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What is Claymation?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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Claymation is the generalized term for clay animation, a form of stop animation using clay. The term was coined by its creator, Will Vinton, owner of an animation studio that worked with clay artists to create clay animation. Claymation involves using objects or characters sculpted from clay or other moldable material, and then taking a series of still pictures that are replayed in rapid succession to create the illusion of movement. Some of the more famous characters created in this form include Gumby and Pokey, Wallace and Gromit, and the California Raisins.

In a claymation production, artists sculpt the characters out of clay and often support the sculpture with wire molds underneath. To create the illusion of movement, the position of the sculpted characters is altered slightly in every still photo, or frame. Just like other forms of animation, claymation generally requires a storyboard or background for the characters to be set against and to develop what they will do or say. Depending on the length of production, the same character may need to be sculpted hundreds of times.

Claymation has been around in some form since the invention of plasticine in 1897, though the first film to use clay animated characters wasn’t until 1908. Clay animation is laborious work, and the productions are often shorter in length than other animated productions due to the work involved. It wasn’t until Gumby came along that this form gained public attention as a variant form of entertainment art. Claymation was one of the first forms of 3-dimensional animation, opening up the world to animation assisted by computer generated imagery (CGI).

Though the production time and cost to create feature-length claymation films is excessive compared to other forms of animation, it has its own look and feel that is very different from traditional or computer generated animation. While this form may not be the wave of the future, experts in the industry believe its future may well rest in the hands of Will Vinton, the man who also helped shape its history.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1003247 — On May 28, 2020

How-To: Claymation

What is Claymation? Claymation is making a movie or show (or a short video) that is stop motion but done with clay.

What is stop motion? Stop motion is where you make a video, show or movie by using inanimate objects and taking a picture moving something slightly then taking another picture. In the end you can use sites like WeVideo to put them together to make a film.

What you need:

One camera

Enough clay to sculpt a person or what you want to make the video about

A computer or device that has WeVideo

First, sculpt your character.

Second, put your character in the position you want it to be in for the start of your video

Third, take a picture

Fourth, move your character slightly

Fifth, take a pic

Repeat from step #4 until done

You did it! You made a claymation! (Those are hard to make. One that is actually a TV show is Shaun The Sheep.)

By anon300354 — On Oct 29, 2012

Thank you for this SO much! I'm doing my independent project on stop motion, and this page has been a huge help.

By bythewell — On May 21, 2011

If you want to see some amazing modern claymation animation you should check out Coraline, a kids horror movie which was released a couple of years ago. I think it was a mix of claymation and other kinds of stop motion. But if you look at the Making Of Coraline documentary, it is incredible how they made enormous, intricate sets for the characters to move through.

The story is also very good, but it is quite scary, so it's not really suitable for younger kids.

My other favorite is a claymation Christmas movie called the Nightmare before Christmas. Definitely worth seeing.

By KoiwiGal — On May 20, 2011

@anon26642 - You can make a claymation with play-doh or plasticine if you want. Even just the cheap stuff from the dollar store. Plasticine can be sculpted quite intricately and for simple claymation you don't really need wires or anything. If you want to get more involved you can construct armatures (skeletons for sculptures) out of tin foil and wire so they will move easily and stay upright.

A stop motion animation can be made with a camera if you are really patient, or you can download a program from the internet and use a webcam to take your stills. You should try to get a program that will "onion skin" which means it will let you superimpose the current image on the previous one, so you can move it just the right amount.

My mother has sometimes made short claymations with her high school students. It's really easy, fun and effective.

By anon26642 — On Feb 17, 2009

what materials needed for claymation?

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