We love stop-motion animation here. Just ask our resident expert Jo Johnstone, who tackles the stirring and important art form with much celebration on a monthly basis. Stop-motion animation is a craft, it is a wonderful excruciating and technical medium that produces highly developed films with bounds of imagination. Though many studios tend to favour the computer side of animation, studios such as Laika and directors like Henry Selick are still championing these courageous art forms. With the release of The Boxtrolls today, let’s have a look at some of the best stop animation movies.
This is exactly what happens when Laika and Henry Selick combine with a dash of Neil Gaiman. Coraline is supposedly a children’s movies but has psychologically damaged adults and kids alike worldwide with insatiably creepy undertones and a terrifying villain. Told through a hyperactive colour pallete, stark juxtaposition between worlds and at the core of it, a rambunctious titular child, Coraline is the unnerving tale of a bored girl who travels to a different land with mirrored but peculiar versions of her family around her. But soon she realises that nothing is what it seems after the initial excitement. Wonderfully dark and captivating the morale of “be careful what you wish for”, Selick’s wildly imaginative fete is a terrific tale.
One of the few British studios that still excels at stop-motion animation is Aardman. Their most famous creations have to be Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep (who gets another outing early next year), but back in 2000, the team created one of the best stop animation movies that still stands strong today. Chicken Run, with a distinct Great Escape feel, revolved around a group of plump chickens in an egg farm. Ginger is a spirited hen yearning for freedom, no matter what cost, but her extravagant escape plans always end up in dismay. When an American cockerel named Rocky lands in their farm, the pair band together for the most elaborate scheme before the mean Mrs Tweedy turns them into pies. Fun, riveting and hilarious, Chicken Run is often a Christmas family favourite for most British households.
Ok. Yes. This is a live action movie with stop-motion animation. But writing a list about stop-motion animation would be highly erroneous if the godfather of the craft, Ray Harryhausen, wasn’t mentioned. In fact, if you ask anyone to remember a bit of the film they loved, it would be the skeleton army that spookily fought with Jason and Talos and the massive statue that killed the beloved Hylas (though, if he ran horizontally, he’d be ok). The ghouls and mythical beings in Jason and the Argonauts are legendary now, they’ve been the source of inspiration for many directors since including Peter Jackson and Tim Burton. It is an intensely wonderful film that deserves a place on our list!
There are many film version of the signature Lewis Carroll story, Alice In Wonderland. From the Disney’s magical animated feature in 1951 to their live action adaptation in 2010. But this cult film from Czechoslovakia is one of the most ingenious, even if it borders on the creepy. Directed by Jan Svankmejer, Alice sees the titular character head into a mysterious land through the magic of a rabbit hole. Svankmejer has created a dark yet delightful film that truly captures the spirit of Carroll’s original fairy-tale. It is drenched in glorious visuals that captivate you and draw you into the murky, mysterious world using lavish puppetry (that yes, borders on the insanely weird too). Alice is a divine adaptation of the original story.
Wes Anderson is such a free spirit of the film industry. His colourful creations and vibrant sceneries drench the remarkable stories in a loveable, visceral way. Each story of his is an adventure and his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved story book, Fantastic Mr Fox is brilliant. The tale of a mischievous thieving fox who takes on free farmers in his biggest heist mission, featuring the voice talents of George Clooney, Bill Murray and Meryl Streep. The intense mastery of the puppets, the asymmetrical prowess of the scenes that Anderson is well known for and the great fun nature of the film make it a great film for all ages.
One of the most ingenious stop-motion animation features that hasn't failed to remain strong in audiences hearths through the years is simply perfection. Based on a series of poems and creations by Tim Burton, this Henry Selick directed feature is the impeccable tale of Jack Skellington, famed Halloween Town resident who gets a taste for Christmas after his passions for his work fade. There is not one part of this superb feature that isn’t steeped in gothic surrealness, remarkable music by Danny Elfman and marvellous characters. The jaunty stop-motion animation effects that add a layer of astonishing spirit have filled children and adults with glee. This is Selick’s finest achievement and continues to powerfully enchant.
What Do You Think?
Are these the best stop-motion animation films?
Do you enjoy the art form?
The Boxtrolls is out now.
Read Jo's review and catch up with her exploration in stop-motion animation!