Claymation: Plasticine Figurines in Action

Today, my seven-year-old daughter and I took part in a claymation workshop offered by the National Film Board of Canada. Claymation involves using plasticine to create play figures and then using them in a short 8-second segment. In groups of four, we created our cast and a very simple short skit. We then took our play figures and put them to work on the NFB's ready made sets. In our group, the parents acted as the stage and camera directors, while the kids handled the computer capture and character movement. The trick is to have a clear idea of what you want your characters to do first and then break the movement down into very small steps. Sounds easy...the kids had no problem with it.

It took about 20 minutes to decide on our characters and story....if you could call it that. It was difficult to come to a consensus, and when we did, someone invariably offered another suggestion...Okay, we were rudderless. But we were parents who wanted our kids to decide the course of events.

Before starting, we were given two important tips: play figures should be stocky and have over-sized feet for added stability. We were also to use toothpicks to stop the legs from separating from the bodies. Although 8 seconds sounds relatively short, it took another 20 minutes to film our segment. This should give you an idea of how much work goes into a full-length animation feature. There were also some restrictions put on the action: there was to be no flying or diving, and if a character dove into the water, s/he could not come back out. Otherwise, it would be too time-consuming to cut the character up and then put him/her back together again.

Below you will find the fruit of our labours from this two-and-a-half hour workshop. I think that the first, fourth and fifth groups made the best use of this medium. I particularly liked the fisherman, and the man whose nose grew after eating the carrot. 

video

If you are interested in seeing a full-length claymation feature for adults I suggest you view the trailer for Mary and Max at the link below.

Related posts:
Film Review: Mary and Max Directed and Written by Adam Elliot
NFB: Learn the ABCs of Animation

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