Ludovic - The Snow Gift (1998) during shooting. © NFB
Ludovic - The Snow Gift (1998) - Co Hoedeman. © NFB
Martin Barry working on the set of Juke-Bar (1989). © NFB
Juke-Bar (1989) - Martin Barry. © NFB
Sjaak Meilink posing by the characters in his film Stiltwalkers (2002). © NFB
Stiltwalkers (2002) - Sjaak Meilink .© NFB
Play excerpts of films that use this technique
By Marcel Jean
The term object animation refers to puppet animation, pixillation and various derived techniques; take, for example, clay animation, or claymation, for which filmmakers like American Will Vinton, Briton Nick Park and Russian Garri Bardine have become famous.
These techniques all require animators to work with aspects of filmmaking very similar to those that live-action directors have to deal with. In object animation, lighting, camera movement, lens, depth of field and spatial relationships are not virtual, as in cartoons, but real, as in films with live actors.
Puppet animation, sometimes called doll animation, originated with the age-old tradition of marionette theatre. This tradition has been part of European popular culture for centuries, which explains why it was in this part of the world that puppet animation began. Russian Ladislas Starewitch, with films such as Revenge of the Kinematograph Cameraman, also known as The Cameraman's Revenge (1912), was the first master of this technique. He was soon followed by many Russian, and especially Czech, animators, the most famous being Jiri Trnka (The Hand, 1965). It was another European, Hungarian George Pal, who took the technique to the United States in the early 1940s. In Japan, Kihachiro Kawamoto, who had trained in Prague with Trnka, was inspired by Japanese puppet theatre (bunraku) to make films such as The Dojoji Temple/House of Flame (1976).
At the NFB, after Jean-Paul Ladouceur's first experiments (Sur le pont d'Avignon, 1951), it was not until the arrival of Co Hoedeman, in the late 1960s, that this technique finally found its place. The remarkable Tchou-tchou (1972), in which the characters and sets are painted blocks of wood, and The Sand Castle (1977), for which he created charming creatures in a desert-like world, guaranteed that it was here to stay.
The presence at the NFB of Czech Bretislav Pojar—one of Trnka's long-time collaborators—had no significant effect on the production of puppet films. Pojar's first Canadian films were actually done with paper cut-outs and it was not until Nightangel (1986), co-directed with Jacques Drouin, that he used the process for which he is best known. Pojar's characters acted in sets made by Drouin using an Alexeïeff-Parker pinscreen to produce an expressly realistic effect.
Although Martin Barry never followed up on his amusing musical comedy Juke-Bar (1989), featuring amazing cockroaches whose faces have real character, another young filmmaker, Pierre M. Trudeau, invented a unique style involving construction paper puppets. His films for children are imbued with his own aesthetic inspired by children's artwork: Kid Stuff (1990) and Baroque'n Roll (1994). Brian Duchscherer (The Balgonie Birdman, 1993), Pjotr Sapegin (Aria, 2001), Patrick Bouchard (The Brainwashers, 2002) and Sjaak Meilink (Stiltwalkers, 2002) also use this technique, which is continuing to gain in popularity.
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