The History of Stop-Motion Animation

Written by sofi soloman
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The History of Stop-Motion Animation
Animated film techniques using stop-motion. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The stop-motion animation featured in "The Lord of the Rings" and the original "King Kong" dates back to the early 20th century. With stop-motion animation, the scene is altered, then a frame is shot. The scene is then again altered, then shot. The animator repeates the process to create a stop-motion effect. The technique has evolved over the years but the effects are essentially the same. Stop-motion animation brings life to animated figures and creates special effects that alter the sense of time. Stop-motion animation combines popular animation techniques to create unique effects.


In the early 1900s animators used plasticine, a malleable form of clay, to create characters and special effects using a technique called claymation. One of the earliest feature films to employ claymation, Billy Bitzer's "A Sculptor's Welsh Rarebit Nightmare," was released in 1908. "Gumby," the children's television show from the 1950s and '60s, remains one of the most recognised claymation series that utlized stop-motion animation.


Cutout-animation, using cutouts from paper and other two-dimensional objects, dates back to 1917, when Argentinian filmmaker Quirino Cristiani released "El Apostol," the first feature film in stop-motion animation. Today, filmmakers often employ computers and vector graphics to produce cutouts for stop-motion animated films, which saves time and offers more options for special effects.


Graphic stop-motion animation combines flat-cel animation and drawing animation, in addition to direct manipulation animation. Images are altered frame by frame to produce the effects of stop-motion. J. Stuart Blackton's stop-motion animated film, "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces," was released in 1906 and utilised chalk animation.


Filmmaker Emile Courtet, considered a pioneer in pixilation animation, utilised stop-motion techniques as early as 1911. Pixilation animation blends living actors with animated actors to create a hybrid animated effect.


Puppet animation entails photographing each changing movement of the puppet to produce the final stop-motion effect. The film "Dumpty Circus," released in 1908 and created by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert Smith, receives credit as the first stop-motion film featuring puppet animation.

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