The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: History of Stop-Motion Feature Films: Part 3
The other breakthrough for Corpse Bride was the first use of digital still cameras for shooting all the animation. This decision was made 2 weeks before production was to start, despite the fact that they had 30 classic Mitchell film cameras and piles of film stock on the shelves ready to be used. The entire film was shot with Canon EOS-1D Mark IIs and provided instant feedback of each scene, which made dailies easy to view and approve on the spot. All of the digital scenes were cut together using Apple’s Final Cut Pro, which was another first for a stop-motion feature.
Corpse Bride opened just 2 weeks after Curse of the Were-Rabbit in October 2005, and both were nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards (against Howl’s Moving Castle). The simultaneous mainstream releases and nominations were unprecedented for stop-motion in general. On Oscar night 2006, Wallace and Gromit took home the prize, which was the third time for Nick Park’s beloved dog and his owner, but a historical first for a stop-motion feature film. Despite this success, Aardman parted ways with DreamWorks after completing its third feature, Flushed Away, which was done in computer animation.
Riding on the popular success of these films, Switzerland’s first major foray into stop-motion feature production (with co-production from France, Belgium, and the U.K.) came about with Max & Co. It was the first feature by directors Frederic and Samuel Guillaume, two brothers who had previously made a few short films. The story, incorporating detailed animalistic puppets designed by MacKinnon & Saunders, told of a teenager named Max on a search for his father. He is taken in to work at a fly-swatter factory called Bzzz & Co. and gets involved in a mission to save the local village from the plot of an evil scientist. With a budget of nearly $30 million, Max & Co. was the most expensive film project ever produced in Switzerland. Production set up in an old Tetra Pak factory in the small Swiss town of Romont, with a diverse international crew of stop-motion and live-action filmmakers. The animation director was Guionne Leroy from Belgium, who had experience working on Toy Story, James and the Giant Peach, and Chicken Run. Many of the other experienced stop-motion artists came from England, working with others from Canada and all across Europe (Figures 1.36 and 1.37). The director of photography, Renato Berta from Switzerland, had nearly 30 years of live-action credits to his name and was shooting his first stop-motion feature. Many unique techniques contributed to the dark urban atmosphere the directors were aiming for, including photography of real local skies and landscapes composited into the backgrounds.