Editor's note: AdultSwim.com, one of our geeky friends in the Time Warner universe, got pretty nerdy with this deep dive into stop animation. Check it out!
With shows like "Robot Chicken," "Moral Orel," and "Frankenhole" under our belts, we're obviously no strangers to stop motion animation. Contrary to popular belief, these are not the only stop motion projects that are worth your time.
The Adventures of Mark Twain by Will Vinton:
Will Vinton is the man responsible for the California Raisins, The PJ's, and a slew of holiday specials that all earned him a family-friendly reputation. This 1987 film begs to differ. As surreal as it is unsettling, this particular scene, "The Mysterious Stranger," has certainly proved memorable for those late-80's children who were unlucky enough to see it in theaters.
Meat Love by Jan Svankmajer:
The grandaddy of surreal stop motion, Jan Svankmajer has produced some of the most groundbreaking and inspirational animated shorts and projects of all time. He also never shied away from using unorthodox animation materials, such as this short in which actual raw meat was painstakingly manipulated and molded frame-by-frame.
Western Spaghetti by PES:
Another animator who has mastered the use of unique materials is PES, who hand-picks items like google eyes and bubble wrap and transforms them into something else entirely. PES should be credited not only for his impressive shorts, but also for finally finding a better use for candy corn.
It's a Bird by Harold L. Muller:
This 1930 production is among the first, rare uses of stop-motion, and shines as uniquely impressive due to the scale of the objects involved. It's also an early example of how disturbing the medium can be, starring a sunken-eyed, shrill-voiced, metal-eating bird that poops cars. The 30's were a crazy time.
Off Beat by Aardman:
Aardman, the studio often regarded as the Pixar of stop-motion and most famous for Wallace & Gromit, isn't widely known for its experimental shorts that often lean towards an unexpectedly dark or rebellious tone, but they exist by the dozens and are all worth a watch. You can check out more of the studio's alternative offerings at their special Youtube page, AardmanDarkSide.
Stille Nacht 1: Dramolet by the Brothers Quay:
The Quays perfected the dark, gloomy visual style that would later be associated with the music videos of groups like Nine Inch Nails and Tool. Their work has gone on to inspire many filmmakers (most prominently Terry Gilliam) and has received plenty of critical acclaim. On the other hand, they haven't done much to quell the "creepy" stigma that has long surrounded twins.
Deadline by Bang-Yao Liu:
This short demonstrates how versatile the medium of stop motion can be, employing simple sticky notes in a single composition to set up its admirable execution. It also drastically raises the bar for student projects everywhere. Thanks a lot, Bang-Yao Liu.
Vincent by Tim Burton:
Lurking well within the shadows of its bigger brother Nightmare Before Christmas is this Tim Burton/Rick Heinrichs short from 1982. This piece not only allowed Burton to work with his lifelong hero, Vincent Price (who also narrates), but also cemented his fascination with stop-motion and opened the door for the decades of swirly, black-and-white striped productions that have followed.
Mandalorian Dance by Patrick Boivin:
An indie master of action figure stop motion, Patrick Boivin's videos have been making the viral rounds for a while, now. His subject matter ranges from skateboarding ninjas to full-on pop culture brawls, but one of the more overlooked gems is this piece in which a certain bounty hunter enjoys a rare moment of personal expression.
The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb by Dave Borthwick:
Originally commissioned by the BBC as a Christmas-themed short, this 1993 production strays far from the intended direction and is almost immediately unsettling. The piece ended up fascinating BBC execs so much that they eventually funded a full film version, gifting the world with this incredible bit of artistic nightmare fuel.
Kog-Head & Meatus by Doug TenNapel:
Doug TenNapel is better known as the man behind Earthworm Jim, but he's gone on to become a renaissance man of comics and animation. He's no stranger to stop motion, either, having been a creative lead behind the clay-based PC adventure game, The Neverhood. Here's a rarely-seen short he produced with Mike Dietz in 2000, featuring Rob Paulson as both titular characters.
Human Tetris by Guillaume Reymond:
In this video that has spawned a thousand Youtube imitators, one of the most impressive elements is how Guillaume Reymond perfectly captures the 8-bit sound effects through acapella. It's undeniably more hypnotizing than any actual game of Tetris, and just as frustrating to watch once things start going wrong.
Mandala by Art Clokey:
Known far and wide as the creator of both Gumby and Davey & Goliath, Art Clokey's first short from 1953, Gumbasia, arguably kick-started the American clay animation craze. His second short from 1977, Mandala, is a similarly trippy dive into near-total insanity, but with 100% more haunting, lifeless faces. It also features both Clokey and his wife, Gloria, acting completely appropriate for 1977.