The Evolution of Stop-motion Animation Technique Through 120 Years of Technological Innovations


Stop-motion animation history has been put on paper by several scholars and practitioners who tried to organize 120 years of technological innovations and material experiments dealing with a huge literature. Bruce Holman (1975), Neil Pettigrew (1999), Ken Priebe (2010), Stefano Bessoni (2014), and more recently Adrián Encinas Salamanca (2017), provided the most detailed even tough partial attempts of systematization, and designed historical reconstructions by considering specific periods of time, film lengths or the use of stop-motion as special effect rather than an animation technique. This article provides another partial historical reconstruction of the evolution of stop-motion and outlines the main events that occurred in the development of this technique, following criteria based on the innovations in the technology of materials and manufacturing processes that have influenced the fabrication of puppets until the present day. The systematization follows a chronological order and takes into account events that changed the technique of a puppets’ manufacturing process as a consequence of the use of either new fabrication processes or materials. Starting from the accident that made the French film-pioneer Georges Méliès discover the trick of the replacement technique at the end of the nineteenth century, the reconstruction goes through 120 years of experiments and films. “Build up” puppets fabricated by the Russian puppet animator Ladislaw Starevicz with insect exoskeletons, the use of clay puppets and the innovations introduced by LAIKA entertainment in the last decade such as Stereoscopic photography and the 3D computer printed replacement pieces, and then the increasing influence of digital technologies in the process of puppet fabrication are some of the main considered events. Technology transfers, new materials’ features, innovations in the way of animating puppets, are the main aspects through which this historical analysis approaches the previously mentioned events. This short analysis is supposed to remind and demonstrate that stop-motion animation is an interdisciplinary occasion of both artistic expression and technological experimentation, and that its evolution and aesthetic is related to cultural, geographical and technological issues. Lastly, if the technology of materials and processes is a constantly evolving field, what future can be expected for this cinematographic technique? The article ends with this open question and without providing an answer it implicitly states the role of stop-motion as a driving force for innovations that come from other fields and are incentivized by the needs of this specific sector

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