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The Earliest Stop Motion Animations are Weirdly Wonderful

The earliest stop motion animations remind us that you don't need Pixar's budget to make something wonderful

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Today, Slate told the story of Wladislaw Starewicz and his weird, animated, insect-puppet stop motion movies. Here’s his masterpiece, The Cameraman’s Revenge, made in 1912:

Starewicz wasn’t the first stop motion animator. The first place stop motion shows up is in 1898, in a movie called The Humpty Dumpty Circus, which has been lost to the world. The first example we can see is from 1902, called Fun in a Bakery Shop – a movie made by Edwin S. Porter and produced by the one and only Thomas A. Edison.

In 1905, the film El Hotel Electrico showcased more early stop motion animation, as bags zoom around the electric hotel seemingly by magic.

Then, in 1906 the world got the first direct manipulation animation – in which a segment of the image is moved or changed or erased in each frame. This film was also put out by Edison, and is called Humorous Phases of Funny Faces.

And Edison can also take credit for bringing the first claymation to the world, in this film Dream of a Rarebit Fiend.

Starewicz, who made the whimsical and wonderful bug animation, also made all sorts of other weird animations. Here is his short from 1922 called Frogland:

And since then, stop motion has grown and grown into things like Coraline and Fantastic Mister Fox, and many animators cite these early stop motion artists as inspiration. They also serve as a reminder that you don’t need Pixar’s budget to make something wonderful, just a few dead bugs and a camera.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Five Women Animators Who Shook Up the Industry

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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