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Stop Motion
aka: Stop Motion Animation

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Korey: I mean we are talking about you move every character, depending on the movement, it could be a fraction of an inch just to get one gesture. But did you ever think that like maybe one of his animators came up and like, "You know, motherfucker, there is this thing called CG!"
Leon: Yeah, and that guy was fired.

Stop Motion is a technique of animation involving physical models as opposed to drawings or CGI. The models have to be moved into a different pose for every frame. This sort of thing can take a very long time to film.

The models used can be made of anything, from hard plastic to foam rubber to metal. Rogue independent animator Mike Jittlov has been known to animate anything and everything with Stop Motion, including himself (see his famous shorts "Fashionation", "The Wizard of Speed and Time" and "Mouse Mania").

Before the advent of computer-generated imagery, this was the default method for producing a non-human character in special effects, along with puppetry. Stop-motion characters would be matted into shots along with live actors. Ray Harryhausen was a leading practitioner and innovator of the art; his last stop-motion film was 1981's Clash of the Titans. The technique has been supplanted almost entirely by CGI from the '80s and onwards.

Stop motion animation can be done on live actors as well — in this case, it's called "pixilation". (Not to be confused with Pixellation.) Pixilation can make certain scenes very surrealistic and can be used to create some cheap special effects (e.g. it can be used to make an actor appear as if he were levitating). In this form, the Scottish-Canadian animator, Norman Mc Laren, is generally considered the master.

It was frequently used in Eastern Bloc children's animation, perhaps even more often than the classical drawn cartoons.

"Claymation", a trademark owned by Laika for its clay-based animation technique, is just one form of stop-motion animation, as the actual technique isn't strictly limited to using Plasticine or jelly-like figures. Besides the pixilation example listed above, it can also be done with puppets, objects, small figurines, toys, dolls, action figures, LEGO and similar products (ie, a brickfilm), or if you're feeling fancy, atoms. Yes, atoms.

Despite being dubbed so, "Claymation" is almost never done with normal earthen clay, which hardens rapidly when exposed to air. Most commonly, a polymer compound like Plasticine is used, since it never dries out and is slow to melt under lights. The figure is usually built on a flexible wire skeleton called an armature, unless the character's nature requires it to be formless.

Some common features of stop-motion figures are an interchangeable mouth so that lip sync can be done without resculpting the mouth every time, and barely-visible holes or clear pegs in the pupils of the eyes, to make pointing the eyeline easier. On human figures, the mouth is usually a mostly-flat stuck-on piece with a black background to suggest depth. Aardman figures actually have a full set of sculpted mouths.

During the animation process, each character normally has his own "performer" — a technician assigned solely to that figure, who adjusts its movements between frames.

Even though the art itself is rather primitive compared to CGI, there are some variations on how the final product ends up. Some like to keep true to the original methods in keeping everything in the view of the camera, while others like to use digital touch-ups for more complicated subjects such as fire, water, or flying objects.

Do not confuse with works that use real-time or close-to-real-time puppetry, such as the Supermarionation series.


    open/close all folders 
    Claymation in film and television 

    Claymation in video games 

    Puppet stop motion 
  • The first person to use this medium to great strength is Willis O'Brien and his masterpiece King Kong (1933). Willis' films, besides early Clay Mation shorts, include: The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, The Lost World (1925), The Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, The Animal World, The Black Scorpion and The Giant Behemoth.
    • The original King Kong (1933). Unfortunately, the fur on Kong wasn't brushed back between shots, so it constantly ripples. The animator, Willis O'Brian knew this and was very displeased. The Director, however, loved how it looked and so did the critics, commenting that "you can see the ape's hairs stand on end!"
  • George Pal revolutionized the medium into what it is today with the Puppetoons, which used thousands of hand-carved wooden puppets with rubber limbs. Although he did upgrade to articulated puppets in later works like John Henry and the Inky-Poo. That short film and his earlier Tulips Shall Grow were both nominated for Oscars. Although Stop Motion had already been around for several decades by the 1940s, Pal set the standard with his works, and pretty much invented the modern stop motion animation. While Ray Harryhausen is famous enough to be mentioned above, he was TAUGHT by George Pal.
  • It's impossible to speak of Stop Motion and not give credit to Phil Tippett, who now has a YouTube channel. He's worked on a few small movies like Star Wars, RoboCop and Dragonslayer. He made the switch over to CG effects and keeps in the business.
  • Another name of historical importance: Ladislas Starevich (or Władysław Starewicz, or Vladislav Starevich).
    • Le Roman de Renard, based on the Reynard folktales. Made in 1930 and still looks great.
    • Starevich was one of the first if not the first puppet animator. Starting from 1909 he created documentaries about insects using puppets made out of wax, gutta-percha, wire, and dead insect parts.note  Unfortunately, no copies survived of his first stop-motion documentary Lucanus Cervus.
    • In 1912note  he released several shorts including The Cameraman's Revenge, which parodied contemporary parlour melodramas, quasi-medieval drama The Beautiful Lukanida, a fairy tale The Insects' Christmas. The characters were mostly beetles, with an occasional dragonfly or a grasshopper. The funny thing is: most viewers though the insects were alive and Starevich was an excellent insect trainer.
  • The shorts and feature films of Japanese puppet designer, puppeteer and animator Kihachirō Kawamoto.
  • A lot of work written or produced by Tim Burton, including:
  • The Way of Peace: An odd little 1947 short film directed by Frank Tashlin, funded by the Lutheran Church, calling for faith in Jesus to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
  • Robot Chicken, created by Seth Green of Buffy and Austin Powers fame, was made using modified action figures.
  • First Person Shooters, Blood and PowerSlave used stop motion model puppets for the enemy sprites in-game.
  • The fighting game Primal Rage is well known for it's use of stop motion puppets for it's fighters.
  • The First-Person Mech Simulator, Iron Assault uses stop motion figures for the sprites of the Mechs.
  • Shakespeare: The Animated Tales had four episodes that used this.
  • Testament: The Bible in Animation had three episodes that used this.
  • Lunar Jim
  • The film Chicken Run — only the heads were clay, the rest of each figure was a bendable wire framework covered in silicone. Each character wears a scarf or ribbon around their neck to hide the seam between the head and the body.
  • Davey and Goliath
  • Rankin/Bass Productions holiday specials were usually puppet stop motion (a process R/B called "Animagic"). Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus are the most widely known.
  • The Wonderland sequences in Alice in Wonderland (1949) featured stop motion puppets designed by Lou Bunin.
  • The second SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas Special "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!" is this. It seems to be parodying the occurrence in a lot of the 'classic' Christmas cartoons.
  • The French film Max&Co combines puppet stop motion and CGI.
  • KaBlam!, which has a variety-show approach to the cartoons it presents, had a number of recurring stop-motion sketches.
    • Action League NOW! is perhaps the most notable example; it used obscure (usually Dollar Store brand) and custom action figures and referred to the process as being "Filmed in Chuckamation"—any character that flies is just tossed in front of the camera. It also got a Spin-Off when KaBlam! ended.
  • Used in the lonelygirl15 episodes "My Sister = Slut", and "My Mom's A Freak!".
  • Wes Anderson's Film of the Book of Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as his second animated film Isle of Dogs
  • Stop-motion feature films are the name of studio Laika's game:
    • The film of Coraline, in which nearly everything (including the grass and Coraline's raincoat) was wired to move around with the exception of the faces, which, instead of being made with clay, were designed on a computer, made with a three-dimensional printer and were replaced every frame, like Henry Selick's previous work on the Pillsbury Doughboy commercials.
    • ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls were made in much the same way, but with more advanced 3D printing technology, allowing for pre-colored faces.
  • Pinchcliffe Grand Prix is the most visited film ever in Norwegian movie theatres.
  • Chorlton and the Wheelies
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenhole is made with paper dolls. They're still molded to be three-dimensional figures, so they're not cutouts.
  • Bob the Builder.
  • This classic Christmas ad for Norelco shavers.
  • Cheburashka, a Russian series of short movies. They are based on Eduard Uspensky's books.
  • Most of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's children's shows, including The Pinguins (shot outdoors with all the problems that entailed), Pogles Wood/The Pogles, The Clangers and Bagpuss, although the last also included some cutout animation and live-action puppetry.
  • Mike Judge and Zach Woods alongside Brandon Gardner worked with this technique in their 2024 series In the Know.
  • The Trumptonshire series - Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley
  • The Magic Roundabout, made in France but probably best known in Britain for its jokier rewritten narration.
  • Some of the characters from The Amazing World of Gumball.
  • The yarn dolls used to represent the characters in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), when the spaceship enters the Infinite Improbability Drive. The cut from the live-action to the stop-motion scenes is seamless (live-action Arthur even throws up some yarn!).
  • The Mrs. Butterworth's commercials originally used it for the bottle; CGI is used today.
  • Gran, a British series of shorts that were seen in America on Eureeka's Castle.
  • Dick Spanner, also a British production. It was once shown on The Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) together with Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.
  • The reptilian aliens that briefly appear in the sci-fi thriller B-Movie, Laserblast.
  • Rastamouse
  • The iconic music video for Peter Gabriel's 1986 single "Sledgehammer" was done entirely in stop-motion, combining pixilation with object animation (i.e. fruit and raw chicken) and claymation; only a small portion of the video was not done with stop-motion, and these segments bookend it. Gabriel's decision to use stop-motion was inspired by a similar pixilation segment near the end of the music video for "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads, of whom he was a fan.
  • Some of the stories in Animated Tales of the World were in stop motion animation including The Three Sisters Who Fell into the Mountain, Cap O'Rushes and King March.
  • The music videos for tool's "Sober" and "Prison Sex" were stop motion films with puppets.
  • Anomalisa is a feature-length stop-motion animation with puppets.
  • Sam & Mickey use stop motion to create adult-targeted comedies about Barbie.
  • Pannonia Film Studio created a handful of stop-motion television series, including Misi Mókus kalandjai and Long Live Servatius.
  • The Sand Castle mixes puppet stop-motion with sand animation.
  • Balance uses five Looks Like Orlok puppets to deliver an Allegory about the need for cooperation between people and the dangers of selfishness.
  • Cranbersher, a YouTuber who does all sorts of stop-motion projects on his channel, from fan animations to short original films.
  • Amazon Prime's original series Tumble Leaf
  • One of Pop Team Epic anime sections is called "Pop Team Dance" made by Studio Uchu People, in which Popuko and Pipimi are plushies animated with stop-motion and they sing various songs. One of them is a parody of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Let's Groove".
  • The primary focus of Mexico-based studio Cinema Fantasma, producers of Frankelda's Book of Spooks
  • The Figurehead
  • Strike
  • The works of Tomoki Misato tend to fall under this. His shorts use needle felted models, which makes a stark contrast between the cutesy visuals and sometimes unsettling themes of some shorts.
  • Life's a Zoo
  • Screen Play
  • Norman Picklestripes
  • The music video for "TV Tan" by The Wildhearts features a cast of stop motion creatures watching the band perform on TV in a surreal graphic environment.
  • The music video for "Bad Craziness" by D-A-D features claymation cariactures of the band.
  • The 1981 Japanese stop-motion short film Kitty and Mimmy's New Umbrella which is also Hello Kitty's animation debut.
  • The House (2022) makes use of woven/knitted puppets throughout the story, giving the more human characters a really unsettling look.
  • Wendell & Wild
  • The 1992 arcade fighting game Dino Rex developed by Taito uses stop-motion animated dinosaurs brought to life with a similar technique to the ones in the films of Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen. It actually came two years before Primal Rage.
  • The Patrick Star Show: The show regularly features Screen Novelties-produced "stop motion puppet" skits starring Mad Scientist Dr. Plankenstein and his two servants, SpongeMonster and Patgor. Most of their scenes are Deliberately Monochrome and revolve around the three watching the Patrick Show itself, inspiring Plankenstein's schemes or leading into other segments.
  • Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
  • Tengers, the first full-length animation produced in South Africa.
  • Japan had Kihachirō Kawamoto.

  • The pilot to South Park ("Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"), plus the two prototype shorts, were animated with construction paper cutouts in homage to Terry Gilliam (see below). When it went to series, the cutout process was swapped out for CGI, allowing for a much faster turnaround time (one week versus a more traditional three months), which has been compared to "building a sandcastle with a bulldozer."
  • One The Moomins series was animated with felt cutouts.
  • Emile Cohl, one of the very first auteur animators, tended to use cutout animation in conjunction with everything else he could get his hands on.
  • Worker And Parasite, the cartoon-within-a-cartoon of Krusty Gets Kancelled (and quite an accurate spoof of Eastern European cartoons), was done this way.
  • An actual Eastern European cartoon, Tango, featured cutout photographs of real people passing through a cel-drawn apartment that gets increasingly crowded. It won an Oscar.
  • Blue's Clues used paper cutouts for most of its characters.
  • Many sketches on MAD by Bunko Studios were made with cut out animation (and sometimes, other techniques.)
  • Terry Gilliam's animations for Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python, mostly using found images in surreal combinations.
  • Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's (see above) series The Saga of Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine were executed entirely with cutout animation, as were some of the stories-within-the-show in Bagpuss.
  • Some of the characters from The Amazing World of Gumball.
  • The Animated Music Videos for Mykonos and The Shrine / An Argument by Fleet Foxes. The lead singer's brother is an animator.
  • Jaga Jazzist's music videos for "Animal Chin" and "Day" (both made by Acoustic Kung Fu Films) both involved animation of cutouts from photographs and magazine pages.
  • The oldest animated feature in existence, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, uses a variation called silhouette animation, which involves shooting jointed figures made of black cardboard against a backlit background, similar in technique to Oriental shadow puppets.
  • Twice Upon a Time.
  • Crystal Tipps And Alistair, the psychedelic adventures of a girl and her dog.
  • The British kids' show Captain Pugwash was a cheat - the characters were made from cutouts, but articulated so they could be moved in live-action.
  • Hedgehog in the Fog and several other cartoons by Yuriy Norshteyn, including The Overcoat, which has been in production since 1981 (25 minutes out of planned 60 as of 2004).
  • Frank Film is an experimental short film which involves the use of thousands of pictures cut out from magazines, photographed in a very fast-moving stop motion style.
  • Charles Bowers was a cartoonist who branched out into comedy films during the silent era, mixing in stop-motion animation with live action in surreal comedy shorts. There It Is has MacNeesha the Scotland Yard detective accompanied by a little fly buddy, MacGregor, who lives in a matchbox in MacNeesha's pocket and has his own tiny magnifying glass to look for clues.
  • Gekidan Inu Curry ("Theatrical Company Dog Curry"), best known for creating the surreal witches and labyrinths in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, uses cutout stop-motion and animation designed to resemble it. The Movie, Rebellion, used a puppet for the "Nightmare" enemy.

  • LEGO is popular as a medium for stop motion for amateurs or professionals. This type of animation is known as a brickfilm. LEGO even promoted this with their LEGO Studios line of toys back in 2000, which included sets like exploding buildings or giant dinosaur heads with moving jaws. One set had a camera that you can use to make the movies, and it can even attach to your LEGO bricks in the case you need to prop it up somewhere. The LEGO Studios website even had a few tutorials on how to do various specials effects like making minifigs run.
  • Phantom Investigators, which was half stop-motion puppets and half live-action, made by the same company of Life with Loopy
  • The film Better Off Dead includes a brief stop-motion sequence where the protagonist Lane, while toiling at a fast-food restaurant, imagines himself as Doctor Frankenstein bringing burgers to life.
  • The web series Arby 'n' the Chief uses Halo figurines to represent the titular characters and some secondary characters. Most of the other characters are represented by off-screen voice-overs.
  • Humorous Phases Of Funny Faces uses stop motion and a mixture of chalk and cardboard cutout animation.
  • The short film The Polos of Death uses a Boba Fett figurine and a lot of polos.
  • Norman McLaren's "pixilation" short films that used stop motion with live actors.
  • Art Clokey also did some pixliation shorts, Lawn Party and The Plucky Plumber, which were recyled into Gumby shorts ("Lawn Party" from The Gumby Show and "The Funny Bathtub" from Gumby Adventures).
  • The Sumatran Rat Monkey in Braindead.
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla features a brief piece of it when Godzilla drop-kicks King Kong.
  • Mute Math has used stop motion for a couple of their music videos Blood Presure and Spotlight.
  • The Paddington (1975) TV series from the 1970s-80s used Medium Blending with a stop-motion bear for the main character and animated paper cutouts for everyone else.
  • Stopmotion Chess uses chess pieces.
  • As the Transformers toys became more poseable and screen accurate it has become more common for fans to create their own stop motion Transformers series or recreate a battle scene, especially from the movies for their memorable action sequences.
  • Noddy's Toyland Adventures used toymation.
  • The aliens in The Outer Limits (1963) episodes "The Zanti Misfits" and "Counterweight" were created with stop motion.
  • VlogBrother Hank Green had fun with this in Denver Airport, through doing very basic stop motion animation with himself as the moving object. Somehow, nobody seemed to notice him lying on the chairs in various abnormal positions. He then set the animation to some music.
  • The Classic Disney Short "Noah's Ark" uses figures made of household objects filmed against a flat background. The Animated Credits Openings in The Shaggy Dog and The Parent Trap were done in a similar technique.
  • Above-mentioned Garry Bardin has made short (5-10 minutes) cartoons with various inanimate objects: ropesnote , matches, wire...
  • Experimental 1929 Soviet film Man with a Movie Camera includes a sequence using this technique. A camera box opens, and the camera inside exits the box and climbs to the top of a tripod. The tripod then walks away.
  • The G Mod Idiot Box (a 3D animated Machinima, mind you) begin using more and more stop-motion techniques throughout its run, giving it a more unique feel compared to other machinima.
  • On the Sesame Street segment, The Teeny Little Super Guy series uses a cel character drawn on kitchen appliances. Teeny Little Super Guy is a cel character drawn in a clear Dixie plastic cup.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School uses a special kind of toymation—Barbie Dolls.
  • Youtube Channels Jordan Tseng, Moonshine Animations, 1400VID, and Counter656 all primarily use Japanese Figma, Revoltech and Gunpla.
  • Soupe Opéra uses fruits and vegetables.
  • Short film Manipulation uses pixilation to animate the live-action hands of an animator, interacting with the cartoon man the animator drew on a piece of paper.
  • Tony vs Paul.
  • Aardman Animations produced a series of experimental pixilation shorts called Angry Kid, straight to the web, sporadically starting in 1999 and revived in 2015. The sets were traditional and life-size, and supporting characters were simply animated puppets on a large scale. The title character, however, was a live actor who was posed and filmed like a stop motion puppet. The added twist is that the actor wore full-head poseable masks that were also animated for facial expressions and lip synch. In the revival, facial animation is CGI instead.
  • Dr. Havoc's Diary uses toymation.
  • The Flush Force webseries uses toymation using the toyline figures.
  • The Nut (1967).
  • Club of the Discarded uses mannequins animated with stop-motion along with live animals (pigeons and a cat) and live humans (briefly).
  • Paper Port is animated using papercraft.
  • Shrapnel is a post-apocalyptic Slice of Life story that primarily uses figma figures for the stop motion, with most of the main cast being modified/custom figures, along with figures and toys from other franchises.
  • Sonic Stopmotion Adventures uses Sonic toys.
  • The Linda Lindas' video for the song "Talking to Myself" uses this to animate a group of creepy dolls in the likeness of the band members that get angry because they are excluded from band practice.
  • Divus uses modified and repainted fashion dolls.
  • Ultra City Smiths is made using modified baby dolls.
  • Fresh Guacamole is done through pixilation.
  • pantsahat uses figures of Master Chief, Astolfo, a small stuffed hippo, a LEGO man, Gangsta Tahu, Batman, and many more.

    Stop-motion animation in fiction 
  • In one episode of iCarly, Spencer is making a stop-motion film, but Carly's Guy of the Week messes it up, causing the final video to be much shorter, with no semblance of a story.
  • In an episode of Parks and Recreation, a depressed Ben Wyatt spends days making a claymation video of a figure that looks just like him. He's only got a few seconds of footage by the time his friends check on him.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Claymation, Stop Motion Animation


The Morton Downey Jr. Show

After Downey does a monologue of a main topic in his show, it cuts the show's fact-paced intro of an animated picture of Downey with random things appearing around.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnimatedCreditsOpening

Media sources: