Stop-motion is my favorite genre of animation. Above all others, from conception to creation, it shows the humanity of the people making the movie. Even at it’s cleanest, most professional level, there is still a roughness to the characters and world that cannot be entirely emulated in CGI animation. Even with the assistance computers bring to the medium and the time saved with 3d printing, it’s the fact that the whole world still needs to be built and that the characters are still painstakingly animated frame-by-frame, that makes a Stop-motion picture unique.
Since these movies are getting better and better in production, making it easier to get lost in the world and suspend your disbelief, many audience members may not fully appreciate the physical time that goes into stop-motion animation unless they go looking for behind-the-scenes. This is why I instantly fell in love with the ending of the movie “The Boxtrolls”, by animation studio LAIKA (the studio behind such beloved Stopmotion pictures “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”).
Here, two of the side characters are cleaning up after the events of the movie. With a running motif of these two supposed “simpletons” unintentionally being quite poignant and intuitive in their observations, one of them turns to the other and start musing about his thoughts on the universe. As the Camera pans out, he entertains the idea that he and all the other characters are actually moved around by giants, and as he goes into more detail, we see the blurs of the actual animator that is working on the two of them, doing exactly what the character is going on about. This is very similar to another shot made by the studio for the behind-the-scenes of “Coraline”
This “lifts the veil” and allows the audience to see how much human movement is required to make what ends up being but a slight movement in the movie.
I’m a fan of any sort of fourth-wall breaking, when done right, and this one is a beautiful mix of subtlety while still being “in your face”. And for the audience member who could never quite visualize the effort put into making a movie like this, it allows them to enjoy the film with a whole new perspective.