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BFI and LAIKA Announce ‘Stop Motion’ Program and Exhibition Running Aug 1-Oct 9

Showcasing the art, science, and innovation of stop motion animation, the BFI Southbank ‘Season’ includes the ‘LAIKA: Frame x Frame’ exhibition, special talks with Guillermo del Toro, Henry Selick, The Brothers Quay, Suzie Templeton, and other top filmmakers, as well as screenings of films like ‘Coraline,’ ‘Street of Crocodiles,’ ‘Jason and the Argonauts,’ ‘Chicken Run,’ and the original ‘King Kong.’  

The BFI today announced details of “Stop Motion: Celebrating Hand-Crafted Animation on the Big Screen,” supported by Headline Partner LAIKA, an all-new special program running from August 1 – October 9, with free film screenings for children under 16. Running in parallel, a free exhibition at BFI Southbank, “LAIKA: Frame x Frame,” will showcase the art, science, and innovative wizardry of the studio’s epic films. Titles playing on the big screen throughout the season will include King Kong (1933), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Chicken Run (2001), Corpse Bride (2005), Coraline (2009), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Anomalisa (2015), with special guests in venue set to include filmmakers Henry Selick (Coraline), Chris Butler and Sam Fell (ParaNorman), Guillermo del Toro (Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio), Peter Lord (Chicken Run), The Brothers Quay (Street of Crocodiles), Suzie Templeton (Peter and the Wolf), Barry Purves (Achilles), Osbert Parker (Clothes) and further names to be announced.

According to the programmers, “Possessing a singular magic and effortless charm, stop motion is a technique that hides its extraordinary craftsmanship in the space between each meticulous frame. A time-consuming process that demands patience, painstaking attention-to-detail and boundless creativity, the flow of stop motion and its illusion of movement helps to draw in audiences with a tangible sense of human interaction – where literal fingerprints are sometimes even visible on screen.”

Supported by LAIKA, and curated by BFI Southbank Lead Programmer Justin Johnson, the BFI’s “Stop Motion Season” will offer free screenings for children under 16 and will include LAIKA’s five films to date: Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014), Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) and Missing Link (2019), all of which were nominated for the Oscars for Outstanding Animated Feature. A major tentpole of the program will be a 15th anniversary celebration of Coraline with writer/director Henry Selick and cast members in attendance for a screening and Q&A on August 11 ahead of the film’s international re-release. Selick will also join us for a special In Conversation event during the season, while ParaNorman directors Butler and Fell will appear at BFI Southbank for a Q&A following a screening of the film.

Accompanying the season will be “LAIKA: Frame x Frame,” a unique, free exhibition showcasing the artistry of the nearly one million hand-crafted frames that make up LAIKA’s five films. Visitors at BFI Southbank will get an exclusive look at puppets, sets and artifacts – some never seen before – from the studio’s vast production archives, along with a sneak peek at LAIKA’s highly anticipated sixth feature WILDWOOD (2025). Full details of the exhibition will be announced in the coming weeks.

British talent working in the stop motion space will be highlighted with a program of classic shorts by filmmakers Suzie Templeton (Oscar winner for Peter and the Wolf), Barry Purves (Achilles) and Osbert Parker (Clothes), followed by a Q&A panel discussion with the animators, while shorts by Paul Berry (Sandman) and Daniel Greaves (Oscar winner for Manipulation) will also accompany feature presentations during the season. A program of more recent British shorts will showcase work funded through the BFI Short Form Animation Fund and BFI NETWORK, awarding funds from the National Lottery, including Salvation Has No Name (Joseph Wallace, 2023), Visible Mending (Samantha Moore, 2023), Red Rover (Astrid Goldsmith, 2020) and Shackle (Ainslie Henderson, 2023), with many of the filmmakers appearing.

Iconic British animation studio Aardman will be celebrated with special events including founder Peter Lord in venue for a career conversation. Aardman titles playing in the season will include Chicken Run (2000) and the Oscar winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), along with many of the studio’s shorts. Classic children’s television will also feature, with the likes of Bagpus, Morph, Pingu, and The Pingwings appearing on the big screen.

Key directors who have championed the medium of stop motion animation throughout their careers are also featured in the BFI season, with Guillermo del Toro joining us on stage for a screening of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022), plus Henry Selick’s Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), James and the Giant Peach (1996) and Wendell & Wild (2022), Tim Burton’s Vincent (1982), Corpse Bride (2005) and Frankenweenie (2012), and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Isle of Dogs (2018) all playing at BFI Southbank. There will also be a selection of films from the heady and dreamlike body of work of The Brothers Quay, whose new film Sanatorium is currently in production with support from the BFI Filmmaking Fund, with The Brothers taking part in an In Conversation event during the season.

Other titles in the program include Mary and Max (2009), Anomalisa (2015) My Life as a Courgette (2016), and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021). European pioneers of stop motion will be celebrated throughout the season too, leading with a focus on Jan Švankmajer to mark the Czech filmmaker’s 90th birthday, along with work from puppeteer Jirí Trnka, filmmaker Karel Zeman, and Polish-Russian animator Władysław Starewicz. Finally, the BFI’s major season would not be complete without marking the contributions of two legendary animators, Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) “Dynamation” wizard Ray Harryhausen, and special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien, who will be celebrated with classic screenings of King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949).

David Burke, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer at LAIKA, said “We're honored to support the BFI's stop motion season and offer visitors an insider's look into the pioneering world of LAIKA through this exhibition. Artists, scientists, and craftspeople at our Oregon studio pour their passion into telling these cinematic tales and fashioning immersive worlds. So, to create an experience that deepens the fans’ connection to LAIKA’s creative spirit is a great pleasure. We’re also thrilled that the BFI audience will be among the first to see the newly remastered 3D Coraline, which brings Neil Gaiman’s masterful storytelling into even deeper focus with stunning stereoscopic detail.”

BFI Southbank Lead Programmer and curator of the season, Justin Johnson, said: “It's impossible to overestimate the level of patience, vision and pure artistry that goes into making a great stop motion film. In this season, we present work by pioneers of the form throughout the years, in the company of some of the finest living stop motion auteurs who will share their knowledge in person on stage at BFI Southbank. With an incredible exhibition that unlocks the magic behind the films of LAIKA running in parallel, this is a unique opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves in every aspect of an art form that has thrilled people of all ages throughout the history of cinema.”

Visit the BFI online here. Tickets for BFI Southbank screenings and LAIKA’s free exhibition in August are on sale to BFI Patrons from July 1, BFI Members from July 2, and to the general public from July 4. Tickets for BFI Southbank screenings and LAIKA’s free exhibition in September and early October are on sale to BFI Patrons from August 5, BFI Members from August 6, and to the general public from August 8.

Source: BFI

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.