For the Aardman filmmakers, it seems that inspiration and the tactile work of stop-motion go hand in hand.
The world of Shaun the Sheep puts a smile on my face before anything even happens.
The Miracle Maker is a singular achievement: a Jesus movie that is simple enough for children, sophisticated enough for scripture scholars and theologians, and artful enough for discerning cinephiles. Neither a Sunday School lesson nor a revisionist reinvention, The Miracle Maker weaves a reverent yet fresh reading of the Gospel materials into an emotionally persuasive narrative capable of satisfying both devout believers and open-minded non-Christians.
Stop-motion animation — which, unlike computer animation and traditional hand-drawn cel animation, utilizes real objects shot frame by frame, with tiny adjustments made between shots — is a defiantly old-fashioned, niche medium, often used to creepy effect: Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline; Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie; Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
The Boxtrolls is so defiantly weird and bleak, so committed to the bitter end to its grotesque aesthetic and chilly story, that even as the film crashes and burns you can’t help being moved by the hardworking stop-motion animators’ devotion to their craft.
Frankenweenie, Burton’s best film in years, is available in a number of editions: four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo with 3-D Blu-ray and digital copy; 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo, and 1-disc DVD.
Why does stop-motion animation work so well as a medium for the macabre, from The Nightmare Before Christmas to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride to Coraline?
ParaNorman in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.
An Aardman film is always an exercise in absurdity, but The Pirates, directed by Peter Lord (Chicken Run) and Jeff Newitt, is possibly their silliest ever. This is the kind of film in which people say things like “Blood Island! So called because …it is the exact shape of some blood!” And: “You can’t always say Arrrrr! at the end of a sentence and think that makes everything all right.” And: “London town: the most romantic city in the world.” (Followed by: “London smells like Grandma!”) Those crazy Brits!
For almost a couple of years now, I’ve been crowing about the joys of “Shaun the Sheep,” Aardman Animation’s “Wallace & Gromit” spin-off series on British television—until now available on Region 1 DVD only in one-disc collections of six to eight episodes. Now at last all 40 episodes of the first season of “Shaun the Sheep” are available in a two-disc edition from Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment. If you’ve been holding out, now is the time to discover the joys of Shaun.
A Town Called Panic may be the most oddball thing you see all year, if you see it, which you probably won’t, although perhaps you should. How can I explain it?
More wordless Aardman animation on DVD!
I don’t want to be too hard on 9. It’s the first film of a director who shows some promise, and a bravely idiosyncratic vision free from commercial pandering. It will probably fade quickly at the box office while soulless marketing machines like G. I. Joe and Transformers slog on and on. But Acker does himself no favors with rote anti-dogmatism and vapid characterizations.
With its dark tale of changeling parents and imprisoned souls, Coraline comes closer to the spirit of the traditional European fairy tale than perhaps any other film, animated or otherwise, in recent memory.
For atmosphere, for style, for the best evocation of the spirit and feel of The Wind in the Willows, you can’t do better than the Hall/Taylor version.
Stop-motion animation cult heroes Wallace & Gromit, the brainchildren of British animator Nick Park of Aardman Animations, may not be unchanged in the transition from their charmingly dotty, wildly funny shorts to their first feature-length film, but they’re still recognizably themselves.
As imagined by Tim Burton in stunning, wildly stylized stop-motion animation overtly reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas yet technically far beyond it, this macabre fairy tale becomes, variously, a poignant meditation on the daunting weightiness of the vows of marriage, a raucous danse macabre in jumping jazz rhythms and florid colors, a visually rich celebration of Edward Gorey Gothic-Victorian and Charles Addams grotesque, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a touching portrait of tragedy, doomed love, empathy, and sacrifice.
Despite the macabre humor, there’s something touchingly innocent about Halloweentown. Its inhabitants live for fear and thrills, yet there’s no real malice in any of them — with the exception of a sort of Halloween outlaw named Mr. Oogie Boogie and his three young protégés.
In The Miracle Maker, the film’s makers have a small miracle of their own: a simple, modest retelling of the gospel story of the ministry and passion of Christ that does little more than present the bare events of the gospel narratives, without adornment or invention, without idiosyncratic "explanations" or editorial spin, without elaborations for the sake of amusement or excitement.
Real chickens, I have it on expert testimony, are homebodies who do not actually pine for freedom, as do the heroines of Chicken Run. Whereas these poultry-farm prisoners plot and scheme endlessly to contrive by any means necessary to get under, over, or around their chicken-wire prison wall, my wife’s hens actually perch atop the five-foot fence that surrounds our back yard. They are quite capable of escaping, but have no interest in doing so.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.