SIFLW: Early Claymation & Stop-Motion Shorts

Behind the scenes at Laika

After seeing Laika's new claymation film The Boxtrolls in theaters, I found myself curious to investigate the origins of claymation and stop-motion animation. There's plenty of information available on Wikipedia (not to mention in film textbooks, for those of you with an excess of free time), but if you're looking for a more hand-on approach you can also find several early animated shorts on YouTube. Here are my three favorites:

1. Modeling (1921)

Cute little early animated short and the first instance I can find of claymation on film (very little of it—it's predominantly live action). Also the most story-driven of the shorts: an animator assists a sculptor with a client who doesn't want his enormous nose accurately represented. While he's away from his drawing board, a mischievous cartoon clown escapes his inky world and skates around the studio making trouble. Features some impressive integration of animation and reality along with a few genuinely funny moments.

Watch it here (7 min).

2. Gumbasia (1955)

Early exposé on the possibility of stop motion animation with clay. No story here, just creative concepts brought to life with some jazzy music. Definitely the best looking short I found, and you can see in it the beginnings of modern claymation. Also, like the experiemtnal animation below, there's some wacky camera angles which make this a bit unnerving at times. Interesting for its inspiration of Gumby.

Watch it here (3 min).

3. Experimental Animation (1933)

Impressive early example of experimental claymation and this first instance I can find of animators attempting to represent the human form. The most interesting thing about this short, however, is that the erratic camera and distorted features of the peanut vendor turn what should be just a cute little animation into hallucinogenic nightmare fodder.

Watch it here (2 min).