Why do we love Stop Motion animation? If we had to choose one reason, we'd chalk it up to the the illusory magic that brings life to the inanimate. Yes, all animation possesses that necessary dose of wonder, butwe'd like to think that Stop Motion is an even more unique subset. Between its distinctive visual style or the way stop motion animation re-imagines physics and composition, here's some of our favorite examples of Stop Motion and how they've shaped the "genre" today! Oh...and for those interested, we offer a Stop Motion after school class, and it's a constant staple of our maker camps!
As an American Claymation franchise, Gumby may very well have been many American's first exposure to stop motion animation. Created by Art Clokey, Gumby featured a Green Humanoid character and his horse named Pokey and first appeared on NBC in 1955! Gumby was pioneering, one of the first to portray Clay animation to such an extent, and laid the visual foundation for many stop motion animators to follow. Allegedly, Gumby's legs were made wide so that he could stand on his own during filming...which, due to the nature of Stop Motion animation, could take days on end to complete a single scene! Since debuting, it's spawned two TV series and a full length film, as well as rightfully cementing a place in the cultural icon hall of fame
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 Stop Motion film directed by Henry Selick and produced and conceived by Tim Burton. Featuring grotesque imagery and dry humor, key ingredients of what would define Burton's signature style, the film began production in 1991, with a full crew of animators, voice actors and a special effects team. At the peak of production, the crew were using 20 individual stages simultaneously! All told The Nightmare Before Christmas is comprised of 109,440 individual frames and 227 different puppets to represent the characters, with the Jack Skellington puppet alone having roughly 400 different heads to represent different emotions! The Nightmare Before Christmas has a strong legacy in animation and popular media and is an enduring staple of "goth" subculture today. Furthermore, it remains one of Tim Burton's most iconic works. Whether its the herky jerky stop motion style, the ornate set constructions or the macabre jokes, it's truly a masterpiece of animation and well deserving of its hype today.
Wallace and Gromit
Wallace and Gromit is a British clay animation series created by Nick Park (of Aardman Animation Studios). The franchise has been adapted into four short films and one feature length film. Featuring quirky humor and Nick Park's iconic character design (you may also recognize the Aardman style in those Chevron commercials), the shows focus on the outlandish adventures of Wallace and his mute (but quite competent) dog. Wallace and Gromit is constructed entirely with plasticine models and shot in the traditional stop motion technique: making small and consistent movements to the characters to create the illusion of animation!
Coraline is a 2009 3D Stop Motion film based on Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel, and depicts an adventurous girl discovering a parallel world behind a secret door upon moving to a new home. Written and directed by Henry Selick (who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas) Coraline is truly a multimedia affair, utilizing 3D imaging, stop motion, voice effects and traditional animation to tell the story. The film was staged in a 140,000 square foot warehouse which hosted nearly 150 sets and hundreds of miniature figures and architecture. More that 28 animators worked on the scenes at a rate of shooting roughly 90-100 seconds of footage a week. The crew also made use of 3D printers to create assets and props for the films, including distinctive character facial expressions. At the height of production, the crew used the work of more than 450 different technicians! Subsequently, the film has received much critical acclaim for its innovative production and story.
Ok right off the top: The Lego Movie isn't technically stop motion. It's CGI. However, Animal Logic (one of the primary the production companies involved in the film) did everything they could to make the film's animation replicate a stop motion film. It's also evident that the film takes its inspiration from stop motion animations like the myriad fan-made Lego stop motion videos available on sites like YouTube. Factor in the live human actors and meta storyline, and the fact that Lego is a beloved cultural icon and toy, and you have a film that effectively pushes Stop Motion further into the stratosphere. Plus...EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!
We know we're only scratching the surface of stop motion and there's plenty more films that missed! Share some of your favorite stop motion films in the comments!