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Stop Motion Animation History

Stop motion

Stop motion is an animated filmmaking technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they will appear to exhibit independent motion or change when the series of frames is played back. Any kind of object can thus be animated, but puppets with movable joints (puppet animation) or plasticine figures (clay animation or claymation) are most commonly used. Puppets, models or clay figures built around an armature are used in model animation. Stop motion with live actors is often referred to as pixilation. Stop motion of flat materials such as paper, fabrics or photographs is usually called cutout animation.


The term "stop motion", relating to the animation technique, is often spelled with a hyphen as "stop-motion". Both orthographical variants, with and without the hyphen, are correct, but the hyphenated one has a second meaning that is unrelated to animation or cinema: "a device for automatically stopping a machine or engine when something has gone wrong" (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 edition).

1849 to 1895: Before film[edit]

Before the advent of chronophotography in 1878, a small number of picture sequences were photographed with subjects in separate poses. These can now be regarded as a form of stop motion or pixilation, but very few results were meant to be animated. Until celluloid film base was established in 1888 and set the standard for moving image, animation could only be presented via mechanisms such as the zoetrope.

1895-1928: The silent film era[edit]

It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of all silent films are lost.Extant contemporary movie catalogs, reviews and other documentation can provide some details on lost films, but this kind of written documentation is also incomplete and often insufficient to properly date all extant films or even identify them if original titles are missing. Possible stop motion in lost films is even harder to trace. The principles of animation and other special effects were mostly kept a secret, not only to prevent use of such techniques by competitors, but also to keep audiences interested in the mystery of the magic tricks.

1930s and 1940s[edit]

Starewicz finished the first feature stop motion film Le Roman de Renard (The Tale of the Fox) in 1930, but problems with its soundtrack delayed its release. In 1937 it was released with a German soundtrack and in 1941 with its French soundtrack.


Ray Harryhausen learned under O'Brien on the film Mighty Joe Young (1949). Harryhausen would go on to create many memorable stop motion effects for a string of successful fantasy films over the next three decades. These included The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981).

1960s and 1970s

Japanese puppet animator Tadahito Mochinaga started out as assistant animator in short anime (propaganda) films Arichan (1941) and Momotarō no Umiwashi (1943). He fled to Manchukuo during the war and stayed in China afterwards. Due to the scarcity of paint and film stock shortly after the war, Mochinaga decided to work with puppets and stop motion. His work helped popularize puppet animation in China, before he returned to Japan around 1953 where he continued working as animation director.


In the 1970s and 1980s, Industrial Light & Magic often used stop-motion model animation in such films as the original Star Wars trilogy: the holochess sequence in Star Wars, the Tauntauns and AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back, and the AT-ST walkers in Return of the Jedi were all filmed using stop-motion animation, with the latter two films utilising go motion: an invention from renowned visual effects veteran Phil Tippett. The many shots including the ghosts in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the first two feature films in the RoboCop series use Tippett's go motion


In 1992, Trey Parker and Matt Stone made The Spirit of Christmas (short film), a short cutout animated student film made with construction paper. In 1995 they made a second short with the same titled, commissioned as a Christmas greeting by Fox Broadcasting Company executive Brian Graden. The concepts and characters were further developed into the TV hit series South Park (since 1997). Except for the pilot, all animation has been created on computers in the same style.

21st century

The BBC commissioned thirteen episodes of stop frame animated Summerton Mill in 2004 as inserts into their flagship pre-school program, Tikkabilla. Created and produced by Pete Bryden and Ed Cookson, the series was then given its own slot on BBC1 and BBC2 and has been broadcast extensively around the world.

Other notable stop-motion feature films released since 2000 include Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and $9.99 (2009), and Anomalisa (2015).

In 2003, the pilot film for the series Curucuru and Friends, produced by Korean studio Ffango Entertoyment is greenlighted into a children's animated series in 2004 after an approval with the Gyeonggi Digital Contents Agency. It was aired in KBS1 on November 24, 2006, and won the 13th Korean Animation Awards in 2007 for Best Animation. Ffango Entertoyment also worked with Frontier Works in Japan to produce the 2010 film remake of Cheburashka.[48]

Since 2005, Robot Chicken has mostly utilized stop-motion animation, using custom made action figures and other toys as principal characters.

Since 2009, Laika, the stop-motion successor to Will Vinton Studios, has released five feature films, which have collectively grossed over $400 million.


As of 2019, stop motion is thriving even in a filmmaking world dominated by CGI despite the efforts needed by the animators.


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