Wes Anderson’s latest film Isle of Dogs (above) is generating considerable buzz not only for its all star cast but also its use of stop-motion animation a specific animated art form known for its own particular look and feel. Anderson used stop motion before in his critically acclaimed adaption of the Roald Dahl classic Fantastic Mr. Fox. The use of stop motion goes back over a century to the now sadly lost feature length film Argentinean film El Apostol in 1917. Let’s consider some of the landmark uses of stop motion throughout the years.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964) The tale of misfit reindeer Rudolph, wannabee dentist elf Hermey, Christmastown and the Island of Misfit Toys has become one of the most enduring and iconic Christmas specials of all time and an annual tradition for millions across the world. Arthur Rankin Jr. and staff did the script, concept designs, and storyboards while the actual stop motion itself was filmed in Tokyo at MOM productions supervised by legendary puppeteer Tadahito Mochinaga. Mochinaga and Rankin would collaborate on other stop motion “Animagic” projects in the 60’s including The New Adventures of Pinocchio and Mad Monster Party.
Fantastic Planet (1973) Rene Laloux directed and co-wrote the script of this French animated feature based on the 1957 novel Oms en Serie by Stefan Wul. It was an international co-production between companies in France and Czechoslovakia. A fantastical sci-fi allegory of humans living on a bizarre planet dominated by giant humanoid creatures who consider humans animals is considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. It won the Grand Prix Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Directed by Tim Burton and one of his greatest masterpieces of all time we learn of a land where holidays come from different dimensional towns. One day Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town stumbles upon a portal to Christmas Town. What ensues is one of the most visually memorable, dark musical fantasies of all time that is in the unique position of being both a Halloween staple and a Christmas classic at once. It was the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Burton would later go on to use stop-motion again in such films as Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie.
Chicken Run (2000) Produced by British Studio Aardman Animations (who’ve also made the beloved Wallace and Gromit series among many others). The odious Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy run a chicken farm where the hens live in prison camp surroundings and are slaughtered if they don’t produce eggs. Greedy Mrs. Tweedy sets on a plan to convert the farm to a chicken pot pie factory. Meanwhile Ginger and the other hens plot to escape the farm using the help of Rocky a flying rooster who crash lands in their vicinity. Chicken Run was a rousing success among critics and audiences alike that grossed over 224 million dollars becoming the highest grossing stop motion animated film ever made.
Anomalisa (2015) Charles Kaufmann (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) wrote and co-directed this story of a lonely customer service expert Michael (voiced by David Thewlis) who perceives everyone else in the world (all voiced by Tom Noonan) as identical until he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) at a conference in a Cincinnati hotel. Anomalisa was the first rated R rated animated movie to be nominated for Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, as well as being nominated for a Golden Globe and five Annie Awards. It was the first animated film ever to win the Grand Jury Prize at Venice.
Top photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation