A reader messaged in and reminded me of this great video of Terry Gilliam in his younger days, showing how to make a cut-out animation. His enthusiasm is really contagious. What a dude!
I came across this pretty neat short stop-mo animation by Sam Barnett. The animation and models are pretty crude but I like the look and feel of them. The story is simple but well executed. I really like the jerky camera work which added a level of abstraction to the film and it made me really uneasy. The short reminded me of a cross between Robert Morgan’s ‘The Cat With Hands’ and ‘Wallace And Gromit’. For fans of dystopian science fiction.
Ray Harryhausen was a pioneer in stop-motion puppet animation and special FX.
Harryhausen began as a fan of science fiction and was inspired to work on stop-motion puppet animations after seeing King Kong in 1933. He met master stop-mo animator Willis O’Brien which he was later to work with, who critiqued and helped Harryhausen develop his animation skills. He was hired as an assistant animator on his first feature film ‘Mighty Joe Young’ in 1949.
Harryhausen managed to inject real drama into the performances of his stop-motion puppets, giving them realistic qualities but also making them the larger than life fantastic creatures they were. He became most well known for his spectacular monster animations in films such as 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957).
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (1963)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)
Ray Harryhausen’s work brought fantastical stories to life and inspired legions of animators and filmmakers over the years. R.I.P Ray, you were awesome.
Here’s an interesting trailer for the short film Abyssus Abyssum Invocat (2012) by Wes Simpkins. Haven’t seen the full film yet but I’ll be on the lookout for it.
My friend and video artist Diego Ramirez put me on to it.
When thinking about Japanese animation, people mostly think of hand drawn or computer generated animation often characterized by colourful graphics and vibrant characters. That’s probably because most Japanese animation is in this form, however there are other amazing Japanese animators out there who work in their own forms and styles.
One of these animators is Kihachirō Kawamoto who has been called ‘the magician of puppet animation’. I don’t like this title because it implies that Kawamoto didn’t work his arse off to make his amazing stop-motion and mixed media films, instead he is somehow ‘magical’. Nevertheless Kawamoto is an amazing animator producing at least 11 short films, 2 feature length animations and a live-action puppet feature.
He began his career in the 1950’s as an assisstant to Tadahito Mochinaga who himself a pioneer in stop-motion puppet animation. In 1962 Kawamoto’s animation really took of when he travelled to Czechoslovakia to study under master animator Jiří Trnka for a year. On his return he began utilising Japan’s rich heritage and mythology in his own works with animations such as in ‘The Demon'(1972).
‘The Demon’ is based on a 12th century tale that says that when people grow old, they turn into demons who devour their own offspring. Two brother go hunting in the forest and they hear prey approaching. One of the brothers climbs a tree while the other hides in a bush, bows drawn. The brother in the tree is attacked by a demon and his sibling shoots an arrow severing it’s arm. Upon inspection of the arm, they realise it resembles their mother’s. They run home to discover their mother has transformed into a demon. Kawamoto draws heavily from Noh and Kabuki theatre and Bunraku puppetry. The mood and atmosphere created by Kawamoto is almost palpable, making it one of my favourite animations.
Another short from Kawamoto is ‘House of Flames'(1979), the tragic tale of a woman who comes between two suitors and the disastrous results. Heavily inspired by Noh theatre, Kawamoto combined watercolour background paintings with stop-motion puppets. The result is ethereal and dreamlike.
In addition to Kihachiro Kawamoto’s short animations, feature animation(The Book of the Dead, 2005), and live-action puppet feature(Rennyo and His Mother, 1981); he also directed a collectively animated film called Winter Days(2003) based on the 17th century renga of the same name by Matsuo Bashō. The 36 stanzas were independently created by 35 different animators from around the world. The film is an amazing collection of varied animation. One of my favourite stanzas is the first, created by master Russian animator Yuriy Norshteyn(who I will talk about another day). The beautiful cut-out stop-motion animation shows his mind-boggling levels of perfectionism.
Kihachiro Kawamoto passed away in 2010 at the age of 85. In my opinion he was one of the greatest animators to have ever existed. Not because his animation was particularly painstaking or technical, but because his unique style and blend of influences led him to create some of the most atmospheric and mood driven pieces ever. We can learn a lot from the aspects of animation he concentrated on and used to depict his stories.
– Hamish .S
One of my big problems in venturing to make a feature animation, is that I realistically only have 3 to 4 years to complete it in. Because I’m doing it ALL(writing, design, production, animation, sound, post) I’m going to have my work cut out for me. The slowest part of the workflow for me will always be the animation and actually generating the shots. This means that my animation needs to be quick but it also needs to look good enough to evoke mood and engage my audience.
There are several ways to speed up animation, but not a hell of a lot to speed it up but still retain quality. This year(2013) my biggest goal is to create several short works that will help me reach a style and form of animation I can continue to develop when creating my feature. Right now I’m all over the shop, I’ve experimented in silhouette, drawn, stop-motion, multi-plane, 2D digital, 3D cgi, and hybrid animation forms but have not settled on anything I could use to make a feature to the standards i want. My work will always have elements of many forms in it, but I need to get a base form down to develop my style in.
These are all factors that will help me decide what direction to go in developing my own form. The other is the actual style I want. All the animation I really admire that’s done by a single person or small team has been pretty heavily stylized. I see photorealism as a trap. I’ve seen and heard of numerous animators working on an amazing looking photo-realistic short animations, only to have it take them years to create 5-10mins of animation. On top of that, photorealism is boring. If you want photorealism, pick up a fucking camera and use that. The only way I can develop into the master storyteller i want to is to create many projects over the years and learn from my mistakes, not get bogged down on one project searching for perfection. In saying that though I do need to be a perfectionist to an extent, but it’s like balancing on a tightrope. Produce quality animation + finish it in a certain time so i can move on and develop.
I’m starting on this search as soon as I finish a quick silhouette animation I need to get out of my head in the next month. I’m pretty sure I can reach a direction with style/form this year if I work hard and take plenty of risks.
I’ve always been one to advocate the importance of thorough and complete pre-production when it comes to creating a moving image work. I’ve always put in the time when it comes to scripting, storyboarding and planning as it’s one of the stages I enjoy the most about creating an animation and I find it really fun. However when I get to the physical act of setting things up and getting things so they’ll work later, I tend to go in guns blazing and be a bit reckless.
The music video I’m working on is a stop-motion/digital animation hybrid. This pretty much means that we have stop-motion models we animate in front of a green screen so we can put it in digital environments later. When it came to setting up each shot in front of the green screen, I tended to rush things with the excuse “we’ll fix it in post”. Now I’ve been suffering the consequences of this type of thinking. For the last 3 weeks Oscar(co-director) and I have been keying out every frame of the shots so we can use them in the final compositions later. Because of my laziness earlier in the production I would estimate that we have spent over 50-70 hours more on this part of the music video than we would have needed to otherwise.
Putting in the effort from the start will not only keep you from wasting your time and pulling your beard hair out, It will also mean your final work will look better and be more perfected. No matter how well you do your pre-production and setups, there will always be tedious boring parts to this kind of work. You just have to plough on through the muddy swamp that is tediousness and procrastination until you get through it, and when you do(and you will even if it feels like it’s taking forever) you will be a better artist for it. You will walk right over the piles of comatose people who don’t put in the hard work and expect instant gratification MWAHAHAHA!
And now for some Japanese Death Poetry!
Even a life-long prosperity is but one cup of sake;
A life of forty-nine years is passed in a dream;
I know not what life is, nor death.
Year in year out-all but a dream.
Both Heaven and Hell are left behind;
I stand in the moonlit dawn,
Free from clouds of attachment.
Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578)