Director’s Chair Introduction: Nick Park, Henry Selick and Jan Svankmejer

by Tony Cogan · August 29, 2016 · Director's Chair · No Comments

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Deadline: 24th September 2016

Hello everyone, Tony here and it’s once again time to introduce the director, or in this case directors, that will be covered for Director’s Chair this month. This time, I’m going to be doing something different and cover 3 directors, all of whom I feel represent the best of stop-motion animation.

The first director is one who’s work doesn’t really need an introduction. Since he started working at Aardman, Nick Park has consistently been one of the greats of British stop motion, most notably with his creations of Wallace and Gromit. These characters also hold a bit of a soft spot for me on a more personal level as, as seen by a background gag in Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the characters are based in Wigan, which is the town I was born in. It also cannot be denied the impact that Nick Park had on other stop motion techniques, his work on the Sledgehammer music video helping to cement it as one of the best music videos ever made and the work he did with size and neck movements with Chicken Run being revolutionary.

Going in a darker direction, the next director that will be covered will be Henry Selick. His works are definitely of interest now considering that he directed Laika’s first film, Coraline, and we’ve recently seen the US release of Kubo and the Two Strings, although it doesn’t come out in the UK for another few weeks, and there is news that Sam Mendes is going to be doing another adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, although I don’t know how he can improve on Selick’s version. Selick’s films are probably the biggest staples out of the films that any of the director’s have made, especially The Nightmare Before Christmas which is both a Halloween and Christmas classic. He also has a fair bit of experience with live action, albeit mixed, having worked wonders in the stop motion sequence for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and with the blending of stop motion and live action in James and the Giant Peach, but completely dropping the ball with Monkeybone.

The final director is easily the most experimental and surreal of the directors this month, and one who’s films you may not have seen, but his importance in the history of stop motion cannot be overstated, that being Czech director Jan Svankmejer. Taking his inspiration from Czech puppetry, Svankmejer has made a career of blending multiple forms of stop motion together and for his seamless blending of stop motion animation with live action in a way that is horrifying yet beautiful at the same time. His films have also been massively influential for other directors, his surrealist style being seen in the work of the Quay brothers and Terry Gilliam has named one of Svankmejer’s films one of the best animated films ever made. Even in his 80’s Svankmejer continues his career in animation having just finished an Indie Go Go campaign to fund his next, and final film, Insects. His philosophy of stop motion animation though is why I chose him and why I decided to dedicate this month to stop motion. The way that he sees life in everyday objects and uses stop motion to give them life is the essence of stop motion and it’s why stop motion is one of the few mediums where we don’t mind seeing little details of the animators, such as fingerprints and broken parts, they give stop motion a feeling of physicality that other forms of animation do not provide. For a better explanation of this philosophy, I highly recommend you watch Kyle Kallgren’s episode of Brows Held High on Svankmejer’s film Little Otik, which goes into greater detail surrounding this, along with explaining why we find CG designed to resemble stop motion so appealing.

Once again, I will be accepting any pieces that you have written or any podcasts made about any of the films mentioned below that you send to by September 24th. Here’s just a quick reminder of what films you can cover:

Nick Park

  • The Wallace and Gromit shorts (A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and A Matter of Loaf and Death)
  • Chicken Run
  • Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Henry Selick

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Monkeybone
  • Coraline

Jan Svankmejer

  • Alice
  • Faust
  • Conspirators of Pleasure
  • Little Otik
  • Lunacy
  • Surviving Life

I’m looking forward to reading what you send me and thanks for reading.