Clay Animation

In clay animation, one of the many forms of stop-motion animation, each object is sculpted in clay or a similarly pliable material such as Plasticine, usually around a wire skeleton called an armature.stom motion ArmutureAs in other form of object animation, the object is arranged on the set (background), a film frame is exposed, and the object or character is then moved slightly by hand. Another frame is taken, and the object is moved slightly again. This cycle is repeated until the animator has achieved the desired amount of film. The human mind processes the series of slightly changing  rapidly playing images as motion, hence making it appear that the object is moving by itself. To achieve the best results, a consistent shooting environment is needed to maintain the illusion of continuity. This means paying special attention to maintaining consistent lighting and object placement and work in a calm environment.


Producing a stop-motion animation using clay is extremely laborious. Normal film runs at 24 frames per second (frame/s). With the standard practice of “doubles” or “two” (double-framing, exposing 2 frames for each shot), 12 changes are usually made for one second of film movement. For a 30-minute movie, there would be approximately 21,600 stops to change the figure for the frames. For a full-length (90-minute) movie, there would be approximately 64,800 stops, and  possibly far more if parts were shot with “single” or “one” (one frame exposed for each shot). Great care must be taken to ensure that the object is not altered by accident, by even slight smudges, dirt, hair, or even dust. For feature length productions, the use of clay has generally been supplanted by rubber silicone and resin-cast components. One foam-rubber process has been coined as Foamation by Will Vinton. However, clay remains a viable animation material where a particular aesthetic is desired.

A sub variation of clay animation can be informally called “clay melting”. Any kind of heat source can be applied on or near (or below) clay to cause it to melt while an animation camera on a time-lapse setting slowly film the process.An example of this can be seen in Vinton’s early short clay-animated film Closed Mondays (co produced by animator Bob Gardiner) at the end of the computer sequence. A similar technique was used in the climax scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark to “melt” the faces of the antagonists.

Clay Animation History

Clay Animation                                         The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream

Clay animated films were produced in the United States as early as 1908  when Edison Manufacturing released a trick film entitled The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream. In 1916, clay animation became something of a fad, as an East Coast artist named Helena Smith Dayton and a West Coast animator named Willie Hopkins produced clay animated film an a wide rang of subjects. Hopkins in particular was quite prolific, producing over fifty clay animated segments for the weekly Universal Screen Magazine. But by the 1920s, cartoon animation using either cels or the slash system was firmly established as the dominant mode of animation production. Increasingly, three-dimensional form such as clay were driven into relative obscurity as the cel method became the preferred method for the studio cartoon.

Nevertheless, in 1921, clay animation appeared in film called Modeling, an Out of the Inkwell film from the newly formed Fleischer Brothers studio. Modeling is one of the few known shorts using clay that was released during the 1920s. Modeling included animated clay in eight shots, a novel integration of the technique into an existing cartoon series, and one of the rare uses of clay animation in a theatrical short from the 1920s.

In 1972, at Marc Chinoy’s Cineplast Film Studio, in Munich, Germany, Andre Roche crated a set of clay-animated German-language-instruction films (for non-German-speaking children) called Kli-Kla-Klawitter for the Second German TV-Channel; and another one for a traffic education series, Herr Daniel pabt auf (“Mr. Daniel PaysAttention”).

A variation of clay animation was developed by another Vinton animator, Craig Bartlett, for his series of “Arnold” short films (also made in the 90s), in which he not only used clay painting but something built up clay images that rose off the plane of the flat support platform toward the camera lens to give a more 3-D stop-motion look to his films.

Several computer games have also been produced using clay animation, Television commercials have also utilized the clay animation.