Inanimate objects moving on their own seems like something out of a horror film. One’s clock slowly moves towards them as the hour approaches 12. It all seems like a bad dream, but in reality it’s stop motion animation. Stop motion animation is a stream of pictures taken of real life objects. They are taken one small movement at a time until the illusion of motion is created. Pioneers of stop motion animation used this technique to achieve elements and styles that were extremely difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional or live action animation.
Yuri Norstein is a Russian stop motion animator. He created shorts such as “Seasons” “My Green Crocodile” “Fox and Rabbit” and “Hedgehog in the Fog”. He used the detail that can be put into characters and backgrounds in stop motion animation to his advantage. In traditional animation creating complex patterns frame by frame is extremely difficult and almost impossible to achieve. In his short “seasons he shows of the advantage of having a solid small three or two dimensional background. One specific example would be the fairground in the winter. He has many intricate moving parts in that scene including a swingset and a large merry-go-round centerpiece. He also has a background of bright houses each with a great amount of detail. These objects would be incredibly time consuming and strenuous to animate traditionally and too expensive for live action. With stop motion they are very achievable. He also uses the stagnant pattern and texture of movable objects to his advantage. In “My Green Crocodile” The main crocodile is a sculpture made with spotted blue fabric. These spots would be frustratingly hard to reproduce in traditional animation as the character moves. It is also impossible to have animals with these designs or movements in live action animations. In stop motion the fabric remains stagnant even as the model moves making the design simpler to use. He also uses this advantage in “Hedgehog in the Fog” with the hedgehog’s spikes. One more advantage he uses in his stop motion pieces is the ability to move the character in pieces by their joints. This does make the animation less lively sometimes but it is an advantage that is not possible in traditional animation. This technique of having many pieces to move the whole is used heavily in “Fox and Rabbit” where every character is moved this way and in “Hedgehog in the Fog” where the hedgehog’s limbs, body, and head are all separate pieces that can be moved without remaking the whole hedgehog.
There are many perks to stop motion animation that are difficult to achieve in other mediums. Yuri Norstein used many of those advantages to make beautiful compelling shorts. Stop motion is not without its shortcomings either. There are also many things live action and traditional animation can achieve that stop motion can not. Altogether stop motion is a interesting and complex animation style that seems overlooked in current times even with its advantages towards other mediums.