Stop-motion thriving amid digital sea change in animation

In an age in which animation is dominated by digital, one form of analog seems to be gainingmomentum: Stop-motion.

 

In an age in which animation is dominated by digital CGI (most notably the work of Pixar), one form of analog animation seems to be gaining momentum. Traditional hand-drawn animation is practically dead, but stop-motion continues to thrive.

Over the next week alone two stop-motion features are hitting screens: Independent claymation feature Mary And Max, as well as Wes Anderson’s big budget Roald Dahl adaptation, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Something about this meticulous handmade animation continues to resonate with audiences even though it should be outdated, it seems.

 


A still from the upcoming Mary and Max film.

 

“For audiences, stop-motion has an inherent charm that simply cannot be replicated in drawn or CG animation,” says Professor Christopher Walsh. “This charm largely comes from the physical aspect of the medium. In stop-motion it’s a real puppet on a real set moving through real space.”

And Walsh should know, considering he is one of the instructors of the renowned animation program at Sheridan College (the only institution in Canada with a comprehensive stop-animation program).

“Human hands make the whole world that appears onscreen, and that human connection, in an increasingly digitally polished age, is reassuring to an audience,” claims Walsh.

This audience connection is very real and as a result the production of stop-motion animated films is greater today than ever before. With this in mind, Metro takes a look back at some of the finest works of stop-motion ever produced.

 


The Nightmare Before Christmas

Director Henry Selick transformed the traditionally jerky stop-motion medium to a slick Hollywood production with stunning results. The feature-length stop-motion film, the first ever made in Hollywood, didn’t take the box office by storm on initial release, but has gone on to become a contemporary classic that played a major role in the resurgence of the format.



Wallace And Gromit

British animator Nick Park’s clay man and dog duo have been the subjects of four short movies and one feature that have won countless awards (including several Oscars). The characters are incredibly expressive in a manner rarely achieved in any form of animation, while still retaining a charmingly handmade quality. Top-tier entertainment for any age.



The Work Of Jan Svankmajer

Czech director Jan Svankmajer has specialized in stop-motion for 45 years, frequently transforming household objects into his animated playground. Svankmajer’s varied work includes everything from political shorts to surreal children’s stories (including a feature-length adaptation of Alice In Wonderland, seen above). But no matter what his subject matter, Svankmajer’s animation is always a wonder to behold.



The Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

Possibly the most beloved works of stop-motion ever produced, these classic adaptations of Christmas stories such as Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy have become annual holiday favourites, that have introduced generations of children to the wonders of stop-motion. As Christopher Walsh puts it, “When people think of stop-motion, these shows are normally what comes to mind.”