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Techniques: Replacement Animation

Pal arguably pioneered (some claim that a man named John Sutherland was doing it at the same time) replacment animation, the technique in which multiple puppets (or multiple PARTS of puppets) were made to represent each action desired. For instance, rather than making a soft, malleable head for a character in order to be able to represent facial expressions and speech, the character would have numerous heads which, when animated in the proper sequence, could "speak" anything or show any emotion. This required a LOT of planning and sculpting of puppets prior to making a film, but once the puppets were done, they could be reused infinitely, and the films done this way have a unique fluidity which is quite beautiful and unique.

This technique is still used on such films as The Nightmare Before Christmas, and is similar to the principals used in computer animation: once the character is modeled, you can reuse it and shoot from any angle with ease.

The rest of this page consists of production photos and drawings of Pal's Puppets in pieces.

Above is an example of the detailed drawings Pal made for his craftsmen to work from. I believe this character is from "On Parade"

Various replacement faces for a character, probably from "Ali-Baba"


John Henry's armature... the "bones" used for the bodies of later Pal puppets.

Parts of the replacement-animated dancer from Southsea Sweethearts is on the left.

An array of heads... these provide all of the facial expressions for one character.

The following are from the September, 1947 issue of Popular Mechanics story on Pal's workshop. Some images have a larger, more readable copy for you to download.

Animating an "underwater" scene. Notice the "water" (rippled glass) over this animator's head.

Click for a 99k version


Click to download a 116k version


Click to download a 66K version

Note: All but the "Popular Mechanics" pictures are from taken from the excellent book
"George Pal in Holland: 1934-1939"
which was provided by Paul Kusters of the Netherlands Filmmuseum.

More Pal/Puppetoon Info from Animation of Heaven & Hell in 3-D!:

Back to Animation of Heaven & Hell in 3-D! Home Page

This page was first posted December 1, 1996.