Praxinoscopes

The Praxinoscope was invented in 1877 by a Frenchman named Charles Reynaud. It was the first device to overcome the issue of picture distortion which was caused by looking through moving slots. It was better than the Zoetrope because instead of having to look through the viewing slits you can look into an inner circle of mirrors. We see the reflections instead of the actual drawings. Because of this advance is swiftly replaced the Zoetrope in being the most popular device for viewing animation.

A strength of the Praxinoscope are that it produces a clearer image than its predecessor. The image is much less distorted due to the viewing slits and mirrors. There are also some weaknesses to the Praxinoscope. Like the Zoetrope, they are expensive to both buy and make.  It is also difficult to use in terms of creating your own animations. The boxes that you have to draw in can be difficult to use as they spiral round, meaning that images can appear construed and distorted.

imgres-1An image of an early Praxinoscope.

One of the earliest examples of a Praxinoscope animation was a variation of the ‘Galloping Horse’ animation. This was similar to the animation on the Zoetrope and featured the same ideas of tricking the viewer into seeing a moving object when in reality they are just seeing a variety of similar still images.

Aardman – Pioneers of Animation

Aardman is a British animation studio started in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. One of their first notable pieces of work as a studio was the creation of Morph for the children’s program ‘Take Hart’.images-1Morph is now a very famous character to a lot of people in Britain as ‘Take Hart’ was an extremely popular children’s television program in the 1960’s.

Despite aniamtion being largely popular with children, Lord and Sproxton wanted to develop an adult audience and so dabbled with more mature themes for their animations. Films such as ‘Early Bird’ showed people that real people can be given new depths by animating puppets in to real life conversations with them.

imgres-3Puppets were animated to appear as though they were real people. This proved to be popular with audiences of the animated program.

In the 1980’s Aardman collaborated with the director Stephen Johnson and the band Brothers Quay to make a rock video for one of their songs; ‘Sledgehammer’. Its unique style and visual flair was boosted by their oddball ideas which included a puppet’s face being pulled around as though his skin was loose. The video went on to collect almost every award available to it in the year of its release.

Aardman won an Academy Award in 1993 for its Lord and Sproxton’s work on the animation for Nick Park’s ‘The Wrong Trousers’. The film, half an hour long, won over thirty awards world-wide and is seen to be one of the most successful animated films ever made.

imgres-4Nick Park and Aardman collaborated on lots of different ‘Wallace and Gromit’ films.

Aardman continued to have great success throughout the 1990’s, earning Lord and Sproxton producer credits for their work on Nick Park’s third Oscar winning film ‘A Close Shave’. It was at this time that Wallace and Gromit were becoming household names in Britain as the starring characters in Park’s greatly successful films.

In 1998, Aardman made a series aimed at kids as well as adults called ‘Rex the Runt’ and claimed an impressive amount of international awards. It was shown on the BBC and directed by long time Aardman associate Richard Goleszowski.

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‘Chicken Run’ was released in 2000 and was Aardman’s first full-length film to be funded by Dreamworks. Both Lord and Park directed it. ‘Chicken Run’ was released in both the US and Britain and was reviewed excellently, grossing over $220M worldwide.images-2One of their greatest commercial successes, ‘Chicken Run’ is still an extremely popular film to British audiences despite being 15 years old.

Aardman’s success with Dreamworks continued in 2005 as Wallace and Gromit’s first ever feature film ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ was released in October. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and a BAFTA for Best British Film. It also did very well at the box office, topping charts and grossing healthily. As ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ was released, a warehouse containing lots of models and props caught fire, creating a bittersweet ending to 2005 for Aardman.

‘Flushed Away’ was Aardman’s first ever CG film and their third collaboration with Dreamworks. It was nominated for a BAFTA. In the same year, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ debuted on British television. The series has garnered huge acclaim and is now aired world wide.imgres-6

The studio has also made other films in the last 7 years, including ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Pirates!’. They have also been doing work off set to promote animation and filmmaking. This has included exhibitions at the Tate Museums.

In 2015, ‘Shaun the Sheep the Movie’ is set to be released. This will be the first taste of the big screen for the character and is Aardman Studio’s most ambitious project yet.

Aardman’s characters and content have also created demand for huge commercials and branded content. This has meant that Aardman now boasts a considerably prestigious list of clients including Chevron, Nike, McVities and Kellogs.

imgres-7Aardman are also contracted to make their own original animations for companies. This is seen here as they made an animated advert for Nike using puppets.

Peter Lord and David Sproxton can be seen as real developers and pioneers of animation as they found ways to take stop motion and claymation into huge feature films. They helped to establish Wallace and Gromit as household characters and have created a simplistic style of characters.

Tim Burton – A Pioneer of Animation

Tim Burton was born on August 25th 1958 in Burbank, California. Burbank is known for its links to the movie industry; particularly animation studios. He made short films in his garden using 8mm film. These included ‘The Island of Doctor Agor’.

imgres-2A youthful Tim Burton.

Burton was not a very good student at school and his pleasures lay in drawing, painting and watching films, which his parents encouraged. He cites his early childhood heroes Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss as being huge influences upon his work. At college he studied character animation and graduated in 1979.

Burton’s work as a filmmaker has propelled him into the status of an industry great. Before Burton’s work on productions such as ‘Vincent’, animated films tended to be geared heavily towards the lighter side of fantasy with animals and princesses often being the subject. Burton had extremely different ideas. It was these ideas that lost him his job at Disney only a year into his contract. He was originally employed as an animator for ‘The Fox and the Hound’, however his ideas for character design were seen by bosses as being too outlandish. They felt that he did not conform enough to the Disney style of design. They still recognised his potential though and gave him a much freer role as a conceptual artist. His designs were still just not in the style that Disney wanted to produce, and so he and the company parted ways after just a year.

imgres‘The Fox and the Hound’ went on to become a very popular Disney film.

Tim Burton’s departure from Disney ended up being a great move for his career. It was during his post Disney times that he established himself as a real developer in stop motion. His work on ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ gained critical acclaim. He influenced lots of other filmmakers as he rewrote the genre-old rule that animation had to conform to certain things. His stop motion had connotations of horror and audiences fell in love with the zany worlds he could create.

Burton is classed as a developer in the stop motion industry as he has pioneered new ideas that have never been attempted before. He has used stop motion as a way of animating his weird concepts and drawings that otherwise would never be able to be brought to life.

imgres-1A still from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ that is also used as the title shot. Its dark and gothic tones are vastly dissimilar to other Christmas films that have been released previously.

More modern animated work of Burton’s is the 2012 film ‘Frankenweenie’. This film fell into his traditional pool of films as it was very gothic and contained both elements of fantasy and horror. The biggest difference between Burton’s modern and traditional animated work is the changes in technology behind the animation. More impressive feats of animation can be had as computer software can assist the stop motion animation process. There is just all round better production throughout the modern movies. This includes the lighting and the quality of the shooting, as you’d expect from the advancement in the technology.

imgres-2A still from Frankenweenie. More detail can be seen in the faces of characters than in previous work.

It is clear in much of Burton’s original animated work that there is a theme that he tends to stick to. This is the gothic imagery and characters that all exhibit the same features. These include the skinny limbs and big eyes.

Stop Motion Experiment

We experimented with stop motion by using a camera to take pictures. We did this by using single shots in 24fps. We had a model that we moved slightly between every shot. Whilst we moved the model, however, we made sure to keep everything else in the same position in order to maintain a sense of continuity.

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As seen in the screenshots, the model is moving slightly in each picture. If these photos were to be looped through quickly then an impression would be created in the human mind of there being one moving image. We had to make sure that the movements the model made were very slight so that it seemed like he was moving normally and that there were not separate images of him.

The strengths of using this stop motion technique is that it can be done with just one camera and by pressing just one button. Also, by using the camera, we can keep track of what the model has been doing by looking back over previous photos to make sure that continuity stays on point.

There are some weaknesses to this technique. One is that it is very time consuming as we had to take lots and lots of pictures in order to maintain a fluid sense of animation. Another weakness is that it took a lot of care and concentration to maintain the continuity as we could not alter the position of any of the pens on the floor. It was also difficult maintaining the continuity of the model as it was hard for him to stay in the same position without moving or itching himself.

One of the first examples of stop motion is credited to Albert E. Smith and Stuart Blackton for ‘The Humpty Dumpty Circus’. This was an animation which featured a toy circus with acrobats and animals. Stop motion is used to make the acrobats move and to make the animals move around.

imagesA picture of a ‘Humpty Dumpty Circus’ set.




Ray Harryhausen – A Pioneer of Animation

Ray Harryhausen, born in 1920 in Los Angeles, had an obsession for fantasy from a very early age. This was nurtured by his parents who took him to theatres and cinemas.

Classic films featuring animation, ‘The Lost World’ and ‘King Kong’, inspired him to pursue a career in the film industry as it seemed to be the most viable way to bring his fantastical ideas to life. His firsts attempts at animation revolved around his passion for prehistoric animals and included a brontosaurus and stegosaurus.

Some of Harryhausen’s earliest work as a professional animator include ‘Puppetoons’ and, when World War Two broke out, ‘How to Bridge a Gorge’ which was an illustration of how stop motion may be used for propaganda purposes.

Ray_Army 2An image of Harryhausen filming ‘How to Bridge a Gorge’.

In 1951, Harryhausen got the chance to work on what would be a defining moment in his career as an animator. He was commissioned to be the chief animator on the legendary film ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’. He had to convince the company in charge of the production of the film that stop motion was the best way to do it. He also wanted to work on the project so badly that he made almost no profit for his work. The film was a huge success and inspired the famous ‘Godzilla’ franchise.

beast_from_20000_fathomsA picture of ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’.

12 years later, in 1963, Harryhausen worked on what is regarded to be his best and most famous picture; ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. In this production, stepped into new territories in the grounds of animation by combining live action with animation to create a mixed sequence which still flowed to add a sense of realism to the fantastical film. The famous skeleton sequence in the film, which runs for four minutes and thirty seven seconds, took four and a half months to photograph. This was so that the animated skeletons’ movements could be more smooth. It is estimated that 184,800 movements of the skeletons were captured.

HarryHausen officially ‘retired’ from animation in 18984. He does, however, still flirt with the industry. One of the most famous examples was the completion of a project that was thought to be scrapped decades ago; an animated retelling of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’, which was released in 2001.

It is thought that Ray Harryhausen has animated over 40 projects. He helped pioneer stop motion into the mainstream by taking the original ideas that had inspired him and applying them in new and innovative ways. By combining stop motion with live action, he made it a much more believable form of art as it could be believed as part of the actual live acting and not just an added after effect.

Harryhausen died in 2013 aged 92. Memorials have been held since his death to celebrate his life and extensive collection of work. He inspired many famous directors in his lifetime, with legendary film director Tim Burton saying “you felt the hand of an artist in him, and it’s something that has always touched me and I’ve always remembered”.

Ray_HarryhausenHarryhausen pictured in 2007.

Zoetrope Animation

The Zoetrope is an animation tool invented in 1834 by somebody called William Horner. He originally called it the Daedalum, which means “Wheel of the Devil”. It is effectively a simpler version of Plateau’s ‘phenakistoscope’ as it does not require a viewing mirror. It’s more inconvenient than Plateau’s invention as more than one person can use it at the same time.

imgresAn example of a Zoetrope.

There are some advantages to animating with a Zoetrope. These include being able to create and view things relatively easily. Another advantage is that the speeds you spin it at can differ depending on how you want your animation to be seen. There are also disadvantages to using a Zoetrope for animation. They are quite expensive to buy so they will be hard to get hold of. The animations also do not last very long. For example, when making our Zoetrope animation, we could only use 10 frames of different pictures.

IMG_5443An image of me creating the frames for my animation.

Whilst making my own example, I was able to see the limitations to this technique. This is because I saw that, whilst it does not take as long as other methods, it is still a rather time consuming process. I also saw that it is fairly easy to do as you can see the continuity of each frame by looking back at what you just drew.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5YBdRgGPwdmMnRPdExfZzhTaE0/view?usp=sharing

Above is a link to a video of my Zoetrope.

‘The Galloping Horse’ is a very early example of Zoetrope animation. This was groundbreaking at a time when people were not used to seeing a moving image in such a way. This is the idea of single images being used to create the illusion of a moving image.

hqdefaultAn image of ‘The Moving Horse’ Zoetrope animation.