An extraordinary special effects short film from 1930

While modern computer technology enables special effects artists to produce remarkable results, we should not forget that it is not just technology but also human ingenuity that is the foundation for good effects. Gifted people with lots of patience but very little else can do amazing things , while those without imagination will produce pedestrian stuff even with all the technology at their disposal.

Via Mark Frauenfelder, here is a video of a short clip from 1930 that was done using just stop motion animation and the result is truly remarkable


  1. kyoseki says

    Well that was fucking creepy, nicely done though, must have taken an absolute age.

    Stop motion has come a long way since then as well, the state of the art is probably practiced by LAIKA in Oregon, they use cg software to sculpt the face poses and then use colored 3d printers to print off all the various expressions.

    One other thing I thought was really cool was how they use CG software to do fluid sims, then take the voxelized mesh and 3d print that in clear plastic in order to put “water” into their stop motion shots.

    Their latest movie is Boxtrolls which looks pretty great:

    Really nice bunch of guys too.

  2. Menyambal says

    Lovely. Thanks for showing.

    That must have been slow work, but they did it well.

  3. Trebuchet says

    I’m not sure all of that was stop motion.

    The king of stop motion was, of course, the great Ray Harryhausen. I’d rather watch his stop motion than today’s CGI any day.

  4. Mano Singham says


    Your comment intrigued me. Apart from the human person shots, how could they have done the bird parts without stop motion?

  5. Mano Singham says


    It must take an insanely long time to make these films. Are there any tricks to avoid having to do frame-by-frame tiny adjustments at the normal film speeds?

  6. Trebuchet says

    Mano, #8: I agree the bird parts were stop motion. The car “hatching” looked more like conventional animation to me. Now that I think of it, even the bird parts may have been a hybrid, with the bird being stop-motion and the disappearing car parts conventional.

  7. permanentwiltingpoint says

    You might want to check out “The Man With The Rubber Head” by Georges Méliès, from 1901:

    As I understood, he made it by zooming towards the head (his own), then cutting the images out and inserting it into the film the rest of the action takes place in. Frame by frame. Speak of taking an absolute age …

  8. kyoseki says


    It must take an insanely long time to make these films. Are there any tricks to avoid having to do frame-by-frame tiny adjustments at the normal film speeds?

    I think about the only shortcut they take is that they animate on 2s, that is, instead of the full 24 frames per second of conventional cinema, they typically double up each frame so they’re only shooting 12 frames per second, but beyond that, I don’t think there are any shortcuts.

    Each animator there is responsible for getting through something like 9 seconds of animation per week, I think that’s what it was when I toured the stages.

  9. Mano Singham says


    So that means about 600 person-weeks for a 90-minute film. That is incredible, because the work requires such close attention to detail.

  10. kyoseki says

    Yeah, the amount of work involved is absolutely staggering, especially when you consider that that’s JUST animation, there’s all the modeling, rigging, tailoring and everything else that goes into it before a single frame of film is shot.

    CGI, when done correctly, is actually the same way -- check the credit list for Life of Pi, for example. The Visual Effects guys make up 2/3rds-3/4s of the total credits. When you have a couple hundred people working on something for a year and a half, the costs add up.

    The difference is, you can half ass CGI and still end up with something that people will tolerate, there’s no half measures with stop motion, you either do it properly or don’t bother.

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