Monday, July 6, 2015

The Life of Cut Paper

In which I ponder = coherently or not = the connections and nuances of my favorite art forms:

When I think about stop motion animation as a type of performance art, I am of course going to starting drawing some interesting comparisons: Various forms of Japanese theater influenced OniSan, including the puppet-based Bunraku.

Bunraku dates back to the late 1600s - in Osaka - and is a combination of musicians, chanters and puppeteers. That's not too far off of how we consume stop motion today - with a soundtrack, voice actor narration and animators.

Of course we see everyone on stage during a Bunraku performance, but to varying degrees we ignore their presence. For the Boxtrolls end titles we get to see Travis Knight animating in lightening speed as the characters wax philosophical about the nature of freewill - the reverse of the original intent to keep the puppeteers hidden.

Bunraku puppets utilize three actors that must be in perfect coordination for the performance. Some stop motion puppets can be acted by several different animators - but they all have to work together to make that character believable as one person.

The puppets themselves in Bunraku can be very simple and very elaborate. Some of my favorites are those beautiful ladies that have face mechanisms which reveal them to be scary demons. A particularly interesting trick they use on many female heads is a pin on the corner of their mouth - so they can bite their sleeve.

Stop motion puppets are getting more and more advanced, with tricks like Neil's belly-mover in ParaNorman or the watch-like facial mechanics in Corpse Bride. I was very impressed with the glow of the Boxtrolls' eyes - when you snap the faceplate off it breaks the circuit and the eyes dim, but when you snap the faceplate back on the circuit completes and Ta Da! Glowing eyes!!

What other connections do you see? How do your favorite mediums compare or contrast? 

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