Back in October, I was reminded exactly when I became a fan of stop-motion animation. A friend in one of my Slack groups shared this Jason Kottke post. The second video on the page (Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer) was my first introduction to him. The song came out in 1986, the video won 9 MTV Video Music Awards the following year. The company who did the animation for the video, Aardman Animations, would later go on to create Wallace and Gromit (an inventor and his pet dog) who’ve starred in a number of short films (The Wrong Trousers) and feature-length films (The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) that I found hilarious. Chicken Run was an Aardman co-production with Dreamworks that I also enjoyed.
While researching this post, I learned that another one of my stop-motion favorites–The Nightmare Before Christmas–actually came out the same year as The Wrong Trousers (1993). Nightmare was very much in keeping with the dark and scary sensibilities of Tim Burton (the man behind Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, among many other films), but to make it a musical as well was just hilarious and delightful. Isle of Dogs and Fantastic Mr. Fox are two more stop-motion animated features I’ve enjoyed. One of my guiltier pleasures when it comes to stop-motion animation was definitely Celebrity Deathmatch. Stop-motion animated wrestling matches between clay versions of celebrities was way more fun than it had any right to be.
While not actually stop-motion animation, The Lego Movie (and its sequel) succeed at hewing very closely to the same style, with the obvious exceptions of the live action scenes. While there are much older examples of stop-motion animation (the original King Kong from 1933, the character Gumby from the 1950s, and anything by Ray Harryhausen), the Sledgehammer video is where that particular fandom of mine began.