If you gave your kids a cardboard box, egg cartons, paper towel rolls, construction paper, and some popsicle sticks, what would they make? In all likelihood a static-yet-elaborate structure vaguely resembling a castle.
Unfortunately, this was probably carefully constructed on the kitchen table, so the moment dinner comes around the life of that castle is cut short by the attack of plates and cutlery!
But what if that castle – and even its personality – could live on? What if we could lower the cardboard drawbridge and capture that movement in real-time, digitally? What if we could show miniature knights bounding over the egg carton walls, and play it over and over again?
Well that’s exactly what stop motion animation can do! By bridging the digital with the physical world of play, an inanimate world can be vividly brought to life.
Stop motion animation is a filmmaking technique where physical objects and puppets are repeatedly moved and photographed, which creates the illusion of movement when the image sequence is played back quickly. It is the same technique used to create classic movies such as Chicken Run, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline and The Boxtrolls.
All you need to get started with stop motion animation is a camera and some software, or an all-in-one, purpose-made kit such as HUE Animation Studio. Kids catch on very quickly and master the stop motion technique in no time at all. Even the youngest of animators can have fun making simple animations and voicing their characters.
It’s the perfect activity for a rainy day. Children can spend literally hours making movies using mainly junk or recyclable trash. Need to make a boat? A milk carton works great. How about a mountain? Grab some rocks and dirt. What about a stage? That Amazon box about to be tossed is perfect. Add a few markers, some glue, and paper and voila: instant hours of fun at almost no cost.
There are some other side benefits to this approach. First, kids see that a person doesn’t need to spend money to have fun. Second, they see that junk and trash can be recycled and put to good use. Third, they are actually learning without even knowing that what they are doing could actually be a school project!
In fact, stop motion animation can be used for homeschooling and homework across the whole range of educational subjects, including STEAM. It is the perfect cross-curricular medium for children to demonstrate their understanding of a specific topic through movie-making whilst improving their creative, technical and social emotional (SEL) skills all at the same time.
From drawing the storyboards to making the models; writing, reading and recording the scripts; directing, lighting, animating and editing, to planning the movie premiere film screening, children will be learning through play with every project that they make. Roles can be swapped around for subsequent lessons, or animations, making sure that everyone has a chance to learn about the different aspects of filmmaking.
To celebrate all things recycled and salvaged in stop motion movie making, we have collated our five favorite films that find inspiration from flotsam and jetsam.
Our 5 favorite “trashy” stop motion films
Product designer and animator, dina Amin (yes, the ‘d’ is supposed to be lowercase) collaborated with fellow creative and collector of “things that people throw away”, Doro Otterman, to make this super cute and visually witty stop motion film, Trash-ure machine.
Teacher Cristiana Zambon’s third grade students used the stop motion technique to animate recycled materials, found objects (and banana skins!) to create this fun and inventive film with a serious message.
Titled Da cosa Rinasce cosa – which roughly translates as ‘From what What is reborn’, – the film explores the importance of recycling and taking care of the environment. The Italian language film is a must watch for animation inspiration showing what is possible to achieve with a group of students in the classroom with minimal materials and a dash of imagination.
Stop motion filmmaker and photographer Georgie Lord has created an adorable race car animation from recycled candy tubes. Shot as part of the global Smarties® paper packaging launch, the animation sits within a series of craft project how-to videos with creative activities for kids.
Oscar-nominated animator and director PES (aka Adam Pesapane) teamed up with drinks brand Corona® and environmental organization Parley for the Oceans to help raise awareness of ocean plastic pollution in an effort to drive a global beach clean-up initiative, projectparadise.com.
In the resulting stop motion film, The Fish, items of plastic waste – such as drinking straws, single-use cutlery, LEGO®, toothpicks and candy wrappers – form together in the shape of a fish which springs to life and narrowly escapes being eaten by a hungry seagull thanks to a last minute human intervention.
Frank Boxman aka Mutant Worm is a creative filmmaker and animator based in Groningen, The Netherlands.
In January 2020, Frank made an adorable animation with his family made entirely from litter they cleared from the streets and parks surrounding their home. The collected trash was turned into puppets and animated to create the charming Christmas tale, Litterbug.
Watch closely and you might spot some clever references to classic movies including E.T., WALL-E and Short Circuit.