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‘Good Grief,’ Stop-Animation for Your Eyes That Speaks to Your Heart

Fiona Dalwood is one of the top female animators working in Australia today and when you watch her award-winning short stop motion documentary Good Grief —you will understand why.

Five real people (represented by claymation animal and vegetable figures) share their true stories of losing something precious, and what it has taught them about living.

Fiona Dalwood, the creator of 'Good Grief.' (Image: Nick Hower)

Fiona Dalwood, the creator of ‘Good Grief.’ (Image: Nick Hower)

To give you an idea of the effort involved—it was 9 hours of interviews to edit, over 1000 hours creating the plasticine characters, building sets, and snapping the 24,492 photographs to bring us 7 min 57 sec of this touching film. It was produced by Jonno Katz, and was helped made possible through crowdfunders support.

With Good Grief, the five participants were interviewed about their experiences in dealing with grief. They were then represented as claymation characters in a “talking heads” format, lip-synching the audio interviews.

  • A dog (Spangle) recounts the death of both his parents.
  • A spider (Dana) tells the story of how her best friend hanged herself.
  • A grasshopper (Andrew) reveals how having his leg amputated after a motorcycle accident led to him becoming a Paralympian.
  • Two baby vegetables (Sarah and Alex) tell us how they feel about losing their pet bunny rabbit.
Sarah and Alex talk about the death of their pet bunny rabbit, Ollie. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Sarah and Alex talk about the death of their pet bunny rabbit, Ollie. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

The idea for the project came from a life-changing experience the artist had when she lost her mother after 9 long years of struggle to ovarian cancer. Through this experience of grief and loss, the artist found some light, and used that as inspiration to go make art. In the heart of the story lies this message…

There is a lot to gain from losing what you love.

I admire that each story ends on a positive. You can really feel the growth the people get from experiencing loss. Each person experiences grief differently. The gestures of the figures are so darn cute. Humor definitely helps tackle tricky subjects. My favorite bit of detail would have to be when Spangle, the claymation dog,  pats his pet dinosaur.

Fiona took inspiration for the look of 'Spangle' The Boston Terrier from her own BT Gomez. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

The look of ‘Spangle’ was modelled off Fiona’s own Boston Terrier ‘Gomez.’ (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Andrew had his leg amputated after a motorcycle accident when he was a teenager. He went on to win a gold   medal for Australia at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics.. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Andrew had his leg amputated after a motorcycle accident when he was a teenager. He went on to win a gold medal for Australia at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Dana had one of her best friends commit suicide. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Dana had one of her best friends commit suicide. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Fiona is a pretty huge Aardman fan. You may recognize elements of Nick Park’s style of claymation from Creature Comforts in her work, however, her aim wasn’t to reinvent the wheel, but to find a more appropriate method to convey the stories. And I think she has done an exceptionally fine job. Her mother would be proud.

Dan, a.k.a. ‘Spangle,’ lost both of his parents to illness within the space of a fortnight. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

Dan, a.k.a. ‘Spangle,’ lost both of his parents to illness within the space of a fortnight. (Image: Fiona Dalwood)

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