The magic of the movies often begins in the Berkshires [COLUMN]

Eugene Mamut shows Jordan Budaj some simple toys that use the same science behind movie animation and special effects.

PHOTOS BY KELLY BEVAN MCILQUHAM
Eugene Mamut shows Jordan Budaj some simple toys that use the same science behind movie animation and special effects.

LEE — When I stepped into Animagic, an animation museum on Main Street in Lee that showcases the local talent and their role in animation and special effects in the film industry, last month, I was quite interested in what it had to see. I was thoroughly surprised to learn that movie-making had so much more to it than cameras, lighting and wires — and  a lot of that can be and was created right here in Berkshire County.

Different objects spun and delicate contraptions were whirring and buzzing all around Berkshire Family Focus founder Kelly Bevan McIlquham and me as we made our way through the little studio with our tour guide and museum owner Eugene Mamut. My favorite contraption was the Donald Duck that constantly rolled back and forth on a string stretched across the room on his gravity bound path, but you better be aware of your head, he doesn’t stop very well!

As Eugene showed us around there were many other interesting things to observe, such as a face of Albert Einstein that was constantly watching us no matter where we went in the room. Eugene revealed to us how the head was concave with a black light shining on it, that made our minds automatically make it seem as if he were following us with his eyes —just an illusion that looked a little too real.

During the “Matrix” the special effects team had their work cut out for them trying to do the ‘”360-degrees-bullet” effect, Eugene said. I learned that the team ended up doing a surround-type 360-degree setting with multiple cameras pointing at Keanu Reeves, so they could get the exact view they needed for the shot. It is a very interesting scene in the movie that I hope you get the opportunity to check out. Even more interesting is now knowing how it was created.

Oscar-winning animator Eugene Mamut demonstrates the 360 bullet effect used in the Matrix to Jordan Budaj at his museum of animation and special effects Animagic

Oscar-winning animator Eugene Mamut demonstrates the 360 bullet effect used in the Matrix to Jordan Budaj at his museum of animation and special effects Animagic

Eugene Mamut holds a 3-dimensional Einstein mask
Eugene Mamut explains the science behind his ability to make a simple Einstein mask seem as if it is following you around his animation studio.

Not only does Animagic walk you through the special effects profess with various stations throughout the small museum, but it also teaches children 8-years-old and up how to make their own movies of all types; and as I have learned from my own experience, it’s extremely fun! I had a short lesson, but the museum offers a series of two-hour workshops for kids that only cost $20 each. I got to make a stop motion animation movie in which you take a picture. move the object a little bit and take another, and so on. I made my little clay person dance and clap in front of a background of a house and field! You can view it below.

After many laughs, questions and over all fun, our stomachs were complaining to us of negligence and Kelly and I decided to take a trip to (what other than my favorite) Baba Louie’s Restaurant, this time at the Pittsfield location. We ordered ourselves a pizza and a salad, I’ll just say, no leftovers were to be seen!

Animagic is a great place to check out it if you’re into learning more about movies and how they made their way in Massachusetts, or even if you just like checking out neat things, and who doesn’t like a good movie? I hope you have the awesome experience I got to have, and trust me you’ll learn much more than you ever expected at Anamagic. I hope you have an “animation” time!

The Animagic Museum of Special Effects is located at 135 Main St. in Lee. Admission is free to the museum; movie-making workshops are $20 each (there are three different types). For more information go online to mambor.com/animagic/museum.htm.

FUN FACTS:

Berkshire County animators are responsible for “the Slit-Scan” effect used in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “living painting” technology used in “What Dreams May Come,” the “360-degrees-bullet” effect used in “The Matrix,” the stereoscopic effect used in “Spiderman: The Ride” at Universal in Orlando and much more.

  • Inventions of Douglas Trumbull of Southfield made it possible to convert movies like “Back To The Future” to rides for amusement parks.
  • Spiderman: The Ride was created by Jeffrey Kleiser and Diana Walczak of North Adams.
  • Tom Gasek of Great Barrington was among the creators of famous full-length animated movies like “Wallace and Gromit” and Chicken Run.
  • The camouflage effect in “Predator” was developed by Joel Hynek of Lenox and Eugene Mamut of Lee.

 

Jordan Budaj

Jordan Budaj

Jordan Budaj is a 13-year-old homeschooler from Windsor. She loves skiing, hiking, horseback riding and most outdoors activities, along with a good book, of course!