The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: History of Stop-Motion Feature Films: Part 3
The years surrounding the new millennium saw more stop-motion features that were largely unknown and obscure to most of the world, including The Magic Pipe (1998) from Russia and Prop and Berta (2000) from Denmark. In Czechoslovakia, two feature-length anthologies called Jan Werich’s Fimfarum (2002) and Fimfarum 2 (2006) delighted audiences with a menagerie of short stories directed by noted stop-motion filmmakers Aurel Klimt, Vlasta Posposilova, Jan Balej, and Bretislav Pojar. South Africa also produced its first animated stop-motion feature film in 2003, called Legend of the Sky Kingdom. It was based on a children’s book by producer Phil Cunningham, and employed puppets and sets built from found objects of junk (therefore, the film was referred to as “junkmation” by the filmmakers). This was not only a budgetary restriction, but also an homage to the folk art of Africa, which is often made from discarded objects. In 2005, Colargol animator Tadeusz Wilkosz brought a new puppet feature to Polish cinemas called Tajemnica Kwiatu Paproci (The Secret of the Fern Flower), and Kihachiro Kawamoto completed a new feature called Shisha No Sho (The Book of the Dead).
The year 2006 saw completion of the 13-year production of an independent stop-motion feature called Blood Tea and Red String (Figure 1.33), directed by American filmmaker Christiane Cegavske. Cegavske was an art student who was inspired upon seeing Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, and she began animating short films while studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her short-film projects began to grow into what would become her feature, which was financed mostly by working as a lead animator and sculptor for various studios in Los Angeles. Blood Tea and Red String, described as “a handmade fairy tale for adults,” tells the story of two groups of creatures, the White Mice and the Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak, and their conflict over gaining possession of a beautiful doll. The story is filled with surreal, dream-like imagery, is told entirely without dialogue, and features a haunting musical score by Mark Growden. The award-winning film played in several film festivals and was the first of an eventual trilogy by Cegavske, who is now working on her second feature, Seed in the Sand. (Cegavske’s production stills and other artwork can be found at http://www.christianecegavske.com.)
Meanwhile, as independent rarities of puppet features spawned across the globe, Aardman was busy moving forward on its multi-picture deal with DreamWorks. As Chicken Run wrapped, pre-production moved forward on a re-telling of the Aesop fable The Tortoise and the Hare, but story problems prevented the feature from going any further. There had been talk of making a feature-length film with Wallace and Gromit, so it was finally decided to pursue it as the next project, entitled Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Figure 1.34). This time, Nick Park would co-direct with Steve Box, who he had also worked with on the last two Wallace and Gromit short films. The story told of the classic man-and-dog duo and their adventures rescuing their local village from a giant mutant rabbit that threatens to ruin the annual Giant Vegetable Competition.