An Old Favorite Returns

        Stop motion is a great part of cinematic history. It has been a great part of many classic movies as well as some newer movies. Stop motion is a form of animation that makes inanimate objects appear to move according to the Creative Learning for the Digital Age site.

        While there are many movies that have used stop motion in the past, one of the most famous movies of our time to use stop motion is King Kong, which was filmed in 1933 by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Every scene that "Kong" was in was filmed with stop motion. Because the film makers could not realistically have a huge gorilla on site, they had to use some type of animation. The great technology we have today to create animated objects was not available in the 1930's, so the creators had to find another way of bringing a giant gorilla to the big screen.

        A lot of time goes into shooting a movie that uses stop motion. A movie with this type of animation is not easily done and is also not done very quickly. Stop motion requires shooting a frame of action, then stopping and moving the object and shooting it again. That is why movies such as King Kong can take a long time to produce. Imagine placing "Kong" in a certain position, shooting it, moving him in another position and shooting that, and having to do that for an entire movie. Once the movie is finished, the viewer can barely tell that it was done in stop motion. It looks as though the object is actually moving naturally. It is very time-consuming. But as we have seen from King Kong and other movies like it, the end product is well worth the trouble.

        Many people believe that the idea of stop motion began back in the times of using puppets for animation. One of the first cinematic directors to use stop motion was the French Cinematic Pioneer Georges Méliès. He realized that turning the camera on and off and moving objects slowly caused them to look as though they were actually moving naturally. Because of this technology it made the movies seem very realistic. In movies before this the animation did not look very natural. This made the movies much easier to watch and believe in.

        The first important person to introduce stop motion to America was Willis O'Brien. He was the special effects animator that worked on King Kong. Though O'Brien had introduced stop motion to America through King Kong, he also had a student who helped the process along. This student was Ray Harryhausen, who went on to create stop motion movies of his own.

        Some movies from the past that used stop motion were as follows: The Lost World and King Kong, animated by Willis O'Brien and Buzz Gibson. Willis O'Brien and Buzz Gibson also animated the sequel to the original King Kong movie, Son of Kong, with the famous stop-motion. Mighty Joe Young, Animal World, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Black Scorpion, and The Giant Behemoth are all movies that used stop motion from the 1920's to the 1950's.

        Harryhausen used stop motion that he learned from his mentor in movies also. Some of his most well known movies include Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Even though he never actually directed full-length films, he was very well known for what parts of the films he did contribute to. From the movies he contributed to, it is apparent that he had learned a great deal from his mentor. After these films were released, he no longer hid in the shadows of his mentor. He was then known for his accomplishments and not only as an apprentice.

        There are many movies from the past fifty years that used stop motion for their animation. These include Jack the Giant Killer, Jason and the Argonauts, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Flesh Gordon, Clash of the Titans, Caveman, The Howling, The Thing, and Twilight Zone: The Movie. Of course just in the past few years there have been many movies that have made the art of stop motion very popular. Many of these newer movies seem to be simply animated instead of more realistic, like many of the movies listed above. Some of these movies that we automatically think about are The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride, Adventures of Wallace and Gromit, and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

        These movies have brought stop motion back to life for children who otherwise would have never been exposed to it unless their parents showed them older movies. Having this little bit of cinematic history brought back into our movies has been wonderful. Without being exposed to this, the newer generations might always think that movies were always animated with the technology we have today. There would also be the possibility that this type of animation would only be studied in classes such as this one, which would eventually leave the students feeling as though this were a dead art form. However, because this form of technology has been brought back to our movies, that is no longer a possibility.

        While there are not that many movies that use the old-fashioned stop motion anymore, it is refreshing to know that this important part of our history has not completely disappeared from our society. Stop motion may not be as popular as it once was; but it is still a huge part of our history. It is very important that it remains that way for the future generations and us. Not keeping stop motion in our current films would deprive an entire generation of a great part of past generations lives. O'Brien will always be remembered and thanked for bringing stop motion to the film industry in America. And if for nothing else, stop motion will definitely live on forever in the most well-known movie of its kindů King Kong.

Elizabeth Barrett

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