Claymation - more than just a word...Sep 25, 2006 (Updated Dec 25, 2008) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MoviesThe Bottom Line I wouldn't have the patience to make a clay animation myself, but I'm grateful to those who do!! Pass the Wensleydale, Gromit...
What Is Claymation?
Claymation is actually a registered trademark copyrighted by Will Vinton in 1978 to describe the animated films Will Vinton Studios (now called “Laika Entertainment”) make, but in general it is a generic term to describe the process of creating these films by any company. Along with Vinton, the most famous exponent of these films nowadays is Nick Park of Aardman Animation, the creator of the infamous Wallace and Gromit characters. However, claymation (or, “clay animation”, it’s more properly or less popularly known) goes back a long way.
The first use of it I remember was in the old 1933 film King Kong. The fight scene between the giant ape and a tyrannosaurus rex was achieved using claymation, or stop-motion, animation techniques. In those days before CGI, it was probably the only way they could have achieved such a scene. The animator in that film was Willis H.O’Brien, and his work in King Kong He had earlier experimented with the technique in “The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy” (1915 and “The Lost World” (1925).
A 13 year-old named Ray Harryhausen watched King Kong, and decided to learn all he could from O’Brien’s techniques. Eventually he surpassed him in ability and worked on many films including several Sinbad films, and climaxing his career with “Clash of the Titans”, with the skeletal warriors being arguably his finest hour in special effects. (Oops - or was that Jason and the Argonauts?!?)
Then we have Nick Park (I don’t know much about Will Vinton so I’m not going to talk about him). He grew up wanting to be an animator, but it seemed impractical – at least, the cost did. In his own words:
"Plasticine was available when I was a teenager and started doing animation. I wanted to be like Disney, trying to film with plastic cels, but it was all too expensive. I didn't have enough money to buy cels, at least not enough to make more than four-and-half seconds of animation. But Plasticine was around, user-friendly and available to the masses. It was great because all you needed was camera, an Anglepoise lamp and a table. And you would make whatever you like come out of a blob of Plasticine."
His Wallace and Gromit characters are now world-famous, “Chicken Run” was a huge success, and Nick is working with PIXAR for an animated movie to be released in 2007, “Flushed Away”. He did the animation for what is consistently regarded as one of the best music videos of all time, “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. He also produce the wonderful “Creature Comforts”, which started out at a series of adverts for British Gas.
How Is It Done?
Basically, you create your characters with clay. You put them in position, and shoot an image of that. Then you make a tiny adjustment – an arm moving upwards a fraction, say, or raising an eyebrow. Then you take another shot. When replayed continuously, you get the impression of movement. Usually claymation runs at about 10-12 frames per second instead of the more usual 24 fps (frames per second) used in films. This is because the impression of movement and detail is enough to basically fool your eyes / brain (and let’s face it, you’re suspending your belief to begin with when watching claymation), and halves the work of the animators. I remember watching a documentary on how Chicken Run was made, and poor old Nick Parkes was literally run ragged supervising the various scenes that were being shot simultaneously. Setting up each frame is a time-consuming and painstaking process; imagine that process multiplied by over six hundred for even a minute of runtime. Then you have the model making, the links with computer animation which are becoming ever more important, lip-synching the voice acting…
I enjoy watching claymation films, but I doubt I’ve have the patience to actually make on (assuming I had the skill, which I don’t). So I have to take my hat off to O’Brien, Harryhausen, Vinton, Park, and anyone else who’s ever done it – famous or otherwise!
Here’s are some links for you to check out:
IMDB biography pages:
Willis O’Brien - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0639891/
Ray Harryhausen – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0366063/
Will Vinton – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0899139/
Nick Park - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0661910/
Laika Entertainment – http://www.laika.com/
Aardman Animation - http://www.aardman.com/
An interesting interview with Peter Lord and David Sproxton, founders of Aardman animation in Bristol in 1972, and Nick Park can be found here - http://www.avclub.com/content/node/22852
King Kong (1933)
A Grand Day Out - Wallace and Gromit's first adventure.
The Wrong Trousers - the second and my favourite W&G short film
A Close Shave - the third W&G films, featuring sheep!
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - the dynamic duo’s first feature-length film!
Chicken Run - Aardman Animation's first feature-length claymation movie
|Read all comments (6)|Write your own comment|