Dedication to the arts:

Why stop-motion films will always be around.

When you think about how much goes into an animated film, it really can astound a person.

No! Wait!

Before you go “oh, great, well, thanks but I have absolutely NO interest in any of those ‘kid films’,” just hear me out.

Think about a movie. It doesn’t matter which one, any film. Just pick one. Your favorite film: think of your favorite film. Your favorite actor or actress in your favorite film will, at some point, blink on camera. The frames of the film will capture that blink. It only takes a second for someone to blink, but the camera will still capture it. Now, consider this: for one standard second of animation, an artist must draw 24 individual frames. That is 24 different pictures, illustrating that single action that takes place in a single second. 24 pictures for just one second.

Now, on picture number 12, the artist makes a mistake. The blink will no longer look like a proper blink and, even though that single frame will be shown for a fraction of a second, the audience will still notice. “But,” you might say. “That is a picture in a series of pictures. Surely the artist can just go back in, fix the picture, and do the sequence all over again. Everything would be fixed, piece of cake.”

What if I told you that it was a stop-motion animation?

Stop-motion (or stop-mo) is a subset of animation. Not to be confused with Claymation, Stop-motion animation has its own subset in film where a gigantic team of animators and artists work together to create a physical world and tell a story. Possibly the most famous (and certainly the most popular) example would be “Nightmare before Christmas.” In a Stop-motion film, the “animators” manipulate puppets and figures to create the illusion of movement. Usually they will increase the number of frames per second to give themselves more opportunity for movement and, thus, a smoother look to the animation.

However, when your animation relies on taking photo after photo as you move a figure, you have absolutely no room for error. A single bump, a nudge slightly out of place, will ruin hours of work.

Let me say that again: hours and hours and hours of work, work that you cannot go back and simply “take a new picture and insert the corrected frame into the rest of the sequence,” can be ruined by a single, tiny bump.

So why would ANYONE want to dedicate years of their life to creating a movie in a medium that can be ruined as easily as sneezing at the wrong time? You already said the answer: dedication. People who are passionate about what they do will do it well, and, truly, if there was ever an example of that, it would be those who dedicate years of their life to Stop-motion.

There is a certain look, a certain feel, a certain design; a certain uniqueness to it. Stop-motion allows the director to create worlds and characters that would be next to impossible to do with real actors and wouldn’t look right in a drawn or computer-generated form of animation. Imagine what it might have looked like if “Nightmare before Christmas” had been done with a pen-and-ink style of animation!

Thousands of people will make up teams that go into making the film’s miniature world. Figures can stand at inches or up to three feet. A single human character can have 35 different faces that go into making their expressions. Clothing has to be made in miniature in order to look right when shown on a 50-foot screen (a challenge when the film “Coraline” was made). Plants, stones, mailboxes, breadboxes, pets, people, houses, shoelaces… they were ALL made in real life. Everything that is shown on the screen was created by hand by someone. Every second of film equals hundreds of hours of effort done by real people.

And that takes real passion.

But even though there are people who are passionate about it, why would anyone want to help fund such an expensive, time-consuming, life-consuming project when there is new technology developing nearly every single day, technology that makes animation easier and easier? Especially when films are starting to really trend towards being done in 3D? Because, if there was ever a type of film that was made for 3D, it would be Stop-motion.

Ironically, the constant, trending development of 3D is perfect for the two extremes: the futuristic ‘truly immersive worlds’ (such as Cameron’s “Avatar”) and the old school hand-made Stop-motion.

Stop-motion offers a look of texture, a sensation of lighting and depth that will only get better as the 3D effects get better and better. Films like “Nightmare before Christmas,” “Coraline,” and, now, “ParaNorman” have been given the 3D treatment, allowing the depth of their world to become more accessible to the movie viewer. The settings are built in real life on gigantic tables in enormous warehouses and soundstages. 3D allows the viewer to get a true feeling and a true appreciation for what the set-builders and designers have done for them. Sure, it also allows the cheesy “pop out” effects to be used more, but giving depth is where it REALLY comes into play.


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