The Poetics of Stop-Motion Animation


ACLS Fellowship Program


Film & Media Studies


Using prose as well as video essays, this multi-modal book examines the poetics of stop-motion animation, a cinematic art that involves the frame-by-frame manipulation of puppets and other objects. It posits three key qualities of stop motion: its play with volume, tactility, and scale. It considers how stop motion repurposes ordinary objects and materials, often through overt visual substitutions, such as plastic wrap serving as water or a bristly brush representing a tree. This form of substitution, which shares affinities with some of the earliest play-impulses in children, cues in spectators a process of conceptual integration that draws attention to the image's construction. Focusing on "workflow" and in particular on the "handmade imperative" that shapes stop-motion production cultures and criticism, the book explores how computer-generated imagery has been integrated into stop motion and how stop-motion logics and aesthetics have been reproduced in computer animation. These developments signal a fraught shift in which stop motion can be regarded as either a technique (tied to particular craft practices) or a style (achievable through many techniques).