“This is the decade when we can ride home the mantra we all know – animation is film, animation is not a genre,” del Toro
From the dark fairytales of Guillermo del Toro and the colourful and surreal worlds of Henry Sellick and Tim Burton, to the graphic and illustrative style of Wes Anderson and the nostalgic charm of Aardman’s Nick Park, stop motion animation has brought to life the visions and dreams of its artists in a way that could only have been realised by this particular medium. It is a medium that gives life to the impossible.
Through the combination of animation, set dressing, puppets and cinematography, an entire world is created. A real physical world in which light hits each surface in the same way it illuminates our own. Stop motion lets us see a world we can reach into. We see the same objects that lie around us and yet they are magical and alive. Animators bring characters to life, characters that can feel emotions just like us. An illusion, a trick of the light, a persistence of vision, that allows us to feel emotional over the raise of a plasticine eyebrow or the fall of a glycerine tear. A world populated by mythical creatures or ordinary working people, all brought to life one frame at a time.
When Guillermo del Toro stood up at the Annecy festival and announced that “Animation is film. It’s not a fucking genre”, he told the world that stop motion is an artform capable of telling any story. Animation can’t be a genre because it can tell so many stories in so many different ways. Even within stop-motion there are so many different techniques that can be used. Puppet animation, claymation, pixelation, animating real life objects, cut-out animation and silhouette animation can all bring stories to life. Each of those stories can be drama or comedy or horror, they can be for adults or for children, they can be fantastical or they can tell us truths about our past and about ourselves.
Cinematography has been a part of stop-motion animation since the earliest days of cinema. Some of the very earliest stop-motion films were also the earliest films. George Méliès created fantastical events by stopping the camera and changing the scene. When Ladislas Starevich shot The tale of the Fox, he was creating a world in which puppets moved around in the moonlight. Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen stunned the world with their combinations of stop-motion creatures and live action scenes, creating groundbreaking special effects in the process. Aardman’s Chicken Run was the first widely released film in Europe to use the digital intermediate process. Stop-motion animation became one of the first mediums to embrace digital filmmaking. Nowadays stop motion films combine traditional camera techniques with VFX and CG to create fantastical, and yet real, tangible worlds, in which anything is possible.
This website hopes to explore a few of these techniques. To look at the skills, the traditions, the techniques and the people behind the camera, that often go unnoticed, but that can make the most ordinary scenes become cinematic. Animation is film and cinematography is cinematography.
This website is only new but we hope to grow over time. Hopefully you will enjoy the articles we have so far but will also continue to come back for more.