Got a bit of time on your hands? Stop motion animation might be just the thing for you. Requiring infinite patience and a rock steady hand, it has brought us giant peaches, sword-wielding skeletons (and Skellingtons), hulking AT-AT snow walkers, and one mean-looking Terminator.
But it’ll take a while to do. As a general rule, just one second of film consists of 24 frames. While making Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit , team Aardman managed to shoot just 30 frames a day. (No wonder it took five years to complete.)
Director Paul King (of The Mighty Boosh and newly-released Bunny and the Bull ) has the right idea, blending outrageously colourful stop motion with live action to create a hybrid beast of ballistic creativity. Here, he tells us what we need to know...
It Takes Forever (But It’s Better Than CGI)
The Cliché: Stop Motion is frequently considered old-fashioned and out-dated, once a necessary mode of bringing to life things that were too big, complicated or expensive to forge in real life. Industrial Light & Magic all but abandoned stop motion in favour of CGI. Despite the industry shift, fans seem to prefer it.
Seen In... Mary Poppins, The Empire Strikes Back
Paul King: “I much prefer the effects in Mary Poppins . I think it’s nice when people can see what’s going on; I like to know how it’s made. With CGI, you do kind of go, ‘Yeah it’s incredible, it looks beautiful, but whatever’, immediately dissing thousands of people with amazing computer skills.
"It’s more fun to see how it’s all stuck together. It’s us against the world. That’s what was good about Boosh ; it didn’t really have high level effects, but people seemed to take it to their hearts. It’s not just on competence.”
Next: A whole New World [page-break]
A Whole New World
It’s a road movie set in Stephen’s head, so all the landscapes are made out of things he found in his flat, which sort of drew on a Land of the Giants inspiration.
It was all about where Stephen is in the flat at the time. So to begin with [the animated surroundings] were really souvenir-y and simple. The underpass bit where they meet Julia is all newspaper-y and grungy.
Stephen’s trying not to remember, but he walks past a stack of newspapers and that seemed like a good fit. I suppose there was a bit of ‘I quite fancy building a world out of newspaper’, but there are so many options for those things.
When you’re using models, there were bits when you could go, ‘We could’ve made it out of cloth or food or umbrellas’. It’s not difficult to find those things; it’s more about getting the sensibility of what’s going on.”
Next: The Devil's In The Details [page-break]
The Devil’s in the Details
The Cliché: With so much time spent on mere seconds’ worth of footage, miniature set designers have plenty of time to sneak in clever references and in-jokes.
Seen In... Wallace and Gromit
Paul King: “Those Martin Parr postcards were a key reference for me, because that was really what I associate with terrible childhood holidays. We didn’t have much money and we’d go on these driving holidays around Scotland, now everyone just goes to Spain.
We’d sit in a car looking at a view, and I’m not sure I really believe in views. You sit there going, ‘What? I’ve seen it! Now I’m just eating soggy sandwiches.’
But I love those postcards and that was one of the first references. We were going to do lots of photos, and then as it developed, I realised I wanted to use the flat more as a thing. It felt fun.
So many travel movies are just, ‘Hey, look at Patagonia! Look at the beauty of Rome!’, and it’s like looking at postcards. But it seemed it could be really interesting to use the landscapes to reflect Stephen’s emotional state.”
Next: Kids 'R' Us [page-break]
Kids 'R' Us
The Cliché: Ignoring the fact that numerous horror flicks have used Stop Motion since the dawn of time ( Evil Dead, The Crater Lake Monster, Braindead ), stop motion has a reputation for being aimed squarely at the kiddies.
Seen In... The Clangers, Fantastic Mr Fox
Paul King: “ Bunny and the Bull starts really simple, there’s that bit at the Crab Box which is really like children’s animation. And then hopefully as the film goes on it gets darker.
I think it’s the first film that features a bar made with stacked urine, if nothing else!”
Next: A Barrel of Laughs [page-break]
A Barrel of Laughs
The Cliché: Crossing the divide somewhere between cartoon and live action, stop motion animation is usually flourished for comedic effect.
If it’s not an all-out stop motion feature, it’s a cameo jerky ghost-type thing or a barbaric space-age board game (“Let the Wookie win!”).
Seen In... Star Wars , Robot Chicken
Paul King: “ Bunny and the Bull has got serious heart to it. It is about somebody having a mini-breakdown, and processing this terrible thing.
I didn’t want to just, it’s not just comedy, there’s something else there.
There’s some big emotional bits to do, which Ed Hogg does really well. He’s one of those characters where you just want to shake him and go, ‘Come on! Can’t you see what you’ve got?’, and I think that’s what Bunny thinks of him as well.”
Next: Celebrity Voices [page-break]
The Cliché: Nowadays, your animated film’s only as good as the pipes of the Hollywood starlet you’ve got hugging the mike. Mel Gibson, Teri Hatcher, Helena Bonham-Carter and George Clooney and about a million other actors have all barked lines in a booth.
Seen In... Chicken Run
Paul King: “Sometimes your heart slightly sinks when a film’s got 12 British comedians on it off the telly. You kind of go, ‘Oh this is gonna be shit. You’re good on the telly, but...’
In Bunny , I wanted to find somebody a bit different for the part of Stephen. Ed Hogg came in to rehearsals and he’s so shy, he wouldn’t take his hat off ‘cos he was really embarrassed about his hair. He’s a really handsome young man, but he’s so insecure and really shy.
When he was with Simon Farnaby it just really worked. Cos Ed’s so much more handsome than Simon, and obviously there’s that Swingers one where you’ve got the slightly pudgy one, and then Vince Vaughan when he was all sexy.
You’re used to the really handsome one and then the slightly nerdier ugly friend. But it seemed more interesting that Simon’s not your classic sex symbol, he’s just got confidence. It worked really nicely.”
Next: Animal Instinct [page-break]
The Cliché: Animals are usually involved in some capacity, whether it’s voiceless side-kicks with achingly articulate eyeballs, or interview chat-tracks acted out by claymation mammals.
Seen In... Creature Comforts
Paul King: “I’m writing a script for Paddington Bear , I’ve got a huge love of Paddington. I love animation anyway, but I really love the bear and the character, and miraculously I seem to have convinced some people to let me write a script. So I’m trying that.
All my hero directors are doing children’s films at the moment so I was very pleased to have gotten it. I can do my Where The Wild Things Are/Fantastic Mr Fox .”
Bunny and the Bull is released 27 November.
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