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"Matador and bull mud animation by Chinese American animator. Animation and photography: Joseph Sunn. Titles: Syl MacDowell." From "Ralph Wolfe's Mud Stuff."
Public domain film from the Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The film was silent. I have added music created by myself using the Reaper Digital Audio Workstation and the Independence and Proteus VX VST instrument plugins.
Clay animation or claymation is one of many forms of stop motion animation. Each animated piece, either character or background, is "deformable"—made of a malleable substance, usually Plasticine clay.
All traditional animation is produced in a similar fashion, whether done through cel animation or stop motion. Each frame, or still picture, is recorded on film or digital media and then played back in rapid succession. When played back at a frame rate greater than 10--12 frames per second, a fairly convincing illusion of continuous motion is achieved. While the playback feature creating an illusion is true of all moving images (from zoetrope to films to videogames), the techniques involved in creating CGI are generally removed from a frame-by-frame process...
In clay animation, each object is sculpted in clay or a similarly pliable material such as Plasticine, usually around a wire skeleton called an armature. As in other forms of object animation, the object is arranged on the set (background), a film frame is exposed, and the object or character is then moved slightly by hand. Another frame is taken, and the object is moved slightly again. This cycle is repeated until the animator has achieved the desired amount of film. The human mind processes the series of slightly changing, rapidly playing images as motion, hence making it appear that the object is moving by itself. To achieve the best results, a consistent shooting environment is needed to maintain the illusion of continuity. This means paying special attention to maintaining consistent lighting and object placement and working in a calm environment.
A subvariation of clay animation can be informally called "clay melting". Any kind of heat source can be applied on or near (or below) clay to cause it to melt while an animation camera on a time-lapse setting slowly films the process. An example of this can be seen in Vinton's early short clay-animated film "Closed Mondays" (coproduced by animator Bob Gardiner) at the end of the computer sequence. A similar technique was used in the climax scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark to "melt" the faces of the antagonists.
Producing a stop-motion animation using clay is extremely laborious. Normal film runs at 24 frames per second (frame/s). With the standard practice of "doubles" or "twos" (double-framing, exposing two frames for each shot), 12 changes are usually made for one second of film movement. For a 30-minute movie, there would be approximately 21,600 stops to change the figures for the frames. For a full-length (90-minute) movie, there would be approximately 64,800 stops, and possibly far more if parts were shot with "singles" or "ones" (one frame exposed for each shot).... For feature-length productions, the use of clay has generally been supplanted by rubber silicone and resin-cast components. One foam-rubber process has been coined as "Foamation" by Will Vinton. However, clay remains a viable animation material where a particular aesthetic is desired...
Clay-animated films were produced in the United States as early as 1908, when Edison Manufacturing released a trick film entitled The Sculptor's Welsh Rarebit Dream. In 1916, clay animation became something of a fad, as an East Coast artist named Helena Smith Dayton and a West Coast animator named Willie Hopkins produced clay-animated films on a wide range of subjects. Hopkins in particular was quite prolific, producing over fifty clay-animated segments for the weekly Universal Screen Magazine. By the 1920s, cartoon animation using either cels or the slash system was firmly established as the dominant mode of animation production. Increasingly, three-dimensional forms such as clay were driven into relative obscurity as the cel method became the preferred method for the studio cartoon.
Nevertheless, in 1921, clay animation appeared in a film called "Modeling", an Out of the Inkwell film from the newly formed Fleischer Brothers studio. "Modeling" is one of the few known shorts using clay that was released during the 1920s. "Modeling" included animated clay in eight shots, a novel integration of the technique into an existing cartoon series and one of the rare uses of clay animation in a theatrical short from the 1920s...