A Brief History
The history of claymation dates back to the invention of plasticine in 1897.
The earliest surviving use of the technique is The
Sculptors Nightmare , a spoof on the 1908 presidential election.
Michael Frierson, author of the 1994 book Clay Animation:
American Highlights, 1908 to the Present feels that claymation or
stop-motion animation is a true art form and maybe this was the reason is never
made big inroads into the animation world. Some of the milestones in claymation
- Art Clokey brought clay amination to the forefront with two characters Gumby
and his side kick Pokey. These characters were developed with children in
mind focusing on real values and telling stories with heartfelt meaning. The
series ran from 1956 - 1963.
- Ray Harryhausen created Jason and the Argonauts
in 1963 which includes the famous animated skeleton sequence that took 4 1/2
months to create
- In 1985 The Adventure
of Mark Twain was produced by Will Vinton as a stop motion animated
- In 1986 Will Vinton creates the California raisins as part of a television
- In 1988 Will Vinton produces Meet The Raisins
as a stop motion animation with some conventional animation for television.
- In 1989 Wallace and Gromit are introduced as the characters in the stop
motion animated short A Grand Day Out
produced by Nick Park.
- Nick Park won an Academy Award in 1991 for Creature
Comforts which featured plasticine models of zoo animals involved
in 'real' human conversations which had be pre-recorded.
- In 1992 Ray Harryhausen received a special Oscar for inspiring an entire
generation of animators and special-effects artists
- The stop motion animated short The Wrong Trousers
- an Oscar winner, stars Gromit and Wallace and was produced by Nick Park
- In 1993 Harry Selick directs the feature length claymation The
Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Wallace and Gromit star in A Close Shave
- an Oscar winner, which was a stop action animated short produced by Nick
Park in 1995.
- The claymation movie James and the Giant Peach
is directed by Henry Selick in 1996 with leading roles by Joanna Lumley, Miriam
Nargolyes and Paul Terry.
- In 1999 Walter Williams produces the claymation movie
Saturday Night Live - The Best of Mr. Bill.
Mr. Bill can never escape being crushed by something.
- In 2000 Nick Park and Peter Lord direct Chicken
Run - an animated movie starring Rocky and Ginger in a feature
- Nick Park directs the feature length claymation The
Incredile Adventures of Wallace & Gromit in 2000.
Claymation has evolved overtime and now includes the use of add-ons which can
include wooden heads, replacement limbs, clothes, and painting.
a) The idea.
- The story is the most important part of the movie.
- Choose a topic or subject that you are interested in and develop the story
line. One manner of story development is to start with the ending and work
your way back to the beginning and along the way define the main idea of the
story and what happens in the story
- Develop a character that fits your concept whether it be a football player,
a dog, a dancer, or a taking telephone. Use your imagination but remember
to keep everything simple the first time.
- Draw some sketches of your character - back, front, left and right side
- including clothes and hair. Make some notes in regards to the most appropriate
color scheme for the character.
- When you have a character in mind create a list of props that could be
used and what type of background would be best suited for your animation.
Some thumbnail sketches may help identify items that could be used.
b) The storyboard
- Develop the story line
- Map out the movements of your character
- Illustrate what you want your character to do in relation to the set - props
- Include reference notes
- A plastic covered or formica work surface.
- Toothpicks for making small indentations for facial expressions.
- A rolling pin.
- Other items that will help you sculpt be it a pencil, or ruler
d) Creating Your Character
- The best advice is just get started keeping in mind what your character
is to look like.
- Start with basic shapes and work towards the final product which would include
the finer details such as eyes, mouth, fingers, toes, eye color, hair.
- Create textures using your fingers or any everyday object such as spoons,
knives, forks, nail files, toothpicks, etc.
- You can use pipe cleaners or wire as the framework on which to mold your
clay. These products help give support and ease of movement to your character.
It is important to note that movements should appear to be realistic and smooth.
- You may wish to use external supports (toothpicks) but remember these will
have to be used in such a manner that they will not be seen when you start
taking your pictures.
- Remember that your character will evolve during the sculpting process.
d) Designing the props and background
- Try and select props that are colorful and detailed
- The props selected should fit with the character and storyline that you
- The background should inform the viewer of the setiting for your character
- a room, a dance floor, in a sand box, or on a street.
- Do not select a background that overpowers your character.
- It is important to keep in mind proportions when developing the props.
e) Color and Sound
- Select colors that contrast.
- To make your character stand out use bright colors.
- Sound can provide the mood to your movie.If you character is doing a break
dance you may wish to have this music as part of your animation and your character
moving in time with the music If a door opens you may want the sound of a
f) Shooting The Movie
- A digital camera will be used to shoot each scene so it is essential that
you become familiar with it.
- This is the longest part of the project and you must be very patient when
- It is recommended that you use a tripod for your camera and mark the position
of your tripod noting height and angle because it is essential that all the
shots are taken from the same spot.
- It is also recommended that you mark the postion (referred to as reference
points) of your character on the set so that it can be returned to exactly
the same spot after you have made adjustments to it if you are showing the
character running for example. remember that you will be making small changes
to indicate movement so it will be necessary to take alot of pictures.
- Lighting is used to get rid of unwanted shadows and to make sure that your
background is easily seen. The lighting you select dictates the mood presented
and directs shadows to desired postions. If additonal lights are used it is
recommended that you include a backlight too prevent the washing out of your
character and the background.
- To improve overall quality you may wish to try some other camera angles-
taking camera shots from different positions. These can be integrated into
your movie during the editing process.
- The Long Shot - is used to establish a scene's setting or atmosphere.
- The Mid -Shot - usually extends (on a person) from the foot to the
- Close-up - extends from either the waist to the head or the shoulder
blade to the hair.
- The Real Close Up - usually of the face or a section of the face only
attempting to maximize an expression possible.
- High Camera Angle - creates a viewpoint that diminishes a subject or
give a panorama and is taken with the camera at a position higher than
eye level, looking down.
- Low Camera Angle - .creates the illusion of a subject being larger or
the sense that the character fees small in a tall environment and is taken
with the camera at a position lower than eye level looking up.
g) Producing your claymation movie
- iMovie will be be used as the production
- Titles pages will be developed
- Transitions will be used
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