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Stop Motion is a technique of animation involving physical models as opposed to drawings or CGI. The models have to be moved for every frame. This sort of thing can take a very long time to film.

The models used can be made of anything, from hard plastic to foam rubber to metal. Rogue independent animator Mike Jittlov has been known to animate anything and everything with Stop Motion, including himself (see his famous shorts Fashionation, The Wizard of Speed and Time and Mouse Mania).

At one time, this was the default method for producing a non-human characters in special effects, along with puppetry. Stop motion characters would be matted into shots along with live actors. Ray Harryhausen was a leading practitioner and innovator of the art; his last stop-motion film was 1981's Clash of the Titans. The technique has been supplanted almost entirely by CGI from the 1980's on.

Stop motion animation can be done on live actors as well -- in this case it's called pixilation. (Not to be confused with Pixellation.) Pixilation can make certain scenes very surrealistic, and can be used to create some cheap special effects (e.g. it can be used to make an actor appear as if he were levitating). In this form, the Scottish-Canadian animator Norman McLaren is generally considered the master, although Jittlov has an immense following here as well.

Was very often used in Eastern Bloc children animation, perhaps even more often than the classical drawn cartoons.

"Claymation", a trademark owned by Will Vinton Studios Laika for its clay-based animation technique, is one form of stop-motion animation.

Actual "Claymation" is almost never done with earthen clay, which hardens rapidly when exposed to air. Most commonly, a polymer compound like Plasticine is used, since it never dries out and is slow to melt under lights. The figure is usually built on a flexible wire skeleton called an armature, unless the character's nature requires it to be formless.

Some common features to stop-motion figures are an interchangeable mouth, so that lip sync can be done without resculpting the mouth every time, and barely-visible holes or clear pegs in the pupils of the eyes, to make pointing the eyeline easier. On human figures, the mouth is usually a mostly-flat stuck-on piece with a black background to suggest depth. Aardman figures actually have a full set of sculpted mouths.

During the animation process, each character normally has his own "performer" -- a technician assigned solely to that figure, who adjusts its movements between frames.

Even though the art itself is painstakingly "low tech" compared to CGI there is some variations on how the final product ends up. Some like to keep true to the original methods in keeping everything in the view of the camera while others like to use digital touch ups for the more complicated subjects like fire, water or flying objects.

Examples of Stop Motion include:


Claymation (clay figures)


Puppet stop motion (non-clay figures)

  • George Pal's Puppetoons.
  • The first word in this trope is Willis O'Brian and his masterpiece King Kong. Willis' filmns, besides early Clay Mation shorts, include: The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, The Lost World (1925), Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, The Animal World, The Black Scorpion and The Giant Behemoth.
    • The original King Kong. Unfortunately, the fur on Kong wasn't brushed back between shots, so it constantly ripples. The animator, Willis O'Brian knew this and was very displeased. The Director, however, loved how it looked and so did the critics, commenting that "you can see the ape's hairs stand on end!"
  • The second word in this trope is Ray Harryhausen. He's important enough to bear repetition.
  • The Third word is Phil Tippet, who now has a youtube channel. He's worked on a few small movies like Star Wars, RoboCop and Terminator. He made the switch over to CG effects and keeps in the business.
  • A lot of work written or produced by Tim Burton, including:
  • Robot Chicken, created by Seth Green of Buffy and Austin Powers fame, was made using modified action figures.
  • The film Chicken Run -- only the heads were clay, the rest of each figure was a bendable wire framework covered in silicone. Each character wears a scarf or ribbon around their neck to hide the seam between the head and the body.
  • Davey and Goliath
  • Rankin/Bass Productions holiday specials were usually puppet stop motion (a process R/B called "Animagic"). Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus are the most widely known.
  • The French film Max&Co combines puppet stop motion and CGI.
  • Ka Blam!, which has a variety-show approach to the cartoons it presents, had a number of recurring stop-motion sketches.
    • Action League NOW is perhaps the most notable example; it used obscure (usually Dollar Store brand) and custom action figures and referred to the process as being "Filmed in Chuckamation"--any character that flies is just tossed in front of the camera. It also got a Spin-Off when Kablam ended.
  • Return to Oz blends live actors and puppet stop motion.
  • Used in the Lonelygirl15 episodes "My Sister = Slut", and "My Mom's A Freak!".
  • Wes Anderson's Film of the Book of Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  • The film of Coraline, in which nearly everything (including the grass and Coraline's raincoat) was wired to move around with the exception of the faces, which, instead of being made with clay, were designed on a computer, made with a three dimensional printer and were replaced every frame, like Henry Selick's previous work on the Pillsbury Doughboy commercials.
  • Pinchcliffe Grand Prix is the most visited film ever in Norwegian movie theatres.
  • Chorlton and The Wheelies
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenhole is made with paper dolls. They're still molded to be three dimensional figures, so they're not cutouts.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine was actually animated this way until Season 11. Season 12 was actually animated using CGI faces superimposed on top of stop-motion models, and Season 13 onwards is animated entirely in CGI.
  • Bob the Builder.
  • This classic Christmas ad for Norelco shavers.
  • Cheburashka, a Russian series of short movies. They are based on Eduard Uspensky's books.
  • Most of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's children's shows, including The Pinguins (shot outdoors with all the problems that entailed), Pogles Wood/The Pogles, The Clangers and Bagpuss, although the latter also included some cutout animation.
  • The Trumptonshire series - Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley
  • The Magic Roundabout, made in France but probably best known in Britain for its jokier rewritten narration
  • Some of the characters from The Amazing World of Gumball.
  • The yarn dolls used to represent the characters in the film of Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy, when the spaceship enters the Infinite Improbability Drive. The cut from the live action to the stop motion scenes is seamless (live-action Arthur even throws up some yarn!).


Cutouts

  • South Park was originally construction paper cutouts.
  • The Moomins were felt cutouts.
  • Emile Cohl, one of the very first auteur animators, tended to use cutout animation in conjunction with everything else he could get his hands on.
  • Worker And Parasite, the cartoon-within-a-cartoon of Krusty Gets Kancelled (and quite an accurate spoof of Eastern European cartoons), was done this way.
  • Terry Gilliam's animations for Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python, mostly using found images in surreal combinations.
  • Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's (see above) series The Saga of Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine were executed entirely with cutout animation, as were some of the stories-within-the-show in Bagpuss.
  • Some of the characters from The Amazing World of Gumball.
  • The Animated Music Videos for Mykonos and The Shrine / An Argument by Fleet Foxes (see above). The lead singer's brother is an animator.
  • Jaga Jazzist's music videos for "Animal Chin" and "Day" (both made by Acoustic Kung Fu Films) both involved animation of cutouts from photographs and magazine pages.
  • Disney's It's Tough To Be A Bird (1969) and Dad, Can I Borrow The Car? (1970) both include cutout animation segments.
  • Mike Jittlov's short Fashionation starts with a sequence of animated images cut from catalogs and magazines. In fact, much of Jittlov's work involves cutout animation; in order to make up for missing footage (and a budget shortfall) on the feature-length version of his magnum opus, The Wizard of Speed and Time, he actually used cutouts to fake a shot of a tourist bus passing in front of Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Other

  • LEGO is popular as a medium for stop motion for amateurs or professionals. LEGO even promoted this with their LEGO Studios line of toys back in 2000, which included sets like exploding buildings or giant dinosaur heads with moving jaws. One set had a camera that you can use to make the movies, and it can even attach to your LEGO bricks in the case you need to prop it up somewhere. The LEGO Studios website even had a few tutorials on how to do various specials effects like making minifigs run. Eventually the lineup ended with a Spider-Man theme in 2002.
    • Others go on to make custom LEGO characters and pieces to make stop motion videos of other properties that LEGO isn't involved with. Such as this video for Gears of War called Bricks of War.
  • Phantom Investigators, which was half stop-motion puppets and half live action, made by the same company of Life with Loopy
  • The film Better Off Dead includes a brief stop-motion sequence where the protagonist Lane, while toiling at a fast-food restaurant, imagines himself as Doctor Frankenstein bringing burgers to life.
  • The web series Arby 'n' the Chief uses Halo figurines to represent the titular characters and some secondary characters. Most of the other characters are represented by off-screen voice-overs.
  • Humorous Phases Of Funny Faces uses stop motion and a mixture of chalk and cardboard cutout animation.
  • The short film The Polos of Death uses a Boba Fett figurine and a lot of polos.
  • Norman McLaren's 1952 short film Neighbours does this with live actors, and the effect (combined with the film's theme of violent Escalating War) is one of horror. See it here.
  • The Sumatran Rat Monkey in Braindead.
  • ''King Kong Vs/Godzilla'' features a brief piece of it when Godzilla drop-kicks King Kong.
  • Mute Math has used stop motion for a couple of their music videos Blood Presure and Spotlight.
  • The Paddington TV series from the 1970s-80s used Medium Blending with a stop-motion bear for the main character and animated paper cutouts for everyone else.
  • As the Transformers toys became more poseable and screen accurate it has become more common for fans to create their own stop motion Transformers series or recreate a battle scene, especially from the movies for their memorable action sequences.
  • The work of Mike Jittlov, most notably Mouse Mania (made for Disney's 1978 Mickey's 50th special), Fashionation, and The Wizard of Speed and Time (also made for Disney).

Notes

  1. 24 frames per second, for 90 minutes
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