Throughout the past year, we’ve all had more time on our hands. Some of us made sourdough and/or banana bread, we’ve worked on our houses, worked out, and made the best of the circumstances. One art teacher from Long Island, Brian Baker, came across LEGOs that a friend was looking to get rid of, combined his love for moe. and new found skills in stop-motion animation. The result is “moe.rons on parade,” capturing the spirit of a moe. show in LEGO form.
Having taught art in K-12 in the Three Village School District in Stony Brook, NY, Baker, like every other art teacher across the country, was put in a tough position last spring – how to teach art online. With such a tactile and hands-on subject needing virtual or least socially distanced lessons, improvisation was needed. In the past year, Baker learned the art form of stop-motion animation, one that he will be bringing to his students after learning the basics at home.
A 2003 graduate of Hartwick College where he majored in Fine Arts and played lacrosse, he’s been coaching junior high football and JV lacrosse at various schools on Long Island since he graduated college, recently and at various other schools for nearly 20 years.
Baker first saw moe. at the Oneonta Fieldhouse on April 28, 2001, possibly the only time they’ve played the town. He had heard them a few years before and had a few albums. And having only seen a lot of Phish prior, it was time to diversify.
“moe.rons on parade” features “Four” and “32 Things” with Baker telling a short story of a young couple’s first experience at a moe. show through LEGO characters. The video shows quite the effort and love for the band on his part, one that will not only satisfy veteran moe. fans, but newcomers as well.
Pete Mason: What’s your teaching background and how did you start in on this moe. LEGO project?
Brain Baker: This is my 14th and by far craziest year of teaching, and I think that helped generate this project. I am currently teaching 7th-9th grade and have anywhere between 15-20 kids in class and 1-10 kids remote on a Google meet at the same time. Trying to make things equitable has been a challenge. We have to make sure everyone has the same materials. On a normal year, I would have kids, be making clay boxes, cutting stencils for acid etching, creating stained glass mosaics, cutting glass bottles, weaving baskets, making jewelry and other hands on stuff. A lot of these things aren’t practical or safe for kids to use unsupervised at home. So we have had to get creative with what we can do.
Last March when schools started closing and throughout the summer, I really challenged myself to learn some new skills so when we came back to school I had some fresh and fun projects for kids to do. They deserve it. Their whole universe got totally upended last spring and they need some fun social things to get it back to normal. Also, I am not allowed to collect artwork from kids, just photos. So how do we show off their work? I learned a lot about the iMovie program and other animation software by putting together some short clips of student work.
I learned a lot about the imovie program this year. They say kids are really resilient which is true, they adapt to things very well. It was a real challenge figuring out all the technical things (lighting, camera angles, focus, computer skills) and I had quite a few mishaps along the way. But it was an awesome way to spend some time and I am looking forward to seeing people’s reactions. I am having a few friends over for an outdoor viewing on the projector Saturday night. I am also looking forward to showing my students the edited version. I shared all the different steps and clips with them along the way and they want to see the end result.
PM: So it seems you’ve had some time on your hands. When did you start this project and what kickstarted the concept for you?
BB: Well, as a dad of a 2 year old girl (Althea) and a 4 year old boy (Frederick), time is something in short supply these days. They are “full speed ahead” kids. Even though Covid cancelled my coaching gigs for a while, it has still been a busy year for my wife Liz and I trying to keep them active and engaged. Last March when everything started shutting down, I kept my sanity by getting us outside and building stuff. We started with a small kids train made from my old deck wood. Then we built a 9-hole mini golf course in the backyard. My son helped me through the whole thing. And I did several other backyard recycling projects. But this project really was the perfect storm. I started teaching an animation class this year, and my friend’s kid really wanted a puppy. So his compromise was the play room was going to be the puppy room. The LEGOs have to go.
So I got a huge supply of LEGOs to play with. My son loves building things and mechanics, so he was instantly in love. And with the animation class we have already done a ton of drawing, so this will be a nice “mix it up” project for the fourth quarter. I mostly worked on this project at night after they were in bed or sometimes I would have them come down and play LEGOs with me during the day. With stop-motion, you generally use a remote shutter, so I was also able to include my 4 year old in some of the photo taking process. He helped build a few of the smaller pieces as well. I started putting the stage together in the beginning of February and then began shooting photos later in the month. Once it got rolling I pretty much worked on it everyday until I was done for anywhere between 15 minutes and 7 hours. After I saw the band post the pics on their page I practically lived in the basement that weekend.
PM: How many hours did it take to complete the construction, prior to filming?
BB: Building the stage and all the sets and characters took maybe 5 or 6 hours over the course of a week. The photos took a month and a half of many, many hours. I took somewhere around 30,000 photos.
PM: Is this your first foray into stop-motion animation?
BB: I did a short stop-motion a few years ago on powerpoint and my son and I made a police station getting smashed by the Incredible Hulk earlier in the winter, but this was my first real serious stop motion project. It was a huge learning experience.
PM: Any fun Easter Eggs or tips of the hat that you worked in?
BB: Yes. You’ll have to look. Lets just say there are some band references and funny characters.
PM: What is your favorite moe. song and moe. experience?
BB: Favorite song? That’s like picking a favorite kid! Let’s just say there are no moe. songs I don’t like. There are a few Grateful Dead ones I don’t enjoy, quite a few Phish songs I can’t stand, but I love moe. They play music exactly how I like music to be played. The diverse influences and song writing styles are awesome. The first time I listened to them was NYE ’99. A buddy put on “Rebubula” and I said to myself “Yes….this is what I’m looking for in my life.” I think we listened to the No Doy album three or four times that night. I went and picked up a few more albums and some shows on tape. The rest is history. I’ve only seen 60+ shows, but I listen to them more than anything else. I try to catch every live webcast or the old Facebook Live streams (remember those?). Big ups to the moe.stream team for setting up quality live show audio streams.
moe. fans are an awesome group of people. I have had some great conversations through the years, connected with cool people and shared tons of fun experiences. This is my 16 minute and 30 second thank you to them and the band.