Culture | Stop motion starts a commotion

Montreal film festival pays tribute to a favourite animation technique

From the special effects of the late 1970’s to early 1990’s, to our most beloved children’s shows, stop motion filmmaking makes worlds come alive in a way that Computer Generated Images (CGI) and traditional animation just can’t match. This week you can see the reemergence of this antiquated medium at the 3rd annual Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival.
Stop motion film has a special place in cinematic history. The original method for creating special effects, it was used to make objects magically come alive. We can thank the method for bringing us many of the infamous special effects of the late 1970’s and 1980’s, such as the Star Wars Trilogy, Robo Cop, and The Terminator. Stop motion was also used as a medium by itself, creating entire worlds in our favorite feature films and shorts like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Wallace and Gromit.
With the emergence of CGI however, the outpouring of stop motion films has slowed to an almost invisible trickle. Recently, much of what we have seen of stop motion in the media has been children’s shows and advertising. This has caused the technique to be deployed in an entirely different way. “For the longest time, stop motion was used for television shows for kids [like Bob the Builder and Lunar Jim]. [It was] also used as a special effect art form, but since Jurassic Park, stop motion is not used any more for moving big monsters – computers do that these days rather well,” explained Eric Goulet, the director of the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival.
Despite stop motion’s recent fade from popularity, the technique is having a bit of a renaissance. Major filmmakers are using the method to make full length feature films, despite the availability of the latest technology. For example, Wes Anderson used stop motion with the release of his wildly popular 2009 film, Fantastic Mr.Fox. “Stop motion went back to its roots and now we see more and more features films being made… There is a preference [for stop motion] because you can work with your hands and touch the medium…the audience can identify with the material used since it is so close to human reality,” Goulet added.
This magic and meticulous care that invisibly exists between the shots is now captivating filmmakers all over the world. With 314 applicants from over 300 countries, it is clear that the reemergence of stop motion is well under way. The festival boasts 71 films across four categories, and, globally, there are now seven stop motion film festvals in production. Goulet is taking full advantage of this comeback, noting that “the wave is coming and we are riding it.”

The festival runs from October 21-23 in the J.A. de Sève Theater at Concordia University (1453 Mackay, Montreal). Adults: $10 per session, children (12 years and under): $5 per session, VIP Pass: $50. For more information, visit our website: www.stopmotionmontreal.com.


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