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!