A new animated short is taking straphangers on a whimsical trip through the history of subway car design — while they chase down their own trains.
For two minutes, at the top of every hour, a stop-motion short film called the “The Blowing Bowler” is now playing on 52 large LED screens throughout the Fulton Center.
The quirky bit of animation, which follows a man chasing his bowler hat as he runs past a century’s worth of different subway cars, is the latest art installation in the Financial District transport hub, sponsored by MTA Arts & Design.
Animator Chris Sickels, a native of Indiana, said the “magical charm” he holds for the subway inspired the brief jaunt through history.
“The subway is ever changing,” said Sickels, 41. “I wanted a way to embrace the idea of a journey — through the past, present and future, going down the rabbit hole, or the subway tunnel.”
After a gust of wind blows a man’s bowler hat away, he’s sent on a journey through a tunnel, where subway cars — from the 1870s, 1910s, 1940s, 1950s, 1970s and 2013 roll past.
The loop of animation is about two minutes, but the process to create the stop-motion art took months to create.
Sickels, who works out of in Greenfield, Indiana, under the name Rednose Studio, crafts every piece featured in the video by hand — from clay, cardboard, wire, wood, fabric — then he shift each small object incrementally, to create the illusion of motion.
Courtesy of Chris Sickels
For more on the behinds-the-scene process, check out his blog post.
Along with his animation, his art will also soon be display inside subway cars, as an "art card" that decorates the interiors of trains.
“The clean lines of Fulton Center’s soaring contemporary public space are juxtaposed by Rednose Studio’s handmade aesthetic and witty storytelling,” said Sandra Bloodworth, director of MTA Arts & Design in a statement. “This combination elicits a feeling of traveling through time. We hope that the craftsmanship and playfulness of this charming artwork will spark the imagination of our customers, young and old.”
Sickel's "The Blowing Bowler" will be played until the summer of 2016 in Fulton Center. For more information about his projects, head to his website.