Today we are going to talk about an advanced filmmaking technique that is only for THE MOST patient of filmmakers: Stop-motion animation! Parts of “Margarita” were made this way, but I think the most famous example of stop-motion is the British cartoon “Wallace and Gromit.” This show was released in three 20 minute episodes, but each episode took months upon months to make. That is because the technique used is far outside of the reach of most filmmakers; but we’re going to talk about that technique today!

Stop-motion animation does not use computers to create the animation; that is the main difference between traditional CGI animation and stop-motion animation. It involves slowly moving a physical object while shooting with a camera 1 frame at a time. For example, a small clay figure (common in stop-motion) needs to walk from one end of the room to another. Each tiny motion has to be physically MOVED in the clay figure, one tiny step at a time. That way, the camera doesn’t interpret the movement as jerky or odd-looking; often if one step is messed up on the process you have to do the movement all over again. Hopefully you can see now why it takes so long to make this sort of tv show or movie; it is a very inefficient way of making movies.

For those of you that are graphic design nuts like me, you will notice that this is a lot like the way that early Disney movies were animated; you drew great pictures and changed one tiny thing about them at a time, like a giant flipbook. You might ask yourself “why bother with these types of animation when you could just do it all in a computer?

Well, that’s a great question, and it really depends on what you want out of your animation. Stop-motion animation is almost impossible to replicate by any other means; if you animate with your computer, it just won’t look the same. The other advantage to stop-motion is that it looks more realistic than other types of animation. For example, if you animated an air rifle on a computer using CGI methods, it would look less real than a stop-motion air rifle would, assuming that you have a great graphic artist.

At the end of the day I think I like stop-motion because it combines two things that I love: filmmaking AND sculpture. You have to put thought and detail into every set that you build; I get far more satisfaction from building a small set for a stop-motion film than I do from creating a virtual environment on a computer. It requires laser focus, like looking through this scope from Stop-motion animation adds a human element to a filmmaking industry that is becoming less and less humanized. Go out and give “Wallace and Gromit” or “Shaun the Sheep” a watch… The humor and excellent, and the animation style really adds to the atmosphere of the show.

A great musical score completes a great movie. The names Howard Shore of the infamous Lord of the Rings film franchise and John Williams of the equally stellar Star Wars flicks are two names that both movie and music fans surely know.

But while many associate musical scores with films, animated movies have them too. And this is one of the things that truly captivated me to Margarita. I just couldn’t help but feel nostalgic every time I listen to its entrancing melody. I even once thought of learning how to play it on a digital piano – I was just pushed back while checking on the prices of different digital piano brands at — they’re quite high!

I’ve heard great musical composers lend their expertise to animated movies. The likes of Phil Collins and Mark Mancina, Henry Pryce Jackman, and the Sherman Brothers have all composed music for various animated flicks. Some have even earned recognition for their stint into the animated movie scene.

While some have been rightfully recognized, others seem to have been neglected of the praise they so deserved. I’m particularly impressed by several Japanese composers who provide scores for Japanese animation.

Here I’d like to train the spotlight to some of the best underrated musical composers in the eastern animation world:

  1. Tenmon

If you’ve ever seen a Shinkai film, you’ve certainly heard a composition from Shirakawa Atsushi, popularly called as Tenmon. He initially worked for Falcom games but a random meeting with Makato Shinka has led him to world of anime. Some of his favorite melodies include Sayuri’s Melody and Distant Everyday Memories.

  1. Nako Sato

Nako Sato has earned an award locally for his work on the film “Always: Sunset on Third Street.” Other notable sound tracks include “Distant Memory” and “Sadame.” Sato has also been part of Eureka Seven, Evangelion, and X TV.

  1. Yoko Kanno

Well-respected in the Japanese animation industry, Yoko Kanno has worked not only for Japanese anime series and movies but also for video games, live action shows, commercials and song writers. She has a long list of notable compositions but some of the best ones are Wolf’s Rain, Cowboy Beebop, Ghost in a Shell, Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie, and Ghost in a Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

  1. Joe Hisaishi

Mamoru Fujisawa or Hisaishi is has written and directed numerous musical scores. Some of his great compositions include that of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle. He has also lent his music to live-action films. His music is so alive, full of emotions and very catching. I love how he perfectly combines the piano tune with all the other instruments. I bet he must have used a digital piano, like those at DigitalPianoJudge, for playing the melodies.

  1. Yuki Kaijura

A favorite of many anime fans, Yuki Kaijura has a unique, dark and captivating music. Her compositions, I can compare with that of Howard Shore’s LOTR. Some of her impressive musical compositions include Galza and A Song of Storm. She is also known to have worked for animes like Noir, Madlax, Gundam Seed, and Tsubasa.

The amazing works of these composers are truly worth listening.

My Top 10 List

It’s not surprising that small independent studios are usually the ones that take on projects that are in some ways unique, but not always well known. It’s a matter of history now that smaller companies than Disney Works successfully created many popular animated cartoons and short features that became famous. Computers and graphic design programs enabled easier creation of moving images.

The Hampa Way

Even so, Hampa Studio took it upon itself to design and draw a short, 12 minute, animated movie called Margarita. This award winning short was based on a poem by the famous Nicaraguan poet, Ruben Dario, who was considered the father of ‘Modernism’ and a great influence in Spanish Literature of the 20th century. Continue reading “What Makes Margarita so Beautiful?” »