How Stop-Motion Animation Captures the 'Realness' of Imagination
Whether you're stealing cider from Franklin Bean's basement or kidnapping Santa Clause in Halloween Town, stop-motion animation has a way of making the fantastic feel a lot more real.
Stop-motion animation is a unique style of animated filmmaking. Instead of being able to craft virtually any object and character you need with a computer program, you need to source materials from the real world. This is one of the aspects that makes stop-motion so strangely human, organic, and real, both visually and emotionally. In this video essay from Fandor, Jacob T. Swinney goes over how stop-motion films like Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas and Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs are made, and attempts to explain the peculiar appeal of this type of animation style.
Stop-motion animation has always held a special place in my heart ever since I could remember. I grew up watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Wallace and Gromit and falling deeply, madly in love with the look and feel of these types of films. The way each character moved, how their clothes appeared to crinkle the way mine did, and how deliciously juicy Wallace's jelly toast always seemed to be—it felt, strangely, as though the world's in which they lived were real, like I could visit them if I ever wanted to.
After becoming an adult and learning how the arduously tedious process works of bringing a stop-motion film to life, I can say that my love for the style has only become more tender. But, why exactly? Why does it feel like I'm reading a postcard or making a daisy chain or putting a baseball card in my bike spokes every time I watch stop-motion?
I mean, I'm sure it's different for everyone—I'm sure not everybody even likes the aesthetic—but to me, it's the fact that human hands have sewn each costume, molded each body (some are actually 3D-printed), and brought every character to life one tiny movement at a time. It's the fact that what I'm seeing are real textures of materials, real objects on-screen, and real light interacting with actual subjects.
The artifice is really only in the editing—which—I mean, isn't that true with live action films? Stop-motion is live action—with a little help.