October 12 marks the birthday of stop-motion animation pioneer Art Clokey. The creator of the iconic jade green clay humanoid, Gumby, and his faithful equine companion, Pokey, Clokey was among the very first animators to combine clay figures with stop motion, which he first did with a short film in 1953.
The 1990s saw the rise of computer generated animation, but a handful of film directors still like the unique textures and often eerie movement that stop motion offers, qualities that are on display in films such as "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Chicken Run," "James and the Giant Peach," "Coraline," and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox."
But almost all great animators got their start with short films. Here are five of our favorite stop-motion shorts.
One of the very earliest examples of stop-motion animation did not use puppets, cutouts, or clay models. Instead, it used dead bugs.
In 1910, Moscow-born entomologist Ladislas Starevich was working as Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kovno, Lithuania, where he attempted to make a live-action documentary of stag beetles. Starevich quickly discovered that his actors were far more likely to follow his stage directions if they were deceased. By replacing the dead beetles' legs with wire, Starevich could manipulate the bugs, Weekend-at-Bernie's-style, to do whatever he wanted them to do.
"The Cameraman's Revenge," a dark tale of insect infidelity and jealousy, is the best known of Starevich's dead-bug films. Starevich fled to France during the October Revolution, where he would continue to make films that would inspire generations of animators, including Art Clokey, Terry Gilliam, Henry Selick, and Nick Park.
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