Hi! Welcome to the Kimono’s Townhouse Behind–the–Scenes Tour. Here, I show all the things that go into making an episode of KT. It’s not as easy as it looks!
One of the questions I am asked most is whether I’m using multiple ponies to achieve the different poses and expressions with Kimono and Minty. The answer is yes, I have multiples of each. Unlike action figures, which are poseable, My Little Ponies, at most, can only turn their heads, so multiples are required to get any sort of “motion.”
Kimono and Minty are both Hasbro characters, and the company has created multiple sculpts for each. There are two Hasbro–issued Kimono variations and seven Hasbro–issued Minty variations. I don’t have two of the Minty variants, but they wouldn’t blend in with the other Mintys, anyway. The rest of the sculpts you see in KT are created by myself.
The current group consists of seven Kimonos and six Mintys, with more in production. There are also multiples of several side characters, such as Sunny Daze and Sparkleworks.
Creating the extra ponies presents a challenge because they must match the Hasbro–issued ponies exactly. Otherwise, the eye would pick up on the difference, and it would pull the reader out of the story. Customizing additional ponies is the most difficult part of production. A Minty in progress is shown to the left.
Making a new Minty is pretty straightforward. She has a common hair color and her symbol is easy to paint. Hasbro rarely issues green ponies, but when they do, they tend to be Minty green. This saves me a lot of time by not having to dye parts to match. And a good thing, too! I have been unable to match Minty’s color so far.
Kimono is more difficult, since she is an unusual shade of violet. Most of the customized Kimonos I create must be dyed to match, which can cause a lot of frustration. I find creative ways to let off steam when Kimono gets me down.
Kimono has an unusual hair color that Hasbro rarely uses. I’ve had difficulty finding hair for additional Kimonos. She also has a very intricate symbol, so replicating that is time–consuming, as well. I’ve been careful to choose versatile sculpts for Kimono, since so many resources go into making her.
While I can achieve a large range of motion with the different sculpts of each pony, I am still limited by them. They are all, in essence, stuck standing around. There are not yet any sculpts that allow Kimono and Minty to sit, lie down, or curl up in a ball laughing. Shots where the characters are in such positions require me to get a little more creative. Usually, these shots are achieved by using loose parts.
Gruesome, isn’t it? A combination of loose parts and a technique called forced perspective allow me to place the characters in unusual, dynamic poses. Currently, I’m working on loose parts for Minty, which will help me create more dynamic actions for her. She’s a hyperactive girl, after all.
Once a scene is set, production is a simple matter. Settings, characters, and props are combined under bright lights, captured with a digital camera, and brought to you, the reader.
Production begins by writing the story. The long–term plot of KT is planned out, but it’s told through shorter vignettes, which I usually write on the fly. I often consult with my husband, Kris, to come up with ideas. If it’s an important story arc or I’m unsure how an element works, I take the idea to my beta readers. And if I find myself with writer’s block, I go to my idea notebook. This often results in Dream Fairy or Cooking with Superman sequences. Usually, I have an idea in place several weeks in advance, but it’s not unusual for us to come up with an idea a couple hours before a comic is due.
Once an idea is in place, I start going through the prop collection. I began this collection when I was very young, about seven years old. In the decades since then, I have added props for almost any scenario imaginable. Sometimes, obsessive hoarding comes in handy!
The props are organized by category into many boxes, which are clearly labeled. If I need a cup, I pull out the box marked, “kitchen,” and if I need a phone, I consult the box marked, “electronics.” Special occasions, such as holiday episodes, require months of planning in advance so that I can get the props in time. I also spend a considerable amount of time building sets and environments. Photographic and hand–drawn comics each present their own challenges.
Once everything is chosen, I set up the scene and rig it with lights. Currently, I have four lamps equipped with GE Reveal lightbulbs. I have found the clamp lights used by mechanics to be especially useful. These get very hot very quickly, though, so I try to work in a cool area. I pay special attention to how the lights are angled, in order to avoid weird shadows and bright spots.
My lighting process has evolved over the years. The earliest episodes of KT were lit only with the flash on my camera, which made them dark and a little grainy. Eventually, I added a lamp to the lighting process, and then a second. I stopped using the flash, which greatly improved the color in the photos. Finally, in the second year of production, I added two more lights, thanks to generous donations from my readers. As you can see in the photo below, these lights make a big difference!
I take the photos with my camera and edit them in Photoshop. This process can take anywhere from an hour to a couple days, depending on how complex the layout is. Then I upload it, write commentary, and it’s ready to go!
And that’s it. It takes a lot of preparation and attention to detail, but I have a lot of fun doing it. I hope you enjoyed the tour!