When people think of stop motion animation, Tim Burton usually comes to mind. After all, he is responsible for one of the greatest claymation films of all. The Nightmare Before Christmas is definitely a gem, but not the only claymation film out there. Over the years, artists have put in years of hard work to tell a story complete with beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, since it isn't new technology, people aren't fleeing to see these films. Laika's film, The Boxtrolls, didn't even make its budget back at the box office. With Laika's new film, Kubo and the Two Strings, coming out this summer, here are some claymation films to watch in the meantime.
I’m not sure how this was marketed for kids, but even as a grown woman this film still gives me nightmares. Neil Gaiman is the king of disturbing fantasy tales and the adaptation of his children’s book keeps the tone going.
Coraline is a young girl who is bored in her new home. Her parents annoy her and her neighbors are some of the strangest people she met. When she finds a mystery door leading to a parallel world, she finds fun and merriment. The catch is that if she wants to stay in this world, she must sew buttons onto her eyes like the rest of the parallel people. From there, she has to go on a wild goose chase to defeat the spider queen and rescue her parents. The spider queen is one of the most terrifying creatures in a kids movie. The artists did a fantastic job making her scary, especially with her claw-like hands and overbearing height. Overall, it’s a film that’s not easily forgettable. I would even say it’s scarier than some horror films.
2. Shaun the Sheep
Aardman Studios always has a knack for the adorable. They are responsible for the creation of Wallace and Gromit and other big hits such as Chicken Run. Shaun the Sheep was originally a series made up of 10 minute episodes. The film extends it to 90 minutes and shows this innocent herd of sheep trying to find their owner. Without any dialogue, Shaun the Sheep manages to take viewers on an emotional rollercoaster. You just want this sheep to find his owner and are so invested in the plot and scenery, that it’s so hard to look away.
3. Mary and Max
Mary and Max is an Australian claymation film that deals with more depressing issues. Mary is a lonely eight year old girl who picks a name out of the Manhattan phone book and writes to him. Max is a lonely obese man with Asberger’s who promptly writes back. Over 20 years, the two have a pen pal relationship that is closer than any physical interactions they have. While other animated films have references to pop culture, Mary and Max’s humor is very dry. Writer Adam Elliot takes seemingly normal things, such as birthmarks and chocolate, and somehow make them jokes. Elliot is able to mix humor and a sense of gloom to make this very unique look at isolation and insecurities.
4. James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach is one of those forgotten Disney gems. Combining both live action and stop motion animation, the film has a vivid, Tim Burton-like feel to it. The live action segments always seem to feel dirty with the lighting and production design. Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge’s house is crooked and dark while the animated segments are bright and full of joy. It’s hard to believe that you would be getting invested in giant bugs’s well beings but they’re so fun and different that it’s hard not to.
5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson has proved that he can do pretty much anything. His stop-motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox has his famous quirky tone sprinkled all over it. However, he managed to make the children’s novel enjoyable for all ages. Even though he had the novel for guidance, he made a brand new world from the ground up. He created these characters with vivid backgrounds and personalities.
The film also revolves around themes of masculinity. Fox is a retired thief turned family man. However, he wants to turn back to his old ways of stealing from the local farms. He ignores his son’s insecurities and focuses on his own, making Fox’s personality totally split. Even though he has a family, deep down he is a wild animal with instincts and desires. In his book, The Wes Anderson Collection, Matt Zoller Seitz perfectly sums up the beauty of Fantastic Mr. Fox. He says, “Mr. Fox clarifies the essence of Anderson’s artistry, boiling his themes and aesthetic down to storybook-simple moments and gestures.”
Even though kids seem to favor Disney and Pixar animation more, stop motion animation will never cease to amaze. The animators know that they won't be making as much money as the Disney movie but they make the film anyway because of the passion for it. You can sense the creativity and love in each frame and that to me is better than a popular 3D animated film.