Some may mistake stop motion animation for a dying art form, a stepping stone to the CG enshrined present that we live in. Just like the cartoon feature films, it seems as if stop-motion films are approaching extinction.
Focus Features' August 17th release of their film, ParaNorman, means to prove this assumption wrong. If you have been watching any TV at all for the past few weeks, chances are that you have seen an advertisement for the film. With such a large marketing campaign, it is clear that Focus has a tremendous amount of faith in the film to perform commercially and critically.
Like Us on Facebook
According to Reuters, director of ParaNorman, Sam Fell, commented on the marketability of the movie, saying that "[ParaNorman] has mainstream appeal...but it comes from the love of fringe exploitation of pop culture, and we're playing to a home audience."
The question then becomes: will the home audience respond in great numbers? Are stop-motion films still a viable source of income for studios? Further, would a notable commercial success for ParaNorman result in a resurgence of the form? Only time will tell.
A Brief History
In 1933, the stop motion animation in King Kong was a marvel of special effects. Looking back, it may be hard to fully grasp that sentiment, given the state of computer animation. However, much like the advent of CG, stop motion changed what audiences and film-makers alike thought was possible. Imagination was no longer limited by practical boundaries. King Kong wasn't the first instance of stop-motion animation, but it serves as historic marker of a time when its use caught fire.
Ray Harryhausen, a legend in stop motion animation, cut his teeth with the 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and ultimately went on to animate the legendary Clash of the Titans in 1981. In more recent years, films such as Chicken Run, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wallace and Gromit, and Coraline have become modern classics for many attentive film-goers.
According to film rating aggregate site Rottentomatoes.com, Coraline received an average of 90%, Fantastic Mr. Fox came in at 93%, and Chicken Run achieved an impressive 96%.
Critically, stop motion animation is in a golden age. There is simply nothing else like it and the bar for quality is set so consistently high that their rarity can almost be excused. Yet, ParaNorman's enormous marketing push is promising for the future of the form. This is a big weekend for the form.
Video Highlights of Stop-Motion Animation
1. Paranorman Trailer
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox Trailer
3. Batman Dark Knightfall (Fan Film)
4. Wallace and Gromit
5. Clash of the Titans
6. King Kong