ParaNorman. The film, which tells the story of a young boy who can see the dead, utilizes the art of stop-motion animation to bring its characters and its world to life. And so, in honor of its opening, I thought it'd be fun to take a look at what I think are the top ten films featuring stop-motion animation.
The art of stop-motion animation is arguably one of the most difficult and tiresome, but when done correctly, it can breed brilliant results. The animators who work with stop-motion toll for years on end to craft one feature film, and it turns into a labor of love for most. To find a spot on this list, a film has to have used stop-motion animation in some significant form. Most of the films currently featured are animated films that utilized the technology throughout their run-time, but there are a couple inclusions to the list that simply use the art in very prominent fashion.
And so, without any further delay, here is my list of the ten best films featuring stop-motion animation.
10. The Lost World (1925)
In the early years of stop-motion animation, there were many films that attempted the art, and some attempts even proved successful. However, The Lost World was one of the first films truly to strike gold with the technique, bringing prehistoric beasts to life right there on the silver screen. Nearly ninety years later, I'm sure many a stop-motion animator still looks back at what these filmmakers were able to do with their clay creatures way back in the 1920s, and even if it's just for that particular facet, The Lost World is definitely worth a watch.
9. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Although not entirely an animated film, James and the Giant Peach still uses quite a bit of the stop-motion technique to bring Roald Dahl's beautiful story to life. This was Henry Selick's first foray into directing after his feature film debut, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and while he couldn't quite strike the same brilliant chord, he still managed to bring a lively and colorful story to the screen, and he had the animation to back it up.
8. Corpse Bride (2005)
Even though Tim Burton's name is often on these darkly comedic stop-motion animated films, Corpse Bride is actually one of the only ones he's actually helped direct. He and co-director Mike Johnson managed to craft an eerily creepy atmosphere, all while maintaining that light-hearted story that's been the centerpiece for so many of his tales. It's not the best foray in the genre, but it still proves to be entirely entertaining.
7. ParaNorman (2012)
The most recent addition to this particular list proves to be the film that inspired me to create it. After seeing ParaNorman earlier today (you can see my review here), I have to say that the utterly stunning use of stop-motion animation, combined with a wonderfully macabre screenplay and storyline, all add up to craft one heck of a film. Parents beware, however: this animated feature, like Coraline and Corpse Bride, might not necessarily be directly geared for the little ones.
6. Coraline (2009)
Out of all the straight-up animated films on this list, Coraline is the only one I don't necessarily consider a comedy. It's a little too dark for that particular classification, but something about that darkness is what makes it so attractive. Henry Selick worked wonders with the stop-motion here, crafting an immersible, albeit a tad bit trippy, world for his audience to enter. The final product is something rather beautiful.
5. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Next to A Charlie Brown Christmas, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more endearing Christmas special, and I think Rudolph definitely deserves a spot on this particular list. Although the animation isn't necessarily the best the world has ever seen, it mixes with a great story and simply proves to be quite the entertaining venture. It's been playing ever year since its initial run, and that has to say quite a bit, right?
4. King Kong (1933)
Eight years after the release of The Lost World, movie watchers around the world got the chance to see the next stage of stop-motion animation with the release of King Kong. Cited by many a director as the movie that launched them towards their current profession, the almost-eighty-year-old movie still manages to impress to this day. The animation is utterly astounding, and to think it was crafted so long ago is a little hard to believe.
3. Mary and Max (2009)
If you haven't heard about this particular Australian import, I won't really be surprised. My sister initially recommended the film to me, and after watching it, I have to say it's one of my personal favorite animated films. It's relatively simple stop-motion animation, but it brings forth some incredibly interesting and endearing characters, both of whom are impossible not to love. It's definitely worth a watch, if you have the time.
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
One of the most recent additions to this list, Fantastic Mr. Fox was quite a revelation when it hit theaters in 2009. It was director Wes Anderson's first foray into animation, and his use of stop-motion was a little bit different than anything that had been done before. The attention to detail in the animation is impressive, and he managed to bring his trademark sense of off-beat humor to the classic Roald Dahl story. I might even go as far as to say that it's Anderson's best film, but I'm sure I'll have naysayers on that one. Still, it's quite an impressive feat for a first attempt at the genre.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
It's been nearly twenty years since Nightmare first hit theaters, and it still manages to be the stop-motion standard. What other film has garnered a continued re-release each holiday season? I can't think of any off the top of my head, and yet, The Nightmare Before Christmas still manages to be an audience favorite. It blends brilliantly-choreographed stop-motion animation with a brilliantly-beautiful story chalk full of fantastic musical numbers. This film offers something for nearly every film-goer, and I think that's what's given it such a staying power.
I hope you all enjoyed this first attempt at a 'Top 10' list, and I also hope you liked the endeavor into the art of stop-motion animation. Be sure to check out this week's ParaNorman, and also be on the watch for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, which is slated for an October release.