Friday, October 30, 2015

Stop Motion Animation on a Budget

In two months, a new animated feature opens.

“Anomalisa,” for which [for which Academy Award-winning screenwriter Charlie Kauffman] wrote the screenplay and directed with Duke Johnson (it is to open in limited release on Dec. 30), tells the story of a motivational speaker (played by David Thewlis) who finds himself eerily adrift at a Cincinnati hotel. ...

Among the challenges of making “Anomalisa,” its filmmakers explained, was building puppets that looked real but not too real; that could believably perform mundane actions, like getting dressed and going to the bathroom; and that did not look like anything they had seen in other movies.

“We didn’t want it to feel like something else,” Mr. Johnson said.

The painstaking frame-by-frame shoot took about two years, during which time the production often came close to running out of money, only to find new sources of funding as deadlines loomed.

... The directors estimate that no more than 15 to 20 animators worked on the film at a time, each of whom, at best, produced about two seconds of footage a day.

“Over the course of time, people come and go,” Mr. Johnson explained.

Mr. Kaufman added: “People died. People were born.”

... “Anomalisa” received enthusiastic receptions at the Telluride Film Festival and at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was acquired by Paramount. ...

The picture spent $400,000 in pre-production (storyboarding, design, etc.), $10 million overall, and took two years to complete.

Which seems about right. Stop-motion is a painstaking and under-loved art form, and the animators that work in it often work at low wages. (Stop-motion animators at LAIKA in Portland are paid less than CG animators in Los Angeles; many non-union puppet animators in Los Angeles are chronically under-paid.)

I have no idea what the Anomalisa crew was paid. I like to think it was adequate


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