Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Critical Studies

I am going to base my critical studies on stop frame animation as this is something I am very passionate about and intend to further my knowledge on it.

Stop motion animation is a classic animation in which the objects you are animating are real, objects or three dimensional objects. the basic principal of this type of animating is to position what ever you animating shoot a frame of whatever medium or animation your working in, make a change to the objects then shoot another frame, you do this over and over. Character sculptures and sets are usually smaller than life size, and may be built on armatures that give them a defined skeleton. Thar armature helps you create realistic motion also providing support for the body and accessories on the figure if there are any.

Whenever someone thinks about stop-motion animation or talks about it people tend to think of such films as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach or Chicken Run. Although most of those films a recent, stop-motion has been around in different forms for more than a hundred years.

Object manipulation is the first form of stop-motion animation the first example of this was in 1898 which was a short film by called The 'Humpty Dumpty Circus' by Stuart Blackton and Albert E Smith. However since then the film cannot be found and only information in writing is left of it today. The Earliest work that is still around today is a short film 'Fun in a Bakery Shop' directed by Edwin S porter and released in 1902.

Direct manipulation animation is when a part of the image is taken away or added the middle of each frame. The first evidence of this type of animation was another short film called 'Humorous Phases of Funny Faces' from J Stuart Blackton and put out in 1906. The film involves photographing and image adding to it and taking the picture again. This was all drawn by chalk and seen as the first animated film.

Soon after that animators wanted to try with different media and experiment with different objects such as puppets which were easier to manipulate. This began and was known as stop-motion animation. A good example of this is 'Street of Crocodile' in 1986 and 'The Sand Castle' (Le chateau de sable, 1977)

All these Stop Motion films were very important as they introduced a legendary filmmaker Willis O'Brien who helped develop stop-motion animation with special effects. Another filmmaker who played a huge part was Ray Harryhausen who further developed stop motion animation with models and puppets. His best piece of work 'Jason and the Argonauts' which involved a fight between skeletons and humans was all done by stop-motion and done in 1963. The final scene was a huge achievement in those times.

A film that I think is very interesting is 'The secret Adventures of Tom Thumb' done in 1993. This film uses a form of stop motion which uses real people and they move frame by frame in stead of puppets, objects or drawings etc. The film comes across very creepy and almost has a dark sensation to it. I Enjoyed watching the film and felt the nightmarish impression, along with stop-motion combined with live action was very clever and effective.

A film I really enjoyed watching was zero. Zero is a stop-motion film about a small town with characters who vary in hierarchi according to there number 1 the lowest and the higher the number the more important etc, However there is one group of people in this community (zeros) who are seen as unwanted and deemed to be ignored and bullied in the society. This short film 'zero' tells the story of one of the zero people life. The zero character goes through a lonely life constantly held with abuse and prejudice however until a chance encounter changes his life and he meets a female zero. Together they prove that through there love and determination to be seen as normal people nothing can be truly something.

I think the story puts forward a strong theme of racism and underlines how dark it can be. I think this is a good bases for the story as in society today people forget how much racism still affects out communities and lives around us. The ending shows with a little understanding a courage there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.

The characters in the film are built on armature structures and covered with cotton string resembling a string ball of cotton as first seen as and embryo in the mothers whom at the start the forming to a human like figure. The zero characters are a different color to the other higher numbered chracters again bringing up the sense of racism 'being different is wrong'.

Zero from Zealous Creative on Vimeo.

Zero: Behind the Scenes from Zealous Creative on Vimeo.

I think people in today's society see animation as just 'CGI' and seem to forget about were the roots of it came from. Stop-motion animation I feel is the only way were you can get a real feel for it and get under neath the skin of animating. Stop-motion is more recognized and perceived as film for youth and children. However there is more to stop-motion than kids films.

Steven Warne who is in the world of stop-motion film making and has made such film as 'Wallace and Gromit' put huge amounts of time and effort into making these amazing films. I looked at some interviews with Steven Warne which helped me get a wider perspective and professional knowledge on stop-motion.


There were a few important steps in my childhood and teenage years that lead me along this path; I think like a lot of children, creating small worlds in which you can invent and control whatever you imagined always appealed to me. It’s natural for children to try to make sense of the world through playing, and I just see animation – or any art form for that matter – as an extension of this.

When I saw Wallace and Gromit at a young age something sparked inside of me; it was just so expressive and believable, yet the technique (as refined as it was) was also quite visible. You could see that it was made painstakingly by hand and I think I was drawn to that aspect of it. The idea that it was possible to create something so cinematic and full of life in miniature. I loved the characters, the world, and it seemed like a very accessible form of film making too, the fact that you could make a film on the kitchen table. That was quite a revelation!

Later on I realised that there was of course a lot more involved in the production of a stop-motion film, especially at a professional level. But I still feel that the childlike enthusiasm I had
to create life from something that isn’t real is what drives me. At the heart of it all should be good storytelling. That’s the

George Melies

While shooting one of his life scenes, the camera jammed. It took about a minute to clear the problem and resume shooting. When the film was processed and screened, Melies saw a bus suddenly turn into a hearse. People also in the scene suddenly appeared or disappeared. This accident led to his discovery of stop motion trickery which became his first film with this special effects technique.

A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 French black and white film. It is loosely based on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells

The film was written and directed by Georges Melies, assisted by his brother Gaston. The film lasts for 14 minutes at 16 frames per second, which was the standard amount of frames at the time the film was made. It was extremely popular at the time of its release and is one of the best known films made by George Melies. A Trip to the Moon is the first science fiction film, and shows amazing animation and special effects for that time period, including the iconic shot of the rocket landing in the moon's eye.

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