Category Archives: Puppet animation

FLIP asks “But is it Animation?”

Cadbury fingers advert.

A post on the FLIP blog poses the question “Is it animation or is it puppetry and what is the difference?”. They are talking about the Cadbury fingers “Good Times” advert which uses puppets filmed in real time rather than with stop-motion filming.

The Cadbury fingers puppets are moved with rods in real time. If you study the picture from the advert on the right you can see rods leading up to the arms of the right-hand puppet. The puppet on the left has a rod visible between the legs. There is no attempt to hide the rods so my guess is that the advert is paying homage to Indonesia shadow puppet theatre. The Indonesian puppets are controlled with rods that are clearly visible to the audience and become part of the experience.

Cadbury fingers “Good Times” advert.

Flip blogger Steph quotes one of the definitions of “animate” given at as “to give life to”. Since the puppets are made to move it is suggested that this is giving them life and could be counted as animation.

Indonesian shadow puppets

In my opinion the “Good Times” advert uses a method of creating movement we would associate with live puppet shows. This means it has more in common with live-action film making. The kind of film making we normally refer to as animation is created with stop-motion work where, if it is a puppet film, the puppets are moved when the camera is off.

A similar question could be applied to other branches of film making such as computer generated special effects. It then becomes more difficult to make a division because some of the computer work will involve actions created on single frames.

Perhaps the answer lies in being more specific when we speak of animation by adding the words “stop-motion”, “cartoon”, etc. What do you think?

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Basics Animation: Stop-motion by Barry Purves book review

Oscar and BAFTA-nominated animation director Barry Purves has written a book that teaches the skills required to develop as a creative stop-motion animator or articulated puppet maker. Basics Animation: Stop-motion explores how all the elements of film-making camera work, design, colour, lighting, editing, music and storytelling come together to create animation.

LOOK INSIDE is on the Amazon website.
The cover image is taken from the film Madame Tutli-Putli, 2007, discussed in the chapter on puppets.

Barry Purves has packed the book with tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your own stopmotion films, accompanied by full-colour illustrations and case studies demonstrating how film-making masters through the years have used it in feature films, short films and TV series. Animation students will learn to use and exploit the particular types of movement, characters and stories that characterise stop-motion. Basics Animation: Stop-motion also examines the evolution of stopmotion, from its almost accidental beginnings to a much-loved form of storytelling in its own right one that continues to push boundaries.

Co-director of DreamWorks Animations Oscar-nominated Kung Fu Panda, Mark Osborne, commented: “To say this book is a perfect companion for anyone interested in stop-motion at any level is a tremendous understatement. Even by taking just a cursory glance through the pages, you will find that the wide range of photographic examples alone make this book a must have … As someone who has previously been a teacher in the medium, I am very excited to find a book that would make for a perfect textbook should I ever teach again.”

Final year Animation student Jack Tytherleigh, reviewing the book on Amazon, said: “If I had read this book 3 years ago, I can’t begin to imagine how much stronger my work would be right now. Although focused on Stop motion animation, this is an essential read for animators from all walks of life. It’s difficult to describe exactly what this book is, it is not just simply a reference to various techniques and skills, it is more a recording of over 30 years of experience. Barry Purves delivers a personal look into not only the advantages but also the drawbacks of each style of animation, offering advice and tips from writing to filming and from designing to modelling; there is always something more you can learn page by page. Broken up into sections for quick reference, you will not only develop your skills as an animator but also learn the history of the trade as well as being given practical and imaginative exercises to try out in your own time.”

In a review on Amazon, Hywel P Roberts said: “This book is a treasure to behold, animator or anyone with an interest in stop-motion. Structured in a practical manner, it allows easy access to a wealth of expertise; from someone who has brought an unprecedented amount of life to this art form. Barry gives an insight to the origins of stop-motion and uses a wide range of examples from animation to theatre, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of the different process available in the making of a stop-motion animated film, thus allowing the reader to decide on the most suitable approach to bring their story to life.”

Basics Animation 04: Stop-motion LOOK INSIDE Basics Animation 04: Stop-motion

Behind the scenes of Coraline


A series of short videos about the making of the animated puppet film “Coraline” can be viewed on the Film in Focus website. Coraline is directed by Henry Selick and is said to be the first stop-motion animated puppet adventure to be originally filmed in 3D.

It is the story of Coraline Jones, who is bored in her new home until she finds a secret door and discovers an alternate version of her life on the other side. This parallel reality seems much better than her real life to start with, but then this seemingly perfect world turns dangerous – and the fun begins.

There are ten behind-the -scenes videos, each running for two to three minutes.

The one called “Bringing It To Life Featurette” uses speeded up footage to show the animators at work. There are also clips from the movie interspersed with interviews with the film makers.

A video called “Brian and Martin Featurette” concentrates on a scene where Coraline gets accidentally soaked from a bath shower. To animate the water they created a series of plastic models of the spray water and substituted them one frame at a time.

The “3D Featurette” demonstrates how they set about shooting the two viewpoints necessary for 3D using just one camera.

Let us know your thoughts on these behind the scenes videos in a comment to this post.