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Motion Across Media Module III: Stop Motion 1

I’ve been in love with stop motion for as long as I can remember – claymation to be specific. When I was four years old, I watched the original 1964 version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer every day for the better part of a year. It’s still my favorite Christmas movie… next to another claymation classic that is – The Nightmare Before Christmas. Over the course of two weeks, I’ll be diving deep into creating my own stop action short film, beginning with pre-production.

Reading

For this project I reviewed past chapters in Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer, including Pre-Production, Storytelling, Storyboarding, and Color Sense. Overviews of these chapters can be found in Module I and II posts.

Chapter Five: Weird Science

I found this chapter to be insanely helpful and wish that I had discovered the advice within many years ago. The chapter focuses on the importance of experimentation and pushing your limits to create your best possible work. Blazer insists that the best way to push your abilities is the not be afraid to fail or to make “bad art.” As artists, we are often so worried about how our work will be received that we don’t push our abilities or try new and inventive things.

When you relax and stop worrying about what people are going to think, you’re at your most creative and inventive.

(Blazer, 2016, p. 74)

Blazer urges the reader to work at the edge of their skillset and to become comfortable with the discomfort of trying new things. But, she reminds the reader to be systematic about which skills to push by focusing on where they want to be as a future artist, instead of trying out everything possible.

Research

As I stated before, I’ve loved stop motion animation for as long as I can remember. The rich and vibrant world that can be created through this style of art is fascinating. As children, we bring life to plenty of inanimate objects – toys, dolls, sticks and rocks. Stop motion animation is reminiscent of the hours I used to spend creating fantasy works of pixies and dinosaurs in the woods behind my house.

I’ve found several examples of stop motion animation that appeal to me – some classics and some new!

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

The ultimate classic, this movie sparked a fascination with stop motion animation in me at a very young age.

Wallace & Gromit

A man, his dog, and an undying love of cheese – this is a storyline that speaks to me on a deep, personal level.

Nightmare Before Christmas

Nightmare Before Christmas is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. It was one of the mainstream things that made me know that it was ok that I was a little weird – that there were OTHER weird people out there in the world doing awesome, weird things.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I’ve posted about it before, and I’ll post about it again – Wes Anderson makes my soul sing. The fact that he has dabbled, quite successfully, in the realm of stop motion animation thrills me deeply. I love how realistic and human the movements of these puppets are as well as the details down to the way their fur bristles in the breeze.

Negative Space

This sad, sweet story delves into a father son relationship through the lens of backing a suitcase. This story made me think of my own parents and what I have learned from them, specifically when it comes to packing – rolling things that can be rolled from my dad, and fitting everything in like perfect tetris pieces from my mom.

One Tree Forest

I chose this short animation because I wanted to look into works that were closer to something I could create than a Fantastic Mr. Fox or a Nightmare Before Christmas. I like how the paper moves across the screen. I watched this after I had come up with my plan for the Non-Linear storyline which utilizes paper cutouts, but this really confirmed what was in my head.

Lost & Found

I saved the most heartbreaking for last… and let me just say I’m not crying, you’re crying. I’m not sure why stop motion animation is often used as the avenue to tell the absolutely most soul crushing stories but here’s another one! I loved how the filmmaker used a mix of real objects, clay, and other animation techniques to create this world.

Create

Pre-production is important in all types of filmmaking, but especially so in stop motion animation. Unlike in other forms of film where so much can be adjusted in editing, in stop motion, the lions share of your work will be done during the actual creation of your photos. Having we fully formed idea, materials list, and storyboard can make the difference between a choppy, unfinished looking piece and a smooth, finessed story.

I came up with two separate storylines – one linear and one non-linear. I created pre-production summaries and storyboards for each, and next week I will turn one of them into a fully realized stop motion animation.

Linear Storyline: The Bird

While it currently lacks a more exciting title, the bird is the story of a piece of paper who dreams of seeing the world. The piece of paper decides to undergo a personal transformation from piece of paper into an origami bird, who obviously ALSO has the ability to fly.

Check out the full summary and storyboard here:

Non-Linear: Everyone Sang

This non-linear animation will be used to illustrate the poem Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon. It utilizes paper cutout style animation that helps tell the story narrated in the poem. I would consider this piece to use the puzzle format because if you aren’t familiar with the poem, you don’t necessarily know that it is about the futility of war and the release from its terror through the death of a soldier.

See the summary and storyboard here:

Dino Wars

Finally, it was time to try my hand at creating my own test animation! I chose one of my favorite subjects – Schleich dinosaurs. I created a short battle between a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus that was made up of approximately 90 photos at 12 FPS. I tried to at 24 FPS as well, but I didn’t like how fast it was. Maybe because the fighting dinosaurs remind me of the good ‘ol days of stop motion animation, but I felt the herky jerky 12 fps fight was more fun to watch! I took the photos using a tripod for my iPhone and compiled them using the app Stop Motion Animation.

There were several frames where my fingers were still in the photo as well as a few places where I could have added several more frames to each movement. I will certainly take these two lessons into account when creating my final project!


Blazer, L. (2016). Animated storytelling : Simple steps for creating animation et motion graphics. Erscheinungsort Nicht Ermittelbar] Peachpit Press.

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