Animate This! My Favorite Stop-Motion Films
The saga of Harold & Kumar continues. And for this third chapter in what now has become a trilogy, the two former stoner friends find themselves yet on another road "trip", but this time, it's a journey to "save Christmas".
And when it comes to motion pictures, nothing says Christmas better than stop-motion animation.
Which this live action comedy incorporates for just a few minutes in a drugged induced homage that demonstrates just how quirkily bizarre the world of second by second puppetry can come off when done "correctly".
And while under the influence.
Of course, as a kid, the holidays would not have been the holidays had it not been for the Rankin-Bass holidays specials that aired every year.
And while the technology and technique of animation have grown by leaps & bounds that can be measured by miles, some of the charm of these old, cheap 70's efforts have worn off.
But there are a few that still resonate with the Christmas spirit that I try to carry now, as an adult. Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town are the two main ones that still occupy substantial screen time on my television set during the end of the year (and with many other people's sets also, considering that they're still shown multiple times during the season).
This film adaptation from the Czech Republic is a depiction that is much closer to the author's original intent and employs a creative use of stop-motion animation in a manner that enriches the premise of the story.
With it's myriad onslaught of fluid moving puppetry and "action figures", along with it's dark undercurrents, this Alice is one that captivates movies viewers of a matured sense of imagination while at the same time, it may satisfyingly add a touch of disturbance to the experience of those younger audiences who are used to a more fluffy romp inside the rabbit hole.
James is a "normal" kid who lives next to a giant peach. But when he enters it, he becomes a stop-motion cartoon character and befriends a group of talking insects.
And even though that might sound weird, the truth is, it's a pretty common occurance whenever a live-action person enters a peach the size of a house.
And if you don't believe, next time you see a giant piece of fruit, try it. See what happens.
In the meantime, I'll be here, logged on this site, waiting to tell you "See? I told you so".
With the similarities that this French S-M feature shares with Robot Chicken, it was then a bit of a surprise for me that I ended up liking A Town Called Panic. I think the primary reason may be what acts as the foundation of the humor. Whereas RC is aimed as stoners who like stuffing their faces with Twinkies as they watch, the laughs in Panic are targeted more towards kids and tweeners who enjoy stuffing their faces with Twinkies as they watch. Add to that that there are still some funnies for any parents who are watching this along with their children, and how the language of France probably adds more charm to the over-the-top deliveries, not to mention that as the writers wrote the premise, they recognized that moms and dads like to stuff Twinkies in their faces just much as their kids do, and what you end with is a pretty funny slapstick romp with it's own sense of silly je ne sais quoi.
I don't do it often, but every once in a blue moon, I stumble upon a short film that, despite it's small running time, is cool enough to compete with it's more time-spanning cinematic rivals. Obviously, this is one of those times.
But I'm not going to. That would be too easy.
So instead, what I'm gonna do is reward myself for showing such self-control by satiating the hungerous urge that I usually feel after watching this "fowl" film.
I'm going on a "chicken run".
Anybody else want anything from KFC?
As a kid who grew up incredibly poor, there was more than one year whereupon Santa didn't leave me or my siblings any presents.
That fact combined with Santa's bad attitude towards Rudolph in the first half of this special really helps to shed light on what an @$$hole Santa can truly be.
This movie always helps to remind me to keep the holidays real.
"If you love ghosts so much, why don't you marry one?"
Which, as you can probably tell by the title, is what this movie is about; exchanging vows with the spirit of a deceased one. Which, of course, sounds like a morbid idea for an animated flick geared towards the younger of living, but in the hands of Tim Burton, it's just another good reason to get behind the director's chair. A whimsical tale of lost love and the desire to mend a broken heart (even if that heart has been dead and buried for many years), Corpse Bride is a good example of why, for my money, Burton's preference for spookish cinematic subject matter is a perfect marriage with stop-motion animation and tends to come much more alive than when he tries to film it in live action.
Following in the silent steps of other nontalking funny Englishmen as Benny Hill in his most signature skits or the bumbling antics of Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean, Shaun is a wordless wooly anthropomorph who moves through his agricultural surroundings in a manner in which laughter from the audience is the primary source of sound. Originally, Shaun started his claymated career through a children's televison series, but in 2015, he graduated into feature films, bringing the same endearing charm of innocense and subtle "unuddered" humor that "made noise" in this particular field of frame stacked filming.
As a comic-book nerd, I first became aware of Coraline as a graphic novel written by comic-book writer Neil Gaiman (though, it's original format of release is as a novella).
It's horror fantasy for young readers and as a film, it's a fine modern update of the Alice In Wonderland theme, with it's mixed ingredients of creative psychodelica, slightly edged childlike wonder, along with a nice dash of horror, but just enough to gurgitate a lump of fear in the throat of the kiddie audience within its targeted age. But not so much that it would scare any of it's viewers to the point of absolving their parents of any responsibility for any trauma that might lead 'em up to the top of a building with a sniper gun, later on in life.
Okay, while Disney or Pixar don't ever have to worry about Aardman Studios ever taking any food out of their mouths at the box office, the truth is, I prefer their stuff better.
It's takes the lighthearted animation that currently crowds the movie theater industry today and adds British slant to both the dialogue and humor. Which tends to provide a nice little break from all that high-tech formula of the big boys, and a down-to-earthiness quality that's not found from Tim Burtons more macabre and zany-esque caricatures.
Even watching Curse Of The WereRabbit, their take on the werewolf lore, feels much more like a relaxing tea and crumpets afternoon at the cinema than a mega-merchandising spectacle that the DisPix people would have likely hyped it up into.
After making a move from the TV screen to the movie screen with the first Shaun the Sheep movie, this sequel goes a step further as now Aardman's talkless titular character fodders his way through a science fiction adventure. There's not much I can really say about Farmageddon that I haven't already praised in my entry for the first StS Movie, other than, the same things that made the first chapter such a successful and satisfying watch, are utilized here, maybe even amped up more to make this sequel one of those rare ones that surpasses it predecessor. Basically, this franchise is a farm-filled formula that shears it way to the top of the stop-motion haystack.
Look, I'm not really any kind of an "anti-establishment" guy or anything, but when an animated movie like Kubo and the Two Strings comes along and wins the hearts of almost all hearts of the film critics, yet get very little notice from audiences at the box office, ya can't help but think that the over-dominating presence of Disnified Pixar formulas in the genre is preventing from quality alternatives like this from even having a chance.
For me, Kubo is not only a great film and one of the best of 2016, but on top of that, with it's story of a young warrior-wannabe's journey to find a magical suit of armor and thus, his identity, it's provides something different from the typical Disney so-and-so. Not to mention that the deeply detailed and visual movements of the stop-motion technique also give the eyes a rest from the overabundance of computere generation that has pretty much filled the theater screens of today.
However, not all that much is known about what happened after that. Oh sure, we have a few accounts of how he helped save Baby New Year and that one time he celebrated Christmas in July, but other than that, whatever became of the four-hooved Yuletide celebrity is unknown.
What we do know is that Rudy had a son, an out of shape, British-accented slacker named Robbie. Who, despite his underachieving ways, has begun his own career in holiday themed specials.
The first chapter of these televised tales of new generation nose-powered reindeer is called Hooves Of Five, and is, in my opinion the best of the lot, so far. Filled with the kind of good-natured, mostly kid-friendly dried wit that is usually found from over the pond, it acts as an introduction to the new wave cast of characters that is currently responsible for keeping the North Pole the hub of the Christmas world.
Despite being on opposite sides of the world, pen pals Mary and Max pass through the years of their lives writing to each other with a series of letters in which they share their interests, modest dreams and respective severe shortcomings. And learn that the distance between personal warts (along with facial birthmarks) is not as far as the distance between two hemispheres.
A lunar adventure that gives a minor nod to the B-movie rocket ship sci-fi flicks of yesteryear but without being as "cheesy" as those cosmic campy classics and yet, being even "cheesier" at the same time.
Missing Link a great alternative to the typical blockbusting so-and-so that tend to crowd the screens of cimena venues these days, as is evidenced by the awards it accumulated after it's release, including being the first stop-motion title to win the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature.
Therefore, even though Laika (which produced) and Annapurna Pictures were the animation companies, instead of Aardman, who suffered the loss at the box office, the critical acclaim that now follows Link's reputation will hopefully widen the field for future animated features such as this one. And therefore, keep the boundaries of how to animate such films more open to a diversity of styles and techniques.
Frankenweenie tells the macabre tale of how a pet dog is bought back to life by his child owner. After the bull terrier gets killed by a car (the leading cause of death amongst canines, after old age), the young lad decides to a take a page out of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and ressurect the Spuds Mckenzie look-alike through the use of electricity. I guess mad scientists have figured out that electricity is spark of all life.
But that's not the point. What matters is a boy and his dog.
A bond that not even the Grim Reaper can hope to sever.
but still, through the use of love and , well...y'know.... more electricity...
and probably some string, I guess...
the boy and his dog will can never be separated. For long.
Though, now that I think about it,
when a kid's dog "bites it",
it seems to me that making a simple trip to the pet shop would really be a heck of alot easier than building a secret lab in the attic.
Edgy in it's design style and presentation, The Boxtrolls balances the grit of nontraditonalism with the smooth emotional formula that keeps mainstream audiences coming back to see what this style of animation is doing to challenge the standard norm and keep the genre fresh.
In most cases.
But there are a few situations wherein it's because they possess a sixth sense.....
in which they can see dead people.
The fact that, as this movie's title indicates, the lead character of this story has a "Para" prefix to his name, makes it pretty easy to guess which one of these cases Norman belongs to.
So distinctive and stylistic was the animation, so eerily cool and quaint was the story, that despite being only six minutes long, this short animated flick still ranked up there with the best of all other 1982 cinema.
If you love dogs, this is the claymated movie for you. A movie geared specifically towards lovers of all domesticated beasts of canine, even the title of the movie is set up to almost sound like "I love dogs".
At the time of this film's release, the writer/director/producer behind the project was on a red hot streak of making some of the best cinema of his career, with Isle of Dogs proving why he may be one of the very last auteurs remaining in the motion picture industry. After dipping his toe into the stop-motion technique barely a decade earlier with the Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson once agains steps into the hand controlled 3D process, this time with a story about man's best friend fighting for survival against the kind of man whose friendship any pet, dog or otherwise, would roll over for.
While it's distinction from other animated films is much more subtle and evenly consistent, the overall result of The Wrong Trousers left me not so much with a roaring laughter that other animated features try to shoot for, but more with a satisfying smile that was firmly set in place from beginning to end.
Okay, so we might as well accept that any feature featuring Wallace & Gromit is gonna be a candidate for any list that I can fit 'em into. Therefore, when it comes to the subject of my favorite stop-motion flicks, it's a fore gone conclusion that these guys are gonna rank pretty damn high. Particularly when we're talking about the Academy Award winning second entry into the series, The Wrong Trousers. The best of anything they starred in, it is a story that, for my money, utilizes their specialized brand of sight gags, kinetic stunts and subtle film parodies to harmonic perfection.
Is it a Halloween movie with a Christmas twist, or a Christmas movie with a Halloweenic slant? Or is it both?
For me, I like to describe the feeling that comes from watching The Nightmare Before Christmas as very similar to the feeling that one might get when discovering that your trick-or-treat bag has been filled with presents instead of candy.
And no rocks. Well...
maybe one lump of coal.
In my opinion, this is the best piece of cinema, by far, to have Tim Burton's name on it. Such a great cast of creative and endearingly maniacal characters. Innocent enough for kids who can still see the world thru bushy-tailed bright-eyed glasses, yet twistedly dark enough to keep the interests of those of us adults who've had that part of our spirits crushed a long time ago.
An inter-holiday movie for all ages on either side of the perspective spectrum.
I remember that when Nightmare Before Christmas first came out, I initially liked it, but I didn't love it, not the way that I do now. After several rewatches however, this double-themed holiday special as really taken a firm place in this movie-nerd's heart. I find that TNBC seems to age really well for me as more and more time goes by. And as each All Hallow's Eve goes by, I continually find that it's a good thing to watch to cap off an evening of handing out sweets to all the ghouls and goblins that come, ringing at the doorbell. And it also doubles as prep for the burgeoning winter season and the festive festivities looming overhead.
It's goof film not just because it manages to successfully merge the two holidays that were my favorite as a kid, but also, because it's macabre look and overall atmosphere are the type of traits that I would've died for (pun, not all that much intended) back then.
Not to mention that whenever I listen to tunes like "What's This?" or "This Is Halloween", I am reminded of hearing "Put One Foot In Front Of The Other", or "We're A Couple Of Misfits", songs that, as corny as they are, now with a grown-up's perspective, my hardcore, hairy pimp-ass' has to humbly admit, will always be a part of my happiest childhood holiday memories.
This is probably the weakest entry into Aardamn's articulate filmography, but if this is how low than they can go, then it's a pretty safe bet that I, along with most fans of this meticulous film-making technique, will be looking forward to any other future projects coming from this company.
- Mad Monster Party
- Mad God
Other Animated Lists:
- 2D Animation: www.listal.com/list/my-favorite-animated-movies-thecelestial
- Computer Animated: www.listal.com/list/animate-this-my-favorite-animated
- Anime: www.listal.com/list/animate-this-my-favorite-anime
Other lists by The Mighty Celestial:
My Top 20 Female Movie Bad-Asses www.listal.com/list/my-top-10-female
10 Movies That Feature A Dancin' Travolta In 'Em www.listal.com/list/my-list-9158
My Top 15 Guilty Pleasure Movies www.listal.com/list/guilty-pleasures-thecelestial
Can't We Be Dysfunctional Like A Normal Family? www.listal.com/list/dysfunctional-family-movies
A - Z
My Favorite Movies By Genre:
WAATAAAH!! My Top 10 Favorite Martial Arts Flix!
- When Aliens Attack ....Or At Least, Go Bad www.listal.com/list/aliens-attack-at-least-go
- Aliens Who Come In Peace www.listal.com/list/good-aliens
- Favorite Sci Fi's Of Like....Ever. www.listal.com/list/scifi-movies
- Run For Your Lives! My 25 Fave Giant Monster Films www.listal.com/list/my-top-10-favorite-giant
- Superhero Movies www.listal.com/list/yep-am-huge-comicbook
- Non-Superhero Movies www.listal.com/list/my-favorite-nonsuperhero-comicbook-movies
My Top Favorite Westerns, Pard'ner www.listal.com/list/westerns-thecelestial
- Romantic Comedies www.listal.com/list/my-top-30-romantic-comedies
- Straight-Up Romance www.listal.com/list/romance-movies
- From Around The World www.listal.com/list/my-top-10-favorite-foriegn
Lists by decades:
Of all time: