The Funhouse Waltz

Original Version, Composed 13 October, 1995

The Funhouse Waltz

August 2005 Recording

The Funhouse Waltz Trailer

30 June 2008

The Funhouse Waltz is an stop-motion-animated short film, currently in production, produced and directed by Carvin Knowles.


The Funhouse Waltz was first conceived on 13 October, 1995. Composer Carvin Knowles was asked to submit an orchestral music demo for a horror film, but no plot synopsis was given for the film. So on a half-hour lunch break from his day-job, he wrote a bullet point plot outline. In order to hit all the right scenes for a horror film, his outline was in the form of a funhouse.

The next day, he wrote a complete concert waltz made up of horror themes and recorded it the same day at Sound Asylum Studio in Pasadena California.

A week later, the demo version of Funhouse Waltz was rejected by the film studio. It would not become a part of a horror film in 1995.

A week later, Carvin brought the recording of The Funhouse Waltz to a Halloween party called "The Feast of Souls" and gave it to the party organizers.

When the clock struck midnight at The Feast Of Souls, the lights went out and The Funhouse Waltz began, with it's slow, creepy introduction. With the first announcement of the first waltz strain, people began dancing. In a moment, the entire party was waltzing in their ghostly costumes to the wild and discordant music. For Carvin, the immediate popularity of the waltz came as a total surprise. "I had combined Viennese Waltz with harsh Viennese Serialism. The dissonance is a bit challenging. I was certain that no-one would like it."

Encouraged by the Halloween party response, Carvin wrote out the episodes of the tone-poem as prose and presented them and the Waltz to a professional ballet company in early 1996. They rejected the idea immediately. At the time of this writing there has been no authorized performance of a ballet or modern dance show based on The Funhouse Waltz.

The first characters for The Funhouse Waltz take shape in Carvin's Hollywood apartment, December 2006.
Photo by Carvin Knowles
With that rejection, the idea was born to turn The Funhouse Waltz into an animated film. "I had several friends who were animators, so I took the idea to them" Carvin writes, "they loved the concept, but they were all busy working. No-one had time to start a major project."

After several years of trying to find a producer and director for his short film, Carvin decided that he would build and animate The Funhouse Waltz himself. Not knowing where to begin, he consulted friends in animation to learn process and technique. He commissioned wire armatures for some of the characters. He studied the works of Ray Harryhausen, watched the documentaries about King Kong and Jason and the Argonauts.

"Ding-Dong" the Clown prepares for the first shot in "The Funhouse Waltz, 12 March 2007.
Photo by Carvin Knowles

In December 2006, he began building sets and characters. In January of 2007, he began shooting the first test-shots of the characters. On 14 March, 2007, he began the slow process of shooting The Funhouse Waltz.

At the beginning, it was intended to work like a music-video. There was no script other than that first story outline. At best, the "script" was like a treatment. The plan was to build the necessary rooms of a funhouse and shoot the characters moving in time with the music.

Shooting continued until February 2008, when Carvin left Hollywood and moved to Auckland, New Zealand. While waiting for the production to arrive in New Zealand by ship, he cut together the first trailer for The Funhouse Waltz and posted it on YouTube on 30 June, 2008.

In New Zealand, production resumed in early 2009. During that time, Carvin submitted a TV advertisement to Cadbury for their Easter-egg campaign using characters from The Funhouse Waltz. The ad was rejected, but served as a test-run for more shooting. By mid-july, the first section of the film, the "Clown" portion of the funhouse was complete.

The second portion of the film, the "Haunted House" scenes were begun in mid-September. The sets for the Haunted House were more complex and highly detailed than the "Clown Rooms," including several hand-painted portraits hanging on the walls, a staircase and bookshelves filled with hundreds of individual books. Shooting in the Haunted House was completed in October 2010.

The third, and most challenging portion of the film, the "Crypt" scenes required over a year's worth of pre-production. Shooting for the "Crypt" scenes began in late December of 2012. Production on The Funhouse Waltz continues.

On the set of The Funhouse Waltz, on the floor of Carvin's Hollywood apartment, March 2007.
Photo by Carvin Knowles

Carvin Knowles / Ozone Layer Music (BMI). All rights reserved.