Private Project

The Elephant's Song

The true and tragic tale of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in America, rendered in painterly clay-on-glass and oil pastel animation, and narrated in song by her friend, an old farm dog.

  • Lynn Tomlinson
    The Ballad of Holland Island House
  • Sam Saper
  • Lynn Tomlinson
  • Lynn Tomlinson
  • Sam Saper
    Music written by
  • Film Type:
  • Runtime:
    7 minutes 38 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 16, 2018
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Film Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Maryland Film Festival
    Baltimore, Maryland
    United States
    May 4, 2018
    World Premiere
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Lynn Tomlinson

Lynn Tomlinson is an award-winning animator whose poignant clay-on-glass films investigate environmental and historical stories from unusual points-of-view.

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Director Statement

My clay-on-glass animation involves both planning and improvisation. It’s a bit like finger painting, using warm modeling clay that looks like thick oil paint. It is a stop-motion process, meaning that I create an initial painting, and then alter it bit by bit to create the movement. The process is both creative and destructive: As I change the image, the original is changed over and over until it no longer exists. I spend about three hours under the camera to make one second of finished animation. Often, instead of a storyboard or movement pencil test, I edit a video-mashup-from found video mixed with artworks and historical photos. Sometimes I use this video collage as a rough guide, and other times I actually rotoscope or trace the movement, to add a life-like quality to my moving paintings. "The Elephant’s Song" is based on the true story of one the first elephants in America, and one of the first chapters in the history of the Circus in the United States. Like my previous work ("The Ballad of Holland Island House"), this film deals with complex social issues through painterly animation and evocative music and lyrics. This film combines clay-on-glass animation with oil pastel over video prints to capture a sense of photographic reality. Because the film is set in the Hudson River Valley in the 1800s, I looked at paintings by early American painters like Edward Hicks and the Hudson River School for inspiration. This film was created in a collaborative process with my son, Sam Saper, who wrote the song that tells Old Bet's story.