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Stephen Chiodo with a stop motion Santa Claus puppet.

Santa Claus and Rudolph, two of the most well known stop motion characters.

Stop motion Animation is an animation technique used for characters such as the 1933 King Kong, Rankin/Bass's Rudolph, etc. The process involves taking a figure, either a puppet or a clay or plasticine model, and photographing it frame by frame, with alterations in each. The process is the equivalent of cel animatiopn, but rather than moving from one drawing to another, the figures are adjusted for each frame. It takes 24 frames (pictures) to make a second of film, so, it would take 2,400 pictures to make a 10 minute film. "There called puppets because they are a small version of a hand puppet."[1]

Most of the stop motion figures (sometimes referred to by the animators as puppets) are made from a wire base, padding with foam, and covered with a costume, furs, etc. A lot of the Rankin/Bass characters heads were made from wood -- when restored the head is usually just cleaned and repainted instead of making an entire new head.

Wood was originally used for the base of the character, this was changed when King Kong was made. The original Gumby was made from clay. "And you look at Rankin/Bass's little wooden puppets, very much like toys and they would just carve and sculpt it out of wood."[2]

The oldest stop-motion film is The Lost World, all of the dinosaur characters were made using this technique.

Stop motion films


  1. An interview with Ray Harryhausen
  2. An interview with Stephen Chiodo