“The Encounter” (1982) by Joel Fletcher

We post a lot of new student films on Cartoon Brew, so as an interesting contrast I thought it would be worthwhile (and fun) to watch Joel Fletcher’s 1982 stop-motion film Encounter. Although not technically a student film, Fletcher recently digitally remastered this 29 year-old amateur production, one of his first attempts to make puppets, build sets and animate characters of his own design. Today he’s is a professional animator (Nightmare Before Christmas, Dinosaur, King Kong, Land Of The Lost, X-Men: The Last Stand) and recently added a creative process blog to his website, which has much behind the scenes info about the making of Encounter.


  • tom

    I was enjoying it until they started talking. Still, all the props were beautiful, and the lighting was pretty.

    The message is a little bit too obvious for this day and age though!

  • DonaldC

    Such a blatant and now heavily overused message.
    Not to mention that every time I see something like this happen, I’m annoyed the aliens only choose one or two of millions of people on the earth, and then leave when they fail once.
    Higher minded beings my ass.

    Animation and art was nice though.

  • Toonio

    Guess we were witnesses of the Robot Chicken pilot :)

  • AaronSch

    Hackneyed narrative even for 1982. But the animation is pretty impressive for an amateur of any decade.

  • Thomas Hatch

    Wow, it’s like an animated viewmaster! I love it. Those force-field blasts are rad!

  • Sat

    Looks very good anyway! It’s almost Technicolor.

  • Mike

    So very 80′s! I love it! And it reminded me of Robot Chicken too.

  • The Gee

    Hunh.

    I thought it was just making fun of the fact that close encounters happen with the worst representatives of our species. Which essentially is making fun of a lot of stories, both fictional narratives and “real” ones from tabloids and such. Actually it was kind of a tepid example because of shows like “South Park” and others which make fun of alien encounters. But, for it’s time…

    So, I didn’t really see any thing I’d call a message. What the aliens said…enh…it was just as silly as the two guys’ reaction to them. Heck, if anything, like DonaldC mentioned, it showed how aliens who encounter humans ain’t *that* bright.

    Maybe it was a ham-handed parody but it isn’t all that bad, imho.

  • Andrew

    Is this hilarious on purpose or on accident?

    • The Gee

      To me, it seems like the intent was to be hilarious. And, since it was done by someone who was young at the time, it isn’t the best thing in the world, storywise or dialogue-wise.

      So, it is also unintentionally funny, in my opinion.

      When I wrote i didn’t see a Message in it. When I think of a Message I usually think of someone trying to make a Big Point, A Declaration of some sort. I didn’t see anything close to him trying to be Deep like that. He was just having fun with it all.

      I mean, knights, medieval times, aliens…Nowadays, we’d just count the minutes before some hack writes a book with those elements which is soon optioned as a movie. But, this short was done in the early 80s by a kid. Cut is slack, folks.

      He didn’t have close to any resources most kids have these days, including the sheer amount of content readily available. Maybe that’s why I’m more critical of more recent stuff than older stuff. But, right now that’s neither here nor there.
      Though I will say this: consider how much Lego animation and “machima” there is nowadays. There’s vast amounts of it. It’s just that easy. And, that is kind of a drag.

      This short is funny. And, the story/dialogue and whatnot…not as bad as it could be.

  • http://thisisonlya.blogspot.com robcat2075

    A very honorable outcome, particularly since he apparently had no video assist to check his work as he went along.

    And was self-taught.

    And working alone.

    That’s a guy wanted to animate and did what it took to get there.

  • http://www.tjrmusic.com TJR

    I can’t believe all the negative high minded comments on this.

    This was 1982 and he did this when he was a student. He made it in his apartment. He had to make everything himself. He didn’t have access to armature technology so he had to use action figures.

    And he had to figure out how to do all this on his own…….All in all this looks pretty damn spectacular! It’s no wonder he went on to work on classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas.

    • Donald C

      Who’s being negative?
      I don’t think anyone said the animation was bad, just that the story is a bit of an arch trope. And that’s not really enough to bring it down as a whole.

  • Randy

    I agree with one of the posters on here….it was great visually and I was lovin’ it, until the talking started.
    Godawful High-School drama class stuff…..the voice overs were terrible!
    But the animation, lighting and movement was wonderful!

  • http://www.joelfletcher.com Joel Fletcher

    A few of the commenters are taking the story WAY too seriously.

    Jerry, thanks for posting this on Cartoon Brew!

  • http://pickledperfection.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    I thought this was fun and entertaining! I’m surprised how critical everyone is being… I’m glad there was no lipsync in it though, I get really pulled out of a film when there is bad facial animation or lipsync on stop mo characters. I assume that acting and story was the real goal and the animator found a way to tell a story with limitations.

  • Bradley Gake

    This is actually pretty amazing for 1982. Just overcoming all the technical aspects of shooting stop motion on real film!

  • YouFloob

    I really like this a lot!! just look at that BG !

  • http://donmation.blogspot.com Don C.

    Hi Donald C., are you an animator? I don’t know what your last name is, but mine’s Carlson.

    Ok, not sure if I ever reviewed this video, but I think it looks like a classic.

    The animation is good. Moving holds…I think some people wouldn’t realize how hard it is to animate two characters at once without them “twinning” each others’ movements. That might be where the Robot Chicken similarity is, but I think all comparisons end there.

    I dunno, man… I like it. The scale of the set really immerses you in the world. There’s a good moral lesson, too (don’t judge an entire group based on one or two people). Works for me.