What Is Stop Motion Animation?

Dan Cavallari

Stop motion animation is a technique used in film production to create a moving picture from a series of still photographs or images. The process involves using fixed objects that are secured in one position, then photographed with a camera. The objects are then moved slightly, and another photograph is taken. When all the photographs are strung together, they create the illusion that the fixed objects are mobile. Stop motion animation can be created with any variety of objects, even human beings, though clay puppets are very commonly used because clay is easy to manipulate during the filming process.

The stop motion animation process involves taking photographs of fixed objects that are secured in one position.
The stop motion animation process involves taking photographs of fixed objects that are secured in one position.

The process of making a stop motion animation film can be very tedious and time-consuming, since the objects must be manipulated by hand between each photograph. Many photographs will be taken, and each photo may change only slightly. As more photos are taken with slight movements,the finished movements will look smoother when they are strung together. This style of animation often requires a significant amount of patience and a keen eye for detail, as the objects may need to be manipulated in more than one way between each frame that is shot.

A popular alternative to stop motion animation is computer generated imaging.
A popular alternative to stop motion animation is computer generated imaging.

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The original intent of the stop motion animation process was to make objects seem as though they were moving on their own; the process dates back to the late 19th century, and it became an increasingly popular animation technique over the course of the next century. Toward the end of the 20th century, however, other animation techniques became more widely used because they were quicker, easier, and aesthetically pleasing, and stop motion animation fell out of favor. It is still a relatively popular animation technique that has seen something of a resurgence in the early 21st century, though it is still considered a tedious and difficult process that is often avoided by larger studios looking to save time and money.

A more popular alternative to stop motion animation is computer generated imaging (CGI). Objects are essentially created and manipulated in a computer program, creating smooth movement not attainable by stop motion. The majority of modern animation is done using CGI, though purists contend that CGI cannot create the same natural look or nuanced textures that stop motion can achieve. The process of animating with stop motion has also become more streamlined, with more advanced puppets being used and digital cameras reducing the amount of time necessary to complete a film.

Claymation is a form of stop motion animation.
Claymation is a form of stop motion animation.

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Discussion Comments


@RoyalSpyder - I remember a show called Glenn Martin DDS, which used to air on Nick @ Nite a while back. However, it was a horrible show, and I'm glad it was canceled. It was crude, foul, and it featured tons and tons of sex jokes. I can understand how stop motion leaves room for a lot of creativity, but it was really crossing the line.

As another example, I remember seeing a form of claymation on the Bernie Mac Show. In the episode, Bernie eats some undercooked turkey, and has a nightmare where he's chasing Jordan around the house in a Looney Tunes kind of fashion. It's creepy, but very funny and well done. It really shows that budget limitations won't always hold back the quality of a TV program.


Has anyone here ever seen any stop motion shows? Considering how TV shows are on a much tighter budget than movies, I'm assuming that it must be a lot harder to produce.


@RoyalSpyder - Honestly, I agree and disagree with you. While some stop motion movies do have a lousy script (such as Flushed Away), others such as Wallace and Gromit, are absolutely brilliant. Not only does the animation keep you engaged, but the script always keeps you on your toes. Do you remember how the advertisements for the film made it look like Wallace and Gromit were hunting down a were-rabbit?

Well, the huge twist in the movie is that Wallace is the were-rabbit, and he's being hunted down by the evil Victor. Due to an experiment gone haywire, he's turned into a vegetable munching beast. I like how the movie balances both the animation and the script. It really shows how you shouldn't choose one over the other, as both are just as important.


I've always enjoyed stop motion animation. As RoyalSpyder said, it's a process that takes years and years to make. Has anyone seen a movie called Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit? The film took five years to make due to the stop motion. I've watched a video on Youtube about how the movie was made, and it looked like an insanely time consuming process. Who would have ever thought that a seventy five minute short would take so long to make?


Stop motion animation has always intrigued me a lot. Unlike hand drawn animation, and images done using CGI, it's a process that takes years and years to make. However, on the other hand, I sometimes feel that the producers use this as an excuse to come up with some of the worst stories possible. In other words, they feel that because they've put so much time and effort into creating the animation, they don't have to make a decent script. This is just my opinion, but I think it's an interesting perspective regardless.

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