Stop Motion Animation: Creating Unforgettable Films


Jose Mandojana

Georgina Hayns, creative supervisor, puppet fabrication, with the cast from "The Boxtrolls".

Amanda Perez, Staff Writter

Animation has given modern television a new world of possibilities, bringing eye-catching visual stories with drawings coming to life. We all thank Disney and Pixar for its iconic artistic styles as it created iconic movies and shows that many adults still rewatch with excitement. While every animation technique is prevalent in their films, stop motion animation (also known as stop frame animation) is an animation film making technique that uses real physical objects to create the live action affect. These objects and characters are mainly made with clay or other malleable materials that will help with movement. A simple stop motion can even be easily done with Legos. Stop motion animation creates some of the best animated movies because of the process’ incredible detail and realistic aspects, as well as the tedious extra steps taken to make all of it possible.

The basic method of creating this type of animation involves placing your characters and objects in the position you like, slightly moving each part around, and then photographing each movement. When you go back through the photos in the sequence and put them together as a video, the objects will appear to be moving by themselves. The main materials used to make this possible are an iPad or laptop, a stop motion app, table, black tablecloth, two lights and a tripod or mount to stabilize the camera. If there is no camera, it can also be made on a phone using a specialized stop motion app. Usually, 12 frames of pictures create 1 second of film. It takes more equipment than other animation studios, but the mind-blowing results are worth it.

Jenny Lettow
An example of a stop motion animation.

Some might say that stop motion animation is not prevalent in the cinematic world. However, stop motion can be unnoticed because the style and movement of the characters is so similar to the current digital technology. In fact, many fan-favorite films use stop motion without the viewers noticing. Laika is a stop-motion animation studio best known for its stop motion feature films “Coraline”, “ParaNorman”, “The Boxtrolls”, “Kubo and the Two Strings”, and “Missing Link”. These well known movies are only a few of the major box office stop motion films.

A bendable skeleton used to create stop motion puppets.

To begin, the characters used in a stop motion film are much more detailed than those created digitally because they are made physically by the animators. In order to make them look realistic, a bendable skeleton will be added inside. This will help the puppet move joints and muscles like a human does. The outside will be covered with clay. They must be flexible enough to do different positions, but sturdy enough to hold that position for the amount of time necessary. Puppet Fabrication Creative Supervisor Georgina Hayns, set up the puppet department in Laika, and states that, “It takes around 30 skilled artists and craftspeople from three to six months to make a puppet, from sculptors, to mold makers, to armature builders, to people who cast all of the separate puppet pieces, to the painters, hair specialists, and costume makers… plus lots of planning and communication.” This tedious process proves that stop motion techniques create the best end results.

The puppets are then dressed differently throughout the recording when needed, and the faces are changed as well. In order to show different expressions, they mold multiple types of faces showing individual movements that can be replaced easily on the puppet. I think this is absolutely jaw-dropping because it seems like such hard work to create all these different expressions, yet the creators take their time to make it just right.

Face molds of characters used in Kubo and the Two Strings, each with a different expression.

In the film “Coraline”, each character had multiple puppets. Coraline had 28 copies made of herself for backups and for multiple scenes being animated at the same time. All the puppets have interchangeable hands, heads and faces. Their small jaws even move and their eyelids can slowly close and open giving realistic aspects to the characters. The amount of detail and thought put into this process is unbelievable and patience is greatly needed. In the production of “ParaNorman”it took 3 years to create, and 2 of those years were spent on the animation phase.

“Whenever I hear the word stop motion, I can only remember the Nightmare Before Christmas, one of the classics. Stop motion animation has created many beautiful artworks with just the tools of stop motion. It was basically my childhood, so I guess you can say I love it,” sophomore Aaron Nogues said.

Again, the amount of effort and small features is something that draws viewers into this type of animation. For example, props for the scenes do not only look amazing, but are also important in every slow-motion animation. Along with the small dolls, the objects have to be made to scale and  must also look as realistic and detailed as the real thing. The background also has to be made carefully, depending on the time of day the animator would like a scene to take place.

“Motion animation is unique because of how in just a few panels you are able to tell a fantastical story.  It’s a short fun story that it’s just pleasant to the eye. It can have a powerful meaning to tell a live story. It’s colorful too, so even better,” junior Ana Arroyo said.

Stop motion is a unique style of animation that has really shown us the possibilities in creativity and imagination, and its something anyone can try, including you! It really shows a complete different way of seeing animation, given the viewers uniqueness and one of a kind creating methods.