The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: History of Stop-Motion Feature Films: Part 2
The puppets in all of these early feature films were typically crafted out of foam latex, plastic, wood, fabric, or other rubber materials. The use of modeling clay as a material for creating puppets and sets began in several experimental stop-motion films in the 1910s and 1920s, then faded into obscurity for several decades. It would not be explored again until Art Clokey brought his iconic Gumby character to television in the 1950s, and it was further brought into popularity by Aardman Animations and Will Vinton in the 1970s. Nobody had attempted to use clay animation in a feature-length format until a company named Stowmar Enterprises embarked on an animated version of Walt Kelly’s popular comic strip Pogo. The production rights for Pogo were arranged in partnership with Walt Kelly’s widow Selby by executive producer Kerry Stowell and screenwriter/director Marc Paul Chinoy. Armed with a $2 million budget, they went into production on a clay-animation feature called I Go Pogo from 1979 to 1980. Also involved in the early stages of the company were Charlie and Stephen Chiodo, a team of brothers from New York who had grown up making their own animated films. I Go Pogo was produced in Arlington Virginia, right outside Washington, D.C., and production was set up in an office space in the Crystal City’s Crystal Underground shopping mall. At one point, they had a storefront area where the character-fabrication department was situated; although the windows were covered in paper for the sake of privacy, one face-sized hole was cut into the door. Crew members called this storefront area “the fish tank,” and mall shoppers would discover on their own that an animated feature was secretly being made inside.