Durin’s Song by J.R.R Tolkien


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Our fourth animation is Cut Out style. We had to animate a poem for this piece & include a lip sync for part of the poem.

The poem we chose is Durin’s Song by J.R.R Tolkien. For this animation we created our own sets & characters. The set design was a vertical cut out set rather than the traditional horizontal cut out type shot on a multi plane camera. We chose this because we wanted to do something a bit different to the traditional cut out style & to also give ourselves a challenge.

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The finished sets resembled a puppet theatre & when the lighting was set up it gave the animation depth with the shadow. This gave the finished animation a 3D look. The sets were painted using acrylic paint as it’s easier to layer up & blend to create a more realistic look. The use of acrylic gave a matte finish to the sets which prevented reflection or glare from the lighting. For the moon we cut out a hole out of the back layer of the outdoor set & placed white tissue paper over it to give it texture & to soften the light. We placed a spotlight behind the set to give the moon its glow. This also created a lovely reflection of the moon in the river. The stars in the sky are LED battery lights which we poked through the cardboard & taped to hold them in place.

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Altogether we created 3 completely different sets consisting of outdoors, indoors & a mining scene.  We recycled parts of these sets to create additional sets & replaced some of the layers or painted them a different colour.

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The story of Durin’s song is based in world of Middle Earth. As a group we had to research the history of Middle Earth to gain a better understanding of the poem & its themes. As well as having the challenge of animating in a vertical cut out set, the poem itself presented an additional challenge. It is a very complex poem, not to mention a long one. The voice recording of the poem (read out by myself) was 2 minutes 10 seconds long! On top of animating the poem & having a voice recording we were required to do a lip sync for a section of the poem. The requirement was to do a lip sync for one or two lines, we pushed ourselves even further by doing four. For this we had to do a dope sheet to see how many frames each sentence lasted, then create the phonemes for the lips.

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Durin’s Song has no speech in it, it is purely narrative. So to get around this & still be able to do the lip sync, we decided to have use a talking tree to introduce & open up the poem to the audience. We felt, rather than adding in additional characters that wouldn’t fit in with the poem & have them do the talking, a tree was best as it wouldn’t detract from the story. In the world of Middle Earth, there are talking trees called Ents so this fits in nicely.


The fusion of 2D & 3D in this animation was inspired by Flat World by Daniel Greaves.

As a massive Lord of the Rings fan, I really enjoyed making this animation.

Yahni 🙂