Stop-Motion Movie MagicThe Art of Joel Fletcher

These behind the scenes videos illustrate the creative process and techniques of animating stop-motion films.

ANIMATING A SCENE FROM THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Richard C. Zimmerman animates Zero and the crowd, while Joel Fletcher animates Jack, the sleigh, and the reindeer in this movie. Nightmare was the first feature film to use digital frame grabbers and video assist to aid in the animation process, although we still relied heavily on surface gauges as the grabbers only displayed three frames at a time. The movie includes a black and white video in step-timelapse, followed by a clip of the final animation. It was shot at Skellington Productions in San Francisco, California in 1993 and features musical accompaniment by Bjorn Lynne.

ANIMATING RALPH S. MOUSE
In this video, you can see puppets being manipulated at Churchill Films studio in 1990 for the third installment of the Mouse and Motorcycle trilogy. Justin Kohn is animating the country mice chase scene on a revolving stage, while I, Joel Fletcher, am animating the Laser XL7 road racer sequence in the Mountain View Inn set. The studio was very hot due to the movie lights and summer heat. We used a combination of hand and eye calculations for the smaller movements of the characters, and surface gauges for the main movement. Scenes from the finished movie are included in this video to show the work we did.

ANIMATING UNCLE ELEPHANT
I documented my fellow animators Justin Kohn, Kent Burton, Mike Belzer, and Mark Kendrick as they animated multi-character shots. The video shows how access to the stop-motion puppets is crucial, and demonstrates two clever solutions: the trap-door and movable walls. We used traditional surface gauges for the main characters, but often skipped them for the crowds. The video also shows the use of blue-screen for adding background imagery in post-production. Clips of the final animation are included. The footage was shot at director John Clark Matthew's studio in 1991.

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