Stop Motion Marvels

If you’ve been following recent trends in animation you’ve noticed that stop-motion is alive and well, in fact in better shape today than it’s ever been. And if you are a fan or practitioner of the art, I’ve just received two new releases–a DVD and a book–that are absolute must-haves.

Stop Motion Marvels is the latest release from Steve Stanchfield and his Thunderbean Animation Company–and this may be his most important release yet. I cannot over-state how amazing this DVD compilation is. It contains over forty stop-mo puppet films ranging from 1909 through 1972, short subjects, commercials, home movies, and work prints; mostly stuff you (or I) never heard of, rescued from obscurity by Stanchfield and his team of animation archivists. The highlight of the set is the collected works of the Kinex studio, a forgotten creator of direct-to-home movie films featuring the strangely appealing antics of Snap the Gingerbread Man, Chip the Wooden Man and Daffy Doings in Doodlebugville. There are examples from animation notables (Willis O’Brien, J. Stuart Blackton, George Pal, Lou Bunin, and the most bizarre Len Lye experiment you’ve ever seen), but the real surprise are the John Burton (future Looney Tunes producer) shorts of the 1930s (including one in color) which pre-date all others in trying to incorporate a cartoonists’ sensibility into puppet animation.

There’s audio commentary by stop motion experts and animators, a still gallery of rare photos (including a George Pal Puppetoon exposure sheet – Wow!) and a twelve-page information booklet (written by cover illustrator Stewart McKissick) round out this remarkable DVD set–an achievement in documenting a long-neglected segment of animation history. Bravo, Steve! This may well be the best video release of the year. Buy it now- you will not be disappointed.

If you are interested in stop motion character animation – past, present or future – then Barry Purves’ Basics Animation: Stop Motion is for you. Who better to guide us through the history of the medium, the techniques and the process of filmmaking than master animator Purves (Screen Play) himself. He concentrates on explaining the technique through examples by Jiri Trinka, Ray Harryhausen, Norman McLaren, The Brothers Quay, Mackinnon and Saunders, Adam Elliot, Aardman, and a dozen other leading lights. A good basic text book for any student of the art form, and a great read for those of us who simply enjoy watching it. Everyone should order it ($19.77) from Amazon.com.

(Embed below is one of the few films – a 1960s Chocks Vitamin commercial featuring the voices of Dick Beals and Paul Winchell – on Thunderbean’s Stop Motion Marvels that could be found on You Tube).


  • http://www.aaronpickens.com Aaron Pickens

    This is awesome! Steve is a very nice guy and willing to help out students who are eager to learn more. Glad to see that this DVD is being so highly praised. I will probably get it soon.

  • Adam Orton

    I had the pleasure of having Barry Purves come to my university last year, he showed us some of his films and we had a nice chat. Top bloke!

  • http://www.allisonsalatka.com Allison

    Steve is an awesome guy, one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. It’s really exciting to see one of his dvds being received so well and I’m glad he’s getting credit for it. (Once bought him an old cartoon dvd from a $1 store bin, turned out to be one he put together and someone else put their own titles on it. Oops, sorry about that Steve.)

  • Sean Johnson

    Jerry, this is why I love Cartoonbrew! Thank you so much for letting us know about about these books and DVD’s.

  • http://jonsetter.blogspot.com Jon Setter

    Steve is my animation teacher and he is great. He showed us somethings while he was making it and everything was amazing and this DVD is a must buy. Awesome job Steve

  • Mike Smith

    Henry Selick!

  • Chuck

    Director: Tim Burton

  • Blake

    Umm, Henry Selick?

  • Chuck

    Dang. Read the wrong line. Henry Selick

  • Sean Johnson

    Henry Selick!

  • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

    Mike Smith answered first and won the prize in our quickie contest!

  • Chris Swanson

    Wow, I can’t wait to get this DVD!

    I love obscure bits like the Chocks commercial. And how stiff is the animation? Really cute puppets though, had to watch it twice.

    How badly I would love see one of those puppets up close. Guessing they are buried in a box in someones attic. Brings to mind Henry Selick’s recent talk at USC where I asked him ‘what happens to all of the beautiful sets made and used for Coraline after production.’ His response was that they are mostly all sent to a smasher and destroyed.

    I would love to see an animation museum that works to conserve stop-motion puppets, sets, and props. How awesome would it be to visit and see these wonderful pieces up close and in person? Would it not be of enough interest to the public to keep the doors open?

  • Doug Nichols

    Good lord! How many times did I see that Chocks commercial when I was a kid? I remember every freakin’ frame! It had better contrast in my memory. Funny, too, I would have thought it was in color, but thinking back, when this was running I believe my family had a b&w tv. Sheesh. I’m old.

  • R.J. Laaksonen

    I promptly ordered the DVD. However, I still hate the illogical term, “stop-motion.”

  • http://www.stopmotionworld.com SMW

    This is really exciting Im ordering my copy today! And you are absolutely correct this DVD collection is a must have for any stop motion lover, and I bet getting all of this videos specially the Kinex Studios ones was not an easy task to accomplish. Thank you Jerry for posting this!

  • http://scuzzbopper.blogspot.com Ken Priebe

    I’m very excited to see this DVD finally released, partly because I’ve personally helped Steve put it together. We had been talking about it for years and I know it’s one of his most anticipated discs.

    For the disc, I also re-animated the ‘ThunderBean’ logo in stop-motion using tiny clay replacement puppets, and documented the animation process in my new book being released on June 23, ‘The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation.’

    Barry Purves’ book is also a great read and full of awesome photos, both from classic films, modern features and independent artists.

    The 2010 Montreal Stop Motion Festival just announced their call for entries today too.

    Stop-motion is everywhere!

  • John A

    Isn’t it amazing that in 2010, stop motion is still a viable form of animation, but hand drawn features have become “box office poison”?

    Well, maybe amazing isn’t the word. Sad,really.

  • Brooke Keesling

    Hooray for Steve Stanchfield!

  • Russell H

    I received my copy last night and stayed up watching it. What an amazing collection–the Kinex films are a revelation; a real case of “lost treasures,” very charming and appealing in their simplicity, with a surprising amount of “character” in such short films.

    I loaned my family’s copy of “Hindu Magic” to this production. It’s amused and puzzled us for years, and now it’s so gratifying to learn the story behind these wonderful, forgotten cartoons.

  • Leirin

    Why on earth do they send the puppets and sets to be destroyed anyway? Even if they don’t need them, sending them to a budding stop motion animator is MUCH better than destroying them. Anyway, these look great, and I liked that commercial at the bottom of the post. I thought the animation was quite good, just not too keen on the mouth movements.

  • Beccy

    If you happen to buy Barry Purves book, do look out for a screen shot from a student film by one Hywel P. Roberts, a friend and fellow student of animation at UWE Bristol!

    /plug!