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Tag Archive: stop motion animation


Review by C.J. Bunce

As in any creative industry, as much as Hollywood is rife with successes, far more projects barely make it past the idea stage.  Others make it through preliminary steps only to get left behind, most never heard of again.  Decisions are made, offers are given, and you move forward.  The fact that Tom Selleck rejected the role of Indiana Jones is a famous footnote to movie history.  Most recently Amanda Seyfried recounted rejecting the role of Gamora in the Marvel films.  A Mouse Guard movie made it through pre-production before getting stalled.  For every successful project, how many others are left behind?  If you’re as iconic as filmmaker Ray Harryhausen, you might have even more projects left in the discard pile than others.  Those might-have-been projects, rejected ideas, and even scenes that made it beyond mere idea to concept art come together in John Walsh’s new look at the auteur and father of stop-motion creatures, Harryhausen: The Lost Movies

Ray Harryhausen’s creations were cutting edge for the first century of cinema, their creator a special effects visionary who found his niche in fantasy worlds, via films like One Million Years B.C., Clash of the Titans, and Jason and the Argonauts.  Documentarian John Walsh met with Harryhausen, who died in 2013, to film a documentary about the filmmaker, and along the way he chronicled 70 projects Harryhausen considered but did not go through with, including script and concept art material.  Some of these are projects he was asked to participate in and couldn’t find a fit, or films he passed up for other projects, including films anyone could see translated by Harryhausen, like Conan, Tarzan, King Kong, Moby Dick, John Carter of Mars, and Beowulf.  Then there are those surprises fans could only dream about, like Harryhausen’s take on The Empire Strikes Back, The Princess Bride, Dune, or X-Men.  Harryhausen: The Lost Movies provides fans with a glimpse into Harryhausen’s involvement in these projects, some with photographic clues of how his input might have resulted in very different films.

Pulling together some never-been-seen-before artwork, sketches, photos, and screencaps of test footage from the Harryhausen Foundation archives, Walsh creates a scrapbook of sorts, an artist’s sketchbook.  Harryhausen considered every other major classic fantasy and fairy tale to utilize his brand of special effects storytelling.  He created test footage for H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, but his letter to Orson Welles was not answered.  His alien designs from that footage are in this book.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Oscar-winning filmmaker Nick Park is back with his next entry in Aardman Animations’ ingenious world of classic stop-motion animation.  The family comedy Early Man takes audiences back to the city of Manchester, England, at the dawn of the Bronze Age.  In this slapstick look at history, cave men created football (American soccer) from a fallen meteorite.  The sport fell out of favor, but was picked up again and embraced in the early Bronze Age by a city of moderners, but the cave men are still around and have one chance to save their world if they can only beat the Bronze Age team at the game.  Unfortunately it’s a group of bumbling early humans who must learn the sport and take on a group of arrogant professional players.  But it’s in the genes of the cave men, so amid a non-stop volley of sports metaphors, tropes, and jokes, the cave men have a go at it.

Leading the team and the story is Dug, voiced by Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), along with his companion, an eager early-era wild boar named Hognob, voiced by the film’s director Nick Park.  The duo make for a solid homage, albeit a prehistoric incarnation, of Park’s famous Wallace & Gromit.  The villain in the tale is Bronze Age leader Lord Nooth, lover and hoarder of all things bronze, especially bronze coins.  He’s voiced by a nearly unrecognizable Tom Hiddleston (Thor: Ragnarok) playing an over-the-top, snooty opportunist in full-on Monty Python comedy style.  Game of Thrones and Doctor Who actor Maisie Williams offers her own voice acting talent as Dug’s new friend Goona, and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter series, Alice in Wonderland, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams) is Dug’s good-natured and encouraging leader, the firmly about the old ways Chief Bobnar.

Little kids will laugh at the silliness of the characters and adult U.S. anglophiles will understand most, but probably not all, of the British comedic references.  And there are many.  Soccer fans will pick up on references to the sport, to Manchester United, zebra crossings, and puns that will work for fans of any sport.  Want to see why Stonehenge was built?  Ever seen the genesis of the electric razor?  The film has already opened to positive reviews in the United Kingdom, but does not arrive in theaters in the States until later this week.

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Decades before Nick Park was winning Academy Awards for his Wallace and Gromit animated shorts, animator Art Clokey brought to life lovable characters Davey, Goliath, Gumby, and Pokey.  Sixty years of never before published images from Clokey’s career are being compiled for a new book by Dynamite Entertainment. Gumby Imagined: The Story of Art Clokey and His Creations will take a behind-the-scenes look at the life of the man who changed the world of animation for generations to come.

But the book is not a done deal yet.  It is being rolled out as a Kickstarter campaign that began last week and is sixty percent funded with 16 days to go.  So it’s well on its way.  The campaign, linked here, is quite impressive, revealing in teaser images a nostalgic fix for fans of decades of Clokey’s work on the Davey and Goliath TV show (1960-1967) and The Gumby Show (1957-1968), as well as stop motion animation enthusiasts everywhere.

Gumby Imagined: The Story of Art Clokey and His Creations will be a 300-page deluxe hardcover retrospective and tribute to the artist.   While working on the project, the writers–Art Clokey’s son Joe Clokey and Joe’s wife Joan–amassed incredible images that encapsulate Clokey’s life and vision, and his painstaking animation process.  Photos have been scanned, cleaned, and inserted into a loving tome well befitting the storied history of Gumby and his friends.  The images reveal a rich and colorful history of not only the development of the pop culture icon, but a name that influenced and defined stop motion animation for generations.

Art Clokey and his team in one of several rare images being compiled for the new Dynamite book.

Dynamite has gone all-out to attract backers for this book, with incentives designed for all levels of interested contributors, including other Dynamite publications as rewards.  With an expected shipping date of November 2017, backers who support the Gumby Imagined: The Story of Art Clokey and His Creations Kickstarter have the opportunity to receive the book and collectible prints, DVDs, toys, and creator signed exclusives.  These include:

Goliath and Davey

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