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Frame by Frame: 14 Short Stop-Motion Films

By Robert Repass

Time (STOP) for (STOP) another (STOP) film (STOP) festival—oh, this is taking forever! Stop-motion filmmaking and animation can be very labor-intensive. But for these shorts, all available on YouTube and Vimeo, the results were well worth the effort.

We experience video as a flurry of action and movement, but every moment in a film can be isolated as a discrete still image—or frame. When many frames are played one after another at the right speed, the illusion of motion is created. Stop-motion filmmakers patiently labor in quantum spacetime—handcrafting and then capturing each individual frame, to produce the thousands or hundreds of thousands of them necessary to tell their stories.

Stop motion has been around since the dawn of movies (one of the earliest was The Humpty Dumpty Circus, from 1898) and thrives today in all sorts of projects. The filmmakers included here employ an array of techniques and materials to create their movies: found objects, clay, Legos, puppets, paper, and even people. Their work represents a sampling of the styles and techniques used throughout the history of stop-motion filmmaking. So stop, go, and enjoy! (Keep in mind that animation goes way beyond kid stuff. You may want to screen these shorts yourself before sharing them with the little ones.)

THE AUTOMATIC MOVING COMPANY

Featuring real-world objects, this moving short, made by Italian filmmaker Roméo Bossetti, is an early example of the technique and truly a tour-de-furniture film. (Length: 3:42) Watch movie

DARKNESS, LIGHT, DARKNESS

Jan Švankmajer is a giant in the world of stop-motion filmmaking. This short, one of his many, demonstrates his mastery of the craft and his surrealistic vision. (Length: 7:30) Watch movie

OPERATOR

This sci-fi stop-motion film tells an eerie story about a dystopian future where the corporate quest for efficiency has taken an evil turn. (Length: 7:19) Watch movie

AMAZING PAPER WAR

Two guys battle for the affections of a woman in typical 1950s cartoonish fashion. It may sound silly and sophomoric, but it’s brilliant on paper. (Length: 6:06) Watch movie

STOP-MOTION KARATE

This is another short in which two guys battle for a person’s affections, but this time they take it all the way down to the ground. Martial arts meets grass stains. (Length: 1:37) Watch movie

THE MARKER MAKER

This short film explores perspective and the illusion of 3D in a two-dimensional dry-erase marker universe. (Length: 2:29) Watch movie

ZERO

In this poignant yarn, inhabitants of a caste-based society are judged by the number they are born with. A man born with a zero yearns for a better future. (Length: 12:32) Watch movie

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI

Join Madame Tutli-Putli—a very lifelike puppet (can you spot the filmmaker’s technique?)—on a surreal, creepy train ride into sinister territory. (Length: 17:20) Watch movie

AU PAYS DES TÊTES

When you’re working for your spouse, it can be hard to get a head. This vampire flick is both charming and rather gory, in a Nightmare Before Christmas way. (Length: 6:11) Watch movie

ANIMATED IN BED

A great thing about stop motion is that you can use almost anything to make a movie—you don’t even need to leave your bedroom, as demonstrated in this superb film. (Length: 3:36) Watch movie

DEADLINE

This fun short is a perfect mix of technique, simplicity, and originality that will stick with you for a very long time (and don’t miss part two). (Length: 1:54) Watch movie

LEGO DOCTOR WHO: NEW BEGINNINGS

Legos manipulation is a stop-motion genre in itself. If done well, the movies look very cool, like this Whovian short—just forgive the Doctor’s American accent. (Length: 8:41) Watch movie

AN ALIEN CLAYMATION

This one is a pure clay-alien gore fest: Dad gets a little miffed when an extraterrestrial army invades his home and tries to put the baby in the microwave. (Length: 2:44) Watch movie 

UN PETIT TOUR DANS PARIS

As a man in love “cycles” through the streets of Paris, your heart may skip a beat—but you won’t want to miss a single frame of this wonderful stop-motion short. (Length: 1:31) Watch movie

Got a favorite we didn’t include here? Share it in the Comments section. And if you want to make your own films (stop motion, animation, or live action), check out these tutorials for Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Adobe After Effects CC. Also, Alex Guldies has made several stop-motion shorts—many available on YouTube and worth watching—and several tutorial videos such as this one on how to use Photoshop to make objects fly. Check them out and get inspired!