Do you love animated films? What kid doesn’t? Your parents might even like them as much as you do!

Today’s Wonder of the Day is all about one particular type of animation: clay animation. Clay animation is a unique form of stop animation that uses figures made out of clay.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably seen clay animation many times. Some of the most famous clay animation characters include Gumby and Pokey, Wallace and Gromit and the California Raisins.

Sometimes clay animation is called Claymation®, which is a term that was created by Will Vinton. Vinton owned an animation studio that helped clay artists develop clay animation movies.

Clay animation got its start way back in 1897 when modeling clay was invented. Artists began to sculpt characters out of clay. They would then take multiple still pictures of the character, moving the character slightly in between each picture.

When those pictures were displayed quickly in succession, they created the illusion of movement. The first clay animation film — The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream — was produced in 1908 by Edison Manufacturing.

Since clay characters must be moved or changed only slightly in between every single still picture, clay animation is a lot of work. As a result, clay animation films are often shorter than other types of animated films.

For example, a typical animated movie requires 24 frames — also called stops — for one second of playback. That equates to 24 still pictures for each second of movie time.

Because clay animation is so much work, clay animators often do double stops. This means they use the same picture twice in a row to cut down on the number of stops needed. Doing doubles, they still need 12 still pictures for each second of movie time.

Each still picture must vary only slightly from the previous one in order to create the illusion of smooth movement. If the changes between pictures are too great, the film will appear choppy.

So let’s do the math to figure out just how much work a simple 30-minute clay animation movie would require. At a rate of 12 stops per second of movie time, a 30-minute clay animation movie requires 21,600 still pictures! A full-length (90-minute) clay animation movie would require 64,800 still pictures.

Can you imagine taking 21,600 still pictures while making tiny changes to clay characters in between each and every picture? That’s how much work clay animation is!


62 Join the Discussion

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    • Hello, Kaitlyn! Thanks so much for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! We are so happy to hear that you thought it was cool! :-)

    • Well, you’re a COOL Wonder Friend, Paige! We really appreciate all the AWESOME comments you leave for us! :-)

    • We hope you’ll re-visit today’s Wonder of the Day® to learn a little more about clay animation, Savannah! There are lots of cool, interesting facts inside today’s Wonder! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  1. Hi guys,
    I have always wondered about using clay animation and I actually once did it I’m school for a project and it was really fun! I can’t wait for tomorrows wonder! It sounds cool!

    • WOW! We think it’s super cool that you’ve done a clay animation project before, Kayla! That was really neat background knowledge to have had before you explored this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  2. Hello Wonderopolis!
    This is a very good wonder. This was my second guess for today. Something about clay animation. Tomorrow’s may be about rainbows or whatever it is called when you breath outside and “smoke” comes out.
    – Food Allergy Girl

    • Hi, Kaya! We really like your comment…thanks for sharing that you made clay animation once before! We think that’s AWESOME! :-)

  3. This is my question: a lot of people who are A.D.D. or A.D.H.D, or even bipolar are very smart. Most people look at them as if they have mental problems, but they’re really smart. Why? Because I’m ADD, ADHD and Bipolar, and me and my friends got to talking about it.

    • Hi, Devan! We’re glad you and your friends were talking about issues that concern you…we think communication ROCKS! We think sometimes people are scared of things they don’t understand. Instead of trying to learn more about someone who might be a little different than they are, they choose to treat them differently or unfairly. We appreciate you sharing more about yourself with everyone in Wonderopolis today…we appreciate you for being YOU! You are an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

  4. Good morning wonderopolis, this wonder video is so cute and funny. Thanks! Now I probably will have to make a clay animation movie even though it might just be a 5 to 10 min. one!! :)

    • It makes us super happy to learn that you were inspired to make your own clay animation video after checking out this Wonder of the Day®, Madalynn! We bet your video will ROCK! :-)

  5. I think that clay animation is really cool!!!!! I enjoyed reading the fun facts. Do you have a wonder that’s about making movies? I hope you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Hi,
    The way clay animations are made is a frame by frame poses with cameras, clay and extra props for the animation. First you make your clay people and set up a set then put your camera in place after ever pic you move you person only a little bit then once you’ve moved then in every way you want you can edit it on iMovie or other programs.
    :) :) :)

    • Thanks so much for sharing what you know about clay animation, Ben! We appreciate your background knowledge and are super glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today! :-)

  7. I never thought pigeons could rob people. So now I know where that bill went when I was feeding that mysterious bird.

    • We’re super sorry you lost your money, Clayton, but we’re glad you visited this Wonder of the Day®! What did this “mysterious” bird look like? Was it made out of clay? :-)

    • We really liked the video too, Lindsay! It was funny how the pigeons didn’t want the crumbs from the man’s corndog…they wanted his money! :-)

  8. Hi wonderopolis, I love today’s wonder because it is so funny and the man threw the crumbs on the man’s corndog and …………….they wanted his money. Ha, ha.

  9. Wonderopolis,
    How long did it take you to make the entire video? Also why do you leave :) at the end of all your comments? Is it because you want to make everyone happy? That corndog made me hungry (hahahahahahahahehehehehehehohohohohoho)………….sorry for the random laughing. :o)

    • We like random laughing, Kate, and YES! We like to leave a smiley face at the end of every comment reply because we want all of our Wonder Friends to be HAPPY and know that WE are HAPPY that they stopped by Wonderopolis and left us a comment! We didn’t make the video for this Wonder, but we are showing it because we thought it was an AWESOME example of clay animation! :-) < —- See! We want YOU to be happy, too! :-)

  10. This is really super funny. I like this a lot! Thanks, wonderopolis for making us educated with entertainment. I think this is really the best one.
    I want you to be happy forever.

    • What a super nice thing to say, Amoolya! We hope you are happy forever, too! It would be a WONDERful world if everyone was happy all the time, wouldn’t it? :-)

  11. Lol this is hilarious! Every time I get home from school, I go straight to the computer and to Wonderopolis! I love this website so much! I love science and I want as much knowledge as I can get! This is the PERFECT website for science and knowledge! :) :) :) :) :D :D :D :D

    • Your comment just made our day, Grace! Thanks for letting us know how excited you are about visiting Wonderopolis every day! We think that is SO AWESOME! :-)

    • Those are GREAT questions, Amber! We think it just takes practice to make the clay shape the way you want it to without falling apart. The good news is, each time you move the clay, you take just one picture for the movie. So, if you mess up for any reason, you should just be able to take another picture! :-)

  12. OOOOO I know how clay animation works! First you make the clay figures then you set them up in different poses and you snap the photos (WARNING this might take a while!) and BOOM! you’ve got yourself an AWESOME THRILLING AMAZING movie about something.

    • This comment is SO AWESOME, Hannah! We really appreciate your description of how to make a clay animation movie! :-)

  13. Clay animation is REALLY COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can make the people and then you move it a tiny bit and take a picture. Then you repeat this over and over.

    • Thanks so much for sharing what you know about clay animation, Landon! We really like watching videos made this way. We think it is really creative! :-)

    • We thought it was funny, too, Michael! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today and for leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing something about yourself with everyone in Wonderopolis today, Rex! We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • We thought the video for this Wonder was super funny, too, Claire! Thanks so much for making us smile today! :-)

  14. Hey wonderopolis! I am so glad you did this wonder because sometimes I do wonder how does clay animation work? Thank you for the wonder!


    • We’re super glad you WONDERed about clay animation and visited this Wonder of the Day®, Elise! Thanks for leaving us this GREAT comment to let us know! :-)

    • Happy Saturday, Avery! We really appreciate hearing that you enjoyed the video for this Wonder of the Day®! Thanks for letting us know and THANKS for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  15. I loved the video!! my favorite part is when one pigeon came and when he turned around and looked back there was another pigeon.

    • We liked that part of the video, too, Sleepy! Thanks so much for visiting this Wonder and letting us know you liked it! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  16. Hello I’m just a kid, but I just love Wallace and Gromit. I love their movies. I’m so amazed what they do. 12 pics just for 1 second! Geez I love wonderopolis.

    See ya

    • Hi there Kobi, we are so happy you’re at Wonderopolis! It’s fun being a kid– we’re glad you like cool clay animation, too! It’s pretty impressive to see how clay animation, like Wallace and Gromit, works! Have a SUPER day! :)

  17. Thoughts: I think the video was super funny the way the birds took the guy’s money instead of the corn dog. :) The guy had some big hands on him. I’m still WONDERing Wonderful questions. :)

    • We’re so happy this Wonder made you smile, Shalize! How terrific! You did a great job of sharing the details of the Wonder video, like the man’s large hands and how the birds took his money! We hope you’ll continue to Wonder this weekend– have a great one! :)

    • Hey there, Katie, we’re glad this Wonder video has you got you chuckling all day long! Those birds sure are funny, aren’t they? Do you have a favorite clay animation, or claymation, film to share? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How does clay animation work?
  • What are some famous clay animation characters?
  • How many changes does a clay animation movie require?

Wonder Gallery

plasticine_shutterstock_50218816Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to make your own clay animation movie? You can do it at home with help from friends or family members.

First, you’ll need some clay. You can also use Play-Doh®. If you don’t have clay or Play-Doh®, you can make your own homemade play dough with some simple ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen.

Once you have your clay, Play-Doh® or homemade play dough, think of a simple story you want to tell with clay animation. You’ll also need a digital camera and some simple movie editing software that is probably already on your computer. Finally, you’ll need a workspace such as a kitchen table. If you need some help, just head online and follow the directions to make your own homemade clay animation movie!


Still Wondering

Check out ReadWriteThink’s 3-2-1 Vocabulary: Learning Filmmaking Vocabulary by Making Films lesson to learn more about the vocabulary of film as you go through the process of creating a short original film.


Wonder Categories/Tags



animation  clay  frame  motion  movie  picture  still  stop 

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