Stop motion (also known as stop action or frame-by-frame) is a technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. clay figures are often used in stop motion for their ease of repositioning. Motion animation using clay is called clay animation or clay-mation.


Stop motion animation has a long history in film. It was often used to show objects moving as if by magic. The first instance of the stop motion technique The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1898) is an early example of this.

in which a toy circus of acrobats and animals comes to life. In 1902, the film Fun in a Bakery Shop used clay for a stop motion “lightning sculpting” sequence.



One of the earliest clay animation films was Modelling Extraordinary, which dazzled audiences in 1912. December 1916 brought the first of Willie Hopkins’ 54 episodes of “Miracles in Mud” to the big screen. Also in December 1916, the first woman animator, Helena Smith Dayton, began experimenting with clay stop motion. She would release her first film in 1917, an adaptation of William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet.



example of clay work

In the turn of the century, there was another well known animator known as Willis O’ Brien (known by others as O’bie). His work on The Lost World from 1925 is known, but he is most admired for his work on King Kong, a milestone of his films made possible by stop motion animation.

truly a marvel of the time.


In the 1960s and 1970s, independent clay animator Eliot Noyes Jr. refined the technique of “free-form” clay animation with his Oscar-nominated 1965 film Clay or the Origin of Species and He Man and She Ra (1972). Noyes also used stop motion to animate sand laying on glass for his musical animated film Sandman (1975)

Sand-coated puppet animation was used in the Oscar-winning 1977 film The Sand Castle.

One of the main British Animation teams, John Hardwick and Bob Bura, were the main animators in many early British TV shows, and are famous for their work on the Trumptonshire trilogy.

Disney experimented with several stop motion techniques by hiring independent animator-director Mike Jittlov to do the first stop motion animation of Mickey Mouse toys ever produced for a short sequence called Mouse Mania, part of a TV special commemorating Mickey Mouse’s 50th Anniversary called Mickey’s 50th in 1978.



Jittlov again produced some impressive multi-technique stop motion animation a year later for a 1979 Disney special promoting their release of the feature film The Black Hole. Titled Major Effects, Jittlov’s work stood out as the best part of the special. Jittlov released his footage the following year to 16mm film collectors as a short film titled The Wizard of Speed and Time, along with four of his other short multi-technique animated films, most of which eventually evolved into his own feature-length film of the same title. Effectively demonstrating almost all animation techniques, as well as how he produced them, the film was released to theaters in 1987 and to video in 1989.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Industrial Light & Magic often used stop motion model animation for films such as the original Star Wars trilogy: the chess sequence in Star Wars, the Tauntauns and AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back, and various Imperial machines in Return of the Jedi are all stop motion animation, some of it using the Go films. The many shots including the ghosts in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the first two feature films in the RoboCop series use Phil Tippett’s Go Motion version of stop motion.


Stop motion was also used for some shots of the final sequence of Terminator movie, as they were for the scenes of the small alien ships in Spielberg‘s Batteries Not Included in 1987,



animated by David W. Allen. Allen’s stop motion work can also be seen in such feature films as The Crater Lake Monster (1977), Q – The Winged Serpent (1982), The Gate (1986) and Freaked (1993). Allen’s King Kong Volkswagen commercial from the 1970s is now legendary among model animation enthusiasts.

Since the general animation renaissance headlined by the likes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there have been an increasing number of stop motion feature films, despite advancements with computer animation. The Nightmare Before Christmas, directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton was one of the more widely-released stop motion features. Henry Selick also went on to direct

James and the Giant Peach and Coraline, and Tim Burton went on to direct Corpse Bride.

Another individual who found fame in clay animation is Nick Park, who created the characters Wallace and Gromit. In addition to a series of award-winning shorts and featurettes, he won the Best Animated Feature Oscar for the feature-length outing

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Chicken Run, his first feature-length production, grossed over $100 million at the North American box-office, and garnered critical praise. Other notable stop motion feature films released since 1990 include Fantastic Mr. Fox and $9.99, both released in 2009, and The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993).