The following article is edited from a piece apprearing in the March 2011 issue of Imagine Animation.
In the commercial market, stop-motion animation is employed almost exclusively to invoke a form of nostalgia. Its tactile immediacy is exploited to suggest ideas of tradition, a warm sense of the hand-crafted and bygone, or the eerie threat of bewitchment. These invocations are natural and have their place, from a marketing perspective or an art directors perspective they make sense, tapping into the collective memory. But for the animator and for the animation craft, this can be counter evolutionary.
Audiences have become savvy to, even exhausted with the showmanship of frontier cgi which has dominated the last two decades, presenting an opportunity for stop-motion, drawn animation and the other seasoned crafts to advance and evolve. But instead we continue to present them as an antithetical gimmick. Too often, the craftsman is asked to deliberately temper their skills in service of something I call ‘stunt-amateurism’, an appeal to someone else’s nostalgia. This is not simply dull for the animator – it is a shortsighted tactic with threatening implications.
Stop-motion animation today, should correctly be seen as a still young discipline on the cusp of an evolutionary leap. Revolutions in the technology market surround us, gifting the stop-motion animator with new tools for chicanery, and affording a chance to explore whole other visual languages. Not least of these are advances in digital photography, which at once expand the lexicon of the professional, while permitting the hobbyist or student to better achieve the veneer of professionalism. This democratisation might be wholly progressive, but for so long as outdated marketing notions handicap the craftsman, what emerges instead is a blurring of the lines – a muddy impression of animations potential and a risk of the craft becoming devalued, even devoured.
The solution is simple; let us do our jobs, Mr Marketing. Let us show you all that we can be, and we confidently promise to astound you.