The Redemption of the Magic Cone Snail

The Redemption of the Magic Cone Snail is a short film, a mixture of live action puppetry and 2D stop motion animation.

Background to the story and synopsis

The protagonist, a singing cone snail (Conus magus), recalls the story of how this venomous beastie became a source of inspiration for a research group lead by the distinguished Filipino scientist Professor Baldomero Olivera.

Olivera spent his days as a boy on the beaches near Manilla, intrigued by the creatures he found there which included varieties of cone snail. These snails can be quite touchy, some types even able to take down a fully grown human. As an early career researcher with no research funding and little access to facilities, Olivera returned to the beaches of the Philippines and began to investigate the toxins contained within the venom of these snails.

Our Magic Cone Snail (so called because the common name for this snail is the ‘magical cone’) finds redemption through science, by being the source of a toxin which, when purified, can be used as a painkiller in situations where other painkillers such as morphine do not work.

The song

The main narrative device, the song tells the story of Olivera through they eyes of the snail he used as his research subject. The sea shanty feel to the tune and the instrumentation reinforces the fact that the singer is a marine snail. A lot of Garage Band was used to turn Liz’s vocal into something that sounded reassuringly “snaily”, unfortunately this effect was at the cost of clarity of the lyrics! We believe this is why we didn’t win first prize at the film festival, a lesson learned…

The puppet snail

Not the first time Becky has created a puppet snail, and doubtless not the last. Liz tried her hand making the shell using her newly discovered crochet talents, and Becky made it live by giving it a replaceable mouth part that enabled the puppet to lip-sync when required.

The 2D animation

The animation was done flat and in felt for two reasons: expediency and cuteness. Once we had the song we knew we had something that definitely had that handmade Smallfilms / Postgate & Firmin feel to it, something the mice in Bagpuss definitely could have sung (if only they’d known about magic cone snails!). Using felt cutouts enabled us to tell a lot of story very quickly (we had only 2 months of spare time to record everything and edit the whole thing), and the colourful, fibrous nature of the material easily communicates a folksy, child-like feel to the animation.

The badges

We decided that we needed some merch to go with the film’s screening at the Big Screen in Bristol’s Millennium Square, something in keeping with the handmade feel of the film. We made a snail linocut and printed it on to yellow felt to make something that resembled a medal (for our hero snail). Much to our surprise, people actually bought them and wore them.

The finished article

Can be found on our YouTube Channel here:

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