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A Brief History of Clay Animation

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There are chances that you have probably seen a good handful of clay model– whether it might be Hollywood Blockbusters enhancing the silver screen or miracles of the small screen. You might not have even flickered an eyelid at its place in animation past.

Clay animation was invented long back in 1897 and from its invention to this modern day works of art from the talented folks at animation studios,   there is an entire history to it that you might find astonishing. So join us on a journey back into clay animation past as we look at some of the art forms.

When was Claymation invented?

It is harmless to say that our favorite Claymation films might never have made it to any type of screen at all, without the all-important invention of Plasticine back in 1897. Whereas old-style media was starting to dip its toe in the waters of cell animation (AKA, painting images on transparent sheets then stitching them together), clay animation was on the borders of the art form.

How does it work?

For early alchemists of clay animation and even to this day, the method still continues somewhat similar. Claymation creatures start as just that, clay before they are molded onto frames and covered in fluid called Latex. Then, it is up to the Claymation controllers to move the character into the positions they need to make the film.

With this in mind, the first known use of Claymation was in 1908, with The Sculptor’s Nightmare

The Sculptor’s Nightmare

The Sculptor’s Nightmare by Edison Manufacturing shook the film world by mixing a cohort of actors with moving, clay figures. Well, to be more precise, a Claymation bust of Theodore Roosevelt which transforms from a simple slab of clay, in front of your very eyes, as the political club acts out who will replace him.

Not only early Claymation but also an example of early political satire, all in one.

In 2000, Nick Park (of Aardman fame) and Peter Lord (co-founder of Aardman Animations) directed the comical escapade that is Chicken Run. An animation staring Ginger and Rocky, the plucky leads, in a full-length feature, it was a box office smash and was Aardman Animation’s first full-length fully Claymation feature film.

With all the charm of Wallace and Gromit and years of stop-motion experience behind them, it became the highest grossing animated film of all time, at a staggering $224 million.

And to get the film finished? It took 30 sets, 80 animators and a team of 180 – with one minute of filming completed per week. That’s Claymation dedication.

 

From here, there’s been no stopping clay animation, with new films and shorts springing up all the time from animation studios across the globe. For something that started as a ball of clay, or rather plasticine, invented back in the 19th century, who knew we’d end up here with a whole new medium for storytelling? It won’t be long until the next big stop-motion success hits our screens.

 

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