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Creating Claymation Characters

Dan Richards Jul 16, 2020 Scroll to read in 4 minutes

Since we began producing stop-motion content, we have had the chance to work with a colourful collection of claymation characters.

With British stop-motion studio Aardman popularising this medium through their use of claymation since the 1970s, clay figures have become what the general public regard as stop-motion animation. The versatility of Plasticine makes it perfect for expressing your ideas. We wanted to talk a little bit about the Claymation commercials we have worked on over the years and the process that went into making each and every one of these unique stop motion movies.

ReDefine Haemophilia

One of the joys of Claymation is that you can go as simple or as complex as you want, depending on the design. What can be simpler than animating fruit and vegetables? For the production, we were given the task of creating a series of aubergine and peach characters to represent couples. The campaign aims to raise awareness for young adults with haemophilia, discussing the ways it affects relationships or sex life.

The Claymation characters were designed to be simple and readable whilst different enough from one another for us to know that each film is about a different couple. The process of creating each puppet began with a simple foam and wire armature. This was done to keep the weight at a minimum as this makes them a lot easier to rig for the final stop-frame animation. Plasticine was then used over this solid centre until the entire thing was covered. Details such as leaf hair and eyes were then added, completing the base layout of each of the characters.

A method called replacement animation was used to animate each of the character’s mouths. This process involved creating individual mouths which cover the shapes of each vowel and sound a mouth can make. These replacement mouths are swapped in and out depending on each sound of the audio track to give the illusion of speech. The process is very time consuming, but the results are amazing every time.

Creating Claymation Characters 03

AXA XL

The fun of making stop-frame movies with clay is the versatility and variety of different types of films you can make. For a project we worked on for AXA, a very different approach was taken from the traditional stand up models that are usually associated with stop-motion. Every element of this film, from characters to props, was created to be flat. This meant that although 3D, the final film took on an almost 2D animated feel.

The character modelling process involved working closely with design drawings to produce 2D looking characters. The advantage of creating models in this format was that we were able to almost replicate each drawing using Plasticine exactly. Once all the clay elements were created, the background props were assembled and the characters were animated on a piece of glass from above. This allowed for the clay elements to stay as clean and separate as possible, minimising the amount of clay that would rub off of the background elements and onto the characters. Effects such as fire were also shot in glass, but this time over a green screen. This meant that these effects could be added into the final shot anywhere and manipulated as much as we wanted in post-production.

Creating Claymation Characters 02

As a British stop-motion animation studio, back in 2014, we created a series of Claymation animations. The idea came after we were constantly being asked what A+C stands for, so we had some fun with it. For these animations, we created the characters A and C, two friends who would get into all sorts of mischief in every episode. The models for each character were created completely out of plasticine, as due to their design, it was easy for each of them to be free-standing with not much rigging having to be used. Replacement mouths were created in the same way as they were for the aforementioned Haemophilia project, and with neither of the characters having any dialogue other than noises, various mouth shapes were used more to show the characters’ emotions.

The real modelling challenge for these shorts was in creating the extra props required for each episode. The general premise of each animation was that A and C would each have a different thing that started with each of their respective letters. Individual and unique props were made for each episode, and these spanned a whole range of things from a chicken to even an allosaurus! It was a lot of work that was immensely rewarding to see come together in each of these short animations!

That is a brief run-through of the process we used to create these Claymation characters and stories we have had the pleasure of working on.