Stop motion is an animation technique that dates as far back as 1898. An object (often made of clay) is is photgraphed and moved slightly in each separate frame, and the illusion of movement is created when the individually photographed frames are played continuously. Before the CGI special effect of modern movies, many filmmakers had to rely on stop motion photography. Even with boundaries, some of the results were very impressive. Stop motion doesn’t really hold up over time, though, and with just a few exceptions, it seems to be an obsolete visual effect. At any rate, here are ten memorable stop motion movie characters:
ED-209 – Robocop
Robocop was played by Peter Weller, but the menacing ED-209 was created using stop motion. COBRA assault rifles and stairs were its weaknesses.
The Terminator – The Terminator
Terminator 2 introduced groundbreaking visual effects, but its predecessor relied on good ol’ stop motion. Even without modern technology, the Terminator still looked pretty scary.
Medusa – Clash of the Titans
Rather than put an actor in a ridiculous suit, the effects team on Clash of the Titans opted for an animated Medusa. This probably made her beheading at the hands of Perseus more practical, too.
King Kong – King Kong
Kong’s battles with dinosaurs in the 1933 version of King Kong are a far cry from the visuals created via Andy Serkis and motion ball capture.
Tyrannosaurus Rex – Caveman
The Tyrannosaur in Caveman is as memorable as its co-stars Shelly Long and Ringo Star. My favorite scene – besides when the cavemen mistakedly play in dinosaur sh*t – is when the Tyrannosaur is fed fruit with psychadelic properties.
Dark Overlord – Howard the Duck
I remember just two things about Howard the Duck: 1) the duck’s boobs in the very beginning; and 2) the stop motion Dark Overlords. I always thought they were a bright spot in an otherwise abyssmal movie.
Skeletons – Jason and the Argonauts
Perhaps the most famous stop motion scene, the skeleton battle in Jason and the Argonauts featured battles with animated undead long before Army of Darkness.
Large Marge – Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Large Marge is my favorite stop motion character. It’s not often that a simple animation can scare the living piss out of you.
Tauntauns – The Empire Strikes Back
In addition to an epic story, visual effects helped make the Star Wars films some of the most memorable in movie history. The Empire Strikes back featured several stop motion animated creatures and machines, such as the tauntauns and AT-AT walkers.
Jack Skellington – The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas was made entirely using stop motion photography, and a similar style – both in tone and design – was used for Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride.