Despite Claymation being the most popular form of animation, there still remains a question of whether or not it’s the easiest and most practical form of stop motion.While most people would agree that it’s aesthetic qualities make it the best form of stop motion to use for an animation. Cutout, Sillouette, and Puppet are just a couple of the different forms of non-claymation stop motion.
The easiest of these three is easily Cutout stopmotion. Using a series of cutout images, the animator places them frame at specific times and in different position to create the illusion of movement. I say this is the easiest, because as long as you plan it well, which depending on the animation can be done very quickly, all you have to do is just exchange the cutouts at a certain time and photograph each frame. The clip below illustrates the simplicity of cutout animation and the beauty of it if it’s applied well.
Silhouette animation is probably the hardest of all the three and is arguably the least appealing of them all. It’s time consuming, it has many limitations, and overall it’s pretty boring. Because the characters are in Silhouette are always in Silhouette, you don’t get the beauty of having a wide range of colors. All you see is black on black on black. While the story lines are usually good ones, as we saw in The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the aesthetics are drab and boring.
Puppet stop motion is the probably the most similar to claymation in its application, but it has more flexibility and less limitations. There’s a much wider range of materials you can use to make it, and as a result, the animator has a much easier time trying to make what he wants with no limitations which usually makes a better animation. While preparation is usually harder than the prep for claymation, making the actual animation is easier.
Overall between the different types of stop motion I just described, the one I think would be most preferable is puppet stop motion. While the prep and the making of the characters is tough, once it’s done it’s fairly easy to make the animation. Because most of the characters are made using wire, it’s easy to bend and position each character without the fear that it’ll either fall apart or not be able to be bent back into position. Add that to the variety of materials that you can use and it’s easy to see that this is probably the best form of stop motion to use for animation.
With the technology used in most animations today, it’s almost impossible to imagine how primitive its beginnings were. From the Zoopraxiscope to the introduction of motion sensor technology, the leap forward made by animation in the last 100 years has been astonishing.
Despite this leap forward however, there are still some animations out there that have still kept an element of the past, specifically from the Silent Era, in their animations through characters that don’t speak.
Every animation with silent characters has a different way for compensating for the characters lack of speech. One best examples of this comes from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Tom and Jerry. The clip below shows Tom shooting pool balls at Jerry, and the sound they make whenever they smack off the board and the pool cue are much more louder, sharper and distinct than the sound effects you’d hear in a cartoon where the characters speak. The facial expression on both Jerry and Tom are much less neutral as well.
Another animation that uses silent characters, even though most of the characters that do speak, is the stop motion animation Wallace and Gromit. Gromit, the dog, is the silent character. To compinsate for his silence, animators use subtle effects to convey his emotions. Instead of using exaggerated facial expressions like the animators use in Tom and Jerry, they use a more subtle and clever approach to convey his emotions. As you’ll see in the clip below they use just his eyes and his brow to convey what his thoughts are, without hamming it up and making him exaggerate every action.
FLCL is a short 6 episode anime series that depicts the helter skelter of events after a 12 year old kid named Naota crosses paths with a guitar wielding, vespa riding alien (Haruko) and a TV-headed robot (Kanti). Stacked with humour, and lined with philosophical undertones, FLCL uses robo-tech and a cyborg humanoid struggle as a subtle metaphor for a 12 year old boy’s coming of age. In a struggle to grow up, while at the same time trying to develop a separate from his older sibling (despite his brother’s ex constantly clinging to him), it takes a semi robot apocalypse for Naota to realize that to grow all he needs is the boldness and courage to act on his feelings.
The series starts off with Naoto being introduced to Haruko via a hit and run collision w/ her vespa and which ends up leaving Naota with a cosmic hole inside his head, through which giant alien mecha and all sorts of things pour out of over the 6 episodes. Each alien mecha is different, more complex than the next and each one is related to and triggered by something going on in Naota’s personal life. While the plot of the anime is confusing and extremely fast paced, it manages to make it work, by keeping the viewer interested, even though he/she most likely doesn’t even know half of what’s going on.
While this can’t really be classed as a mecha-anime, their are some stereotypical mecha-anime elements within FLCL. In most mecha-anime there’s usually a specific sequence of things that happens every time the person controlling the mecha, takes control of it. In every episode expect the final, Naota gets eaten by his TV-headed robo mecha, after which the robot turns red, and Naota assumes control of him. The entire soundtrack for the anime is done by the Japanese rock band, the Pillows. The music can be described as main stream rock, in the mold of The Killers or Muse.