August 29, 2011

Stop.Frame blog – on hiatus

As any visitor will have realised, the Stop.Frame blog has not been updated in a while. This is because I have been so busy in the rest of my life that I have had no chance to watch animation – let alone blog about it!

So I’m officially putting Stop.Frame on hiatus. The site will remain online – but I’m not going to worry about updating unless my circumstances change and I can do more creative work.

In the meantime, anyone visiting who wants to look at a really interesting stop-motion animation project should visit my dear friend Jessica, whose retelling of the Orpheus legend using puppets and silhouette figures is coming on beautifully. 

February 9, 2011

Axe falls on England animation funding

YouTube Preview ImageVia @jessicakoppe comes a report on the Cartoon Brew web site that Arts Council England has cancelled its prestigious, 21-year-old Animate programme.

According to Arts Council England, Animate Projects (its latest incarnation) will close at the end of March 2011, though the Animate Projects web site may stay online for a while afterwards.

Animate was responsible for a wealth of excellent animation – including the fabulous Yours Truly by Osbert Parker. A real shame to see such a long-running and successful scheme has to be cancelled because our banks made such bad investments… 

February 2, 2011

Student stop-motion success: Chloe Rodham animates DeVotchKa music video

News just in from UCA Farnham animation graduate Chloe Rodham, whose excellent and haunting Smile was a standout film in the graduate shows last year. She’s just produced a stop-motion animated music video for Denver band DeVotchKa – who did the music for the 2006 Oscar-winning film Little Miss Sunshine.

The premiere was last night, but if you missed it, here’s the video, complete with Chloe’s distinctive production design and animation.

December 12, 2010

Doctor Knowgood on Vimeo

Finally, fresh from his European debut in Bristol last month, here’s the monkey doctor himself – Doctor Knowgood treats another difficult case in his jungle dispensary.

November 9, 2010

Doctor Knowgood at Bristol Encounters

Stop.Frame breaks its far-too-long silence with the news that Arnold Zwanenburg’s terrific stop-motion claymation film Doctor Knowgood has been accepted for showing at the Bristol Animated Encounters film festival.

Doctor Knowgood will be showing three times – so giving everyone in the South West a good chance of seeing it before it goes home to Rotterdam. The showings are:

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the film in a full-size cinema screening. Fingers crossed Arnold gets the recognition his film deserves.

September 22, 2010

Altar Boy

I wrote a while back that I was looking forward to seeing Gustavo Arteaga’s animation based on the track Altar Boy by Ricky Lee Jones.

Gustavo was behind the award-winning Rapunzel’s Flight stop-motion film, which topped the British Panorama section of the 2009 London International  Animation Festival. His work is eerie, surreal and disturbing – but very moving and intriguing. In short, he pulls off the trick of being both experimental and accessible. I particularly enjoy his use of puppets in an outside environment, including shooting in sunlight and making use of natural features such as moving water and shadows.

At last – Gustavo has kindly let me know that Altar Boy is now finished and online.  The film is in the same mould as Rapunzel’s Flight, but I reckon he’s managed to work even more cleverly with his real-world settings. There are some very nice effects, including some tricky-looking tracking shots, and a very nice use of natural variations in light levels, that make it seem as if he’s animating the sunlight at the same time as his puppet.

I’m not sure if this film will be on the festival circuit, but check out his Vimeo video channel for this and other films, including a nice, raw clay abstract film that reminds me a bit of the Brothers Quay – but with nicer music!

July 24, 2010

Stikfas is going out of business – snap up your figures now!

Stikfas are small, articulated plastic figures that are a nice tool for anyone wanting to try out a quick stop-motion puppet animation. They clip together quickly and and are light and small for table-top animation (I find them a bit too light and small to work with, but many others create really interesting films with the figures).

But it seems the company is going out of business, so if you want to try out some animation ideas using Stikfas, better snap up some figures now. I found out from the fine, which is selling off its stock of figures, but there’ll be other suppliers (eBay, especially, I imagine).

June 30, 2010

Happy birthday, Ray Harryhausen

Curses – just missed the stop-motion animation maestro’s 90th birthday yesterday (June 29th). Belated best wishes to the master of fantasy skeleton swordplay!

This landmark coincides with a special exhibition of his models and puppets at the London Film Museum on London’s South Bank. The Ray Harryhausen – Myths and Legends exhibition will be open for a full 12 months, so there’s no excuse to miss it.

After that, If we’re lucky, his collection of storyboards, props and sets should then be donated to the National Media Museum in Bradford – as long as it can raise the money to preserve the collection.

Why was Ray Harryhausen a stop-motion genius? This scene from Jason & The Argonauts [DVD] [1963] of a sword fight with reanimated skeletons should give you a clue…

June 20, 2010

Student stop-motion talent: Chloe Rodham – UCA Farnham

Stop.Frame is reporting on some of the student animation shows around the country over the next few weeks. First up is UCA Farnham graduate Chloe Rodham.

Chloe is responsible for the standout film of the UCA animation show this year – Smile – a story of frustrated love set in a travelling circus in the 1920s. It wears its influences on its sleeve a bit (basically it’s Madame Tutli-Putli goes to the circus), but it’s a beautiful piece of work.

The film isn’t available to watch in its entirety, but there are some clips in her showreel shown here. Watch out for Smile in animation festivals around the country over the next year – I bet it’ll be in the running for some prizes.

Why is this film so good?

Lovely puppet design – quirky, evocative and expressive. Like Madame Tutli-Putli, there’s no lip synch, and very little mouth movement, but the puppets are so expressive you don’t notice. All the work is in the eyes, and the result is characters that seem real.

Beautiful character animation – this isn’t an all-action film, but nor has Chloe skimped on the animation. There’s a heap of beautiful character animation on show, with lots of emotion and it’s all well-paced and fluid. I really believed in the life of the characters.

Great set design – it took me until the second viewing, and some inside information, to realise that the sets and backgrounds were all computer generated. Normally this is something you have to grit your teeth through – students use a ropey CG background to save time set-building, and it shows. But this is brilliantly done. The sets seem lovingly created and, though they do have a slightly different quality when you really pay attention, this actually enhances the slightly unreal, dreamlike quality of the film. And the compositing is seamless. Great work.

Story – well, possibly the story is the weak part of the film, in that it doesn’t really make sense on first viewing. But then, no one knows what on earth was Madame Tutli-Putli about, and that had an Oscar nomination. But what it lacks in plot it makes up for in atmosphere. And this is a mood piece first and foremost, so it absolutely works.

So many student films have good puppet making, or good sets and props, or good photography and lighting, or good animation. Smile has them all – a superb effort for a student project. I hope we’ll see much more of Chloe’s work in the months and years to come.

June 5, 2010

Student stop-motion talent: reporting from the graduate shows

It’s graduate show time around the UK, as animation students prepare their showreels and reveal their creative work for probably the first time.

Animation festivals rely heavily on graduate work for their shorts programme – so if you go to some of the leading graduate shows you’ll end up seeing a lot of the year’s animation in advance.

This year, Stop.Frame will be sending its team of crack stop-motion animation critics out to as many of the student shows as we can fit in, to report on the state of student stop-motion and puppet animation work.

So how is this year shaping up? Thursday night’s opening night party for the UCA graduation show (see showreel above) revealed some top talent to watch in stop-motion animation, so we’ll be focusing on those first. Stay tuned for reviews and clips of the best of the puppet films over the next few weeks…