and setting up my laptop’s webcam, I finally began to animate.
By far the most challenging part of the project, all three-hundred and eighty-four of “Meat Grinder”’s frames were a test of faith and patience. For starters, the plastic figurines refused to stand up, making walk cycles impossible unless you covered their feet in globs of plasticine. However, this correction caused to the models to leave a snail trail of clay behind them as they walked, constantly warping the texture of the paper flooring. The opening sequence of the worker carrying the severed cow’s head up the ramp was particularly grueling, as the weight of the skull would topple the man over each time I tried to take his picture!
Albeit a janky thirty-second clip, the final product is something I am proud to have made. The film’s low-rez aesthetic is reminiscent of the fan-made YouTube animations I grew up watching, and I hope it will bring audiences the same backwards joy as the films from which it was inspired. If making “Meat Grinder” taught me one thing, it’s that animation is tough. Having experienced the tribulations of stop motion firsthand, I have come to regard professionally claymated films as true works of technical and artistic achievement. Although quite the painstaking process, there to be something truly magical about seeing everyday objects come to life before your eyes.