The Stop Motion “artist” is the epitome of selfishness, short-sightedness, and egoism.
I begrudgingly admit that Stop Motion is a form of Art. Who could argue against Kubo and the Two Strings? The Nightmare Before Christmas? Porter’s classic Two Pariahs and a Long Fall? While all of these works pass the “Is it Art?” checklist (emotional impact, moral implications, revenue potential), they come at a massive cost to the artistic consumer.
For almost any calculation of Artistic Return on Investment (AROI), Stop Motion finishes DEAD LAST. Specifically I point to the following ratios: artistic talent to emotional resonance, effort to brand value, and lastly, time to money.
- On The Boxtrolls, [the production team was] able to complete 1 to 2 MINUTES of footage per week. (Source)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas consisted of approximately 110,000 frames, each which had to be meticulously created. (Source)
- In Fantastic Mr. Fox, “the areas around the muzzles and eyes [had] to be carefully groomed for close-ups [and] each hair was placed by hand. ‘Especially if you had a character like Mr. Fox, for whom you had to do 15 to 20 head skins … It was driving people crazy towards the end.’” (Source)
This dismally low AROI is enough to condemn stop motion as an art form in any modern marketplace. Yet I hear the dissent already: “Karlee, these stories need to be told! We must follow the vision of the creator!” Ridiculous. Every artist makes compromises. Simply investigate Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Originally, Prokofiev wanted the animals being portrayed via motifs to play their own instruments — but even today it is impossible to teach a cat to play a clarinet. Artists are necessarily limited by their time, technology, talent, and mortality.
The fantastic irony in this talk of limitation is that Stop Motion artists have a perfectly reasonable alternative — animation! This technology exists and is nearly identical to stop motion, besides a queasy, stilted, dimensional effect that the eery puppets of stop motion bring to the table.
Imagine, for a moment, that I am Tim Burton, circa 1990. As I stare at my shriveled, skeletal hands, a kernel of an idea pops into my brain. Suddenly, in a meth-like high, my brain plays a movie for me involving a lonely but popular skeleton who lives in the wrong town. I know I must create the story.
At that moment, Tim Burton faced a choice: Stop Motion vs. Animation. He made the foolish one, as many artists have. If he would have simply conceded to make The Nightmare Before Christmas an animated movie, the same story could have been told. Instead, he followed his “artistic vision” to the letter, and wasted 2 years of his short and unhappy life.
By my own rough calculation, Tim Burton could have made 3 movies in the time it took to make The Nightmare Before Christmas. We could have had THREE movies whereas now we only have ONE. What opportunity cost! Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a good piece of art? Sure. Is it THREE ART GOOD? Hell no! Here’s the hard truth — you, as a consumer, are being robbed blind by Stop Motion.
Take the Stop Motion “artist.” He sits alone in his tiny, cramped workshop, his hands swelling from the pain of sculpting 1000 different sets of eyes for a puppet. His cell phone rings — the shrill sound a reminder of the outside world. He answers.
“Daddy, it’s me. It’s your son, little orphan Oliver. Please Da-da. Come home for Christmas.”
“No, little orphan Oliver! I have to move this tiny puppet 10,000 times for 3 seconds of film.” He smashes the phone with pure rage, and they never speak again. Oliver dies under the Christmas tree.