Guest Post by Nick Berger, who is the co-author of the book, titled ‘The Klutz Book of Animation’ and who will be at Science Centre Singapore on 21, 22 and 23 November from 2-5pm to conduct a 3-hour workshop on stop motion animation.
Stop motion animation is enjoying something of a renaissance on YouTube at the moment. The fact that anybody with a camera, a computer, a clever idea and a bit of patience can become viral star has created a legion of amateur animators who have been pushing the form in exciting new directions. Before I get into the details of the current animation boom, here’s a quick look back at what I see as the major stops along the way.
The Vaudeville Era (c1900-1920)
In this era stop-motion films were often seen as part of vaudeville or variety show that would include animal acts and magic tricks. To compete with the other acts the stop-motions had to be short and punchy. The focus was more on trickiness than story. It was enough just to make an inanimate object move in a clever way. Here’s an example from 1908 by French animator, Emile Cohl.
The Monster Movie Era (1930s and 1940s)
In this era stop-motion was used to create special effects in big budget Hollywood movies. It became a sophisticated art done by specialists. The best known of these was Ray Harryhausen. He tried to smooth out the usual jerkiness of stop motion and create monsters that were as lifelike as possible. You can see his work here:
The Quirky Director Era (1990s to 2000s)
After the monster movie era stop motion fell out of fashion for a while. It didn’t really return to the public eye until the 1990s when directors like Henry Selick and Nick Park created movies like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit.” Unlike the special effects stop-motion of the monster movie era, these films embraced the herkey-jerkiness of stop-motion to create whimsical, imaginative worlds. Here’s the trailer for Nick Park’s “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
The YouTube Era (2005 –present)
While the Quirky Director Era may still be going on in Hollywood, a new era has begun on YouTube, where there has been an explosion of creativity of epic proportions. A search for “stop motion” on YouTube returns an endless list of stop-motions including ones made with jellybeans, butterflies, t-shirts and spaghetti. They are done by professionals and amateurs, kids and adults, they are advertisements, music videos, instructional videos and artistic experiments, and they are continually reinventing the medium, developing new techniques and using new materials.
The current stop-motion boom has been brought on in part by the fact that more and more people have the tools they need to do it: a video camera, a computer and some basic animation software (you can download some for free here http://www.icreatetoeducate.com/) There’s also the promise of viral stardom. With each clever new innovation comes the possibility that an animation will be passed around on Facebook, picked up by a blog and will be an overnight Internet sensation seen by millions around the world. Here are three great examples of stop motions from the YouTube Era: