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Turning the page on Paper Animation

Dan Richards Jul 29, 2020 Scroll to read in 8 minutes

Paper animation as a style has become increasingly more popular over the past few years and we feel that there is so much potential for the artform to develop even further.

At our UK animation company, we have had the opportunity to work on so many amazing paper-craft commercials. One of the main draws of working on any paper animation is the beauty as well as its versatility that comes with the material itself. From cut-outs to folded origami, the possibilities that come with paper in stop-frame animation are only limited by your own imagination. These different techniques can be seen throughout the various paper animations we have worked on, so we wanted to run through some of the different methods used in each, all in this handy blog.

The Happy Egg Company

Producing this animated production for The Happy Egg Co. was quite the undertaking. There were so many technical aspects that needed to be kept track of in order to help the filming process go smoothly. Firstly, each of the models was constructed using a Styrofoam core in order to keep them light and make it easier for the outer paper elements to be attached. This foam technique was also used for some of the more 2D paper props to also increase their stability. On top of these foam elements, animation wire was run throughout the models. This allows for small and intricate movements to be made during the stop-frame animation process without the models moving and bending back to their original positions.

Probably the most striking feature other than the papercraft animation would be the camera movement that takes place during the end of the advert. This was achieved using a motion control rig, a large track that the camera is placed on and then synchronised with the stop-motion animation software Dragonframe to allow camera movements to be made in stop-motion. The shot was so complicated and had so many moving elements that we eventually decided to film the shot in reverse! This makes some animating easier on more complicated shots as you are less likely to move models already on set by taking props away as opposed to adding them as the shot progresses.

IMG 9517

British Airways

Quite possibly the biggest papercraft animation we have undertaken at our production studio was for British Airways. This whopping nearly three-minute animation combined a couple of techniques to achieve the finished stop motion movie. Firstly, each and every element of the animation was first created in Adobe Illustrator. This ranged from props big and small all the way down to each individual character’s pupils.

Once the models were assembled, most of the stop-frame animation was shot on set, with the puppets being supported by stop-motion wire and animation rigging. This allowed for the 2D elements to be free-standing on set and therefore easier to animate. For more complicated shots, the paper props and characters were shot top-down on a glass rostrum. This allowed for the animation to be completed a lot more easily as the animators didn’t have to worry about posing 2D characters in standing position. These sections animated on glass were then composited into the final film using postproduction. The final film can be seen in London at Gatwick airport.

British Airways

Shepherd Neame Christmas Film

This seasonal film made for Shepherd Neame achieved its unique style through the fact that every paper-craft element of the animation was created using pages from various books. The books were specifically selected as they were destined to be pulped so no need to worry! Having different words changing and flashing across every prop and character gives the film a texture that makes the entire film stand out on its own, giving it its own identity. Variations in the types of books, the colours of the books and their fonts were used throughout to achieve as much variation as possible.

When creating the human characters for the film, we used a process called rotoscoping. This involves tracing over live-action footage of people frame by frame in order to create the final animation. Using this technique allowed for realistic movement to be captured in the final animation, as well as realistic proportions for the characters. The final result is an animation that we felt truly captures the feeling and prestige of Shepherd Neame as a brewery.

Shephard Neame Christmas Animation 10

Brisk City Beats

The Brisk animation we produced for social channels but still pack a punch. The entirety of the animation is synchronised to music, meaning that the animators had to take extra care to stay on rhythm and time when completing the stop-frame animation for the project.

The overall idea for the animation was to create a rising and falling soundwave from papercraft skyscrapers that would rise and fall into the ground synchronised with music. To achieve this, multiple replacements for each building were created out of paper, each at different heights. Creating these different levels made it much easier for the animators to animate in the long run. The final effect of the buildings moving, combined with the pastel paper colours and the energetic music really give this short animation lots of life and energy.

Brisk 1024x576

Key Travel

The idea of creating an entire paper-craft city in a suitcase was immediately a draw for us. Creating something so busy and filled with life on such a small scale was a real challenge, but one we were willing to undertake.

The suitcase city design was originally created by one of our illustrators. This went through a couple of iterations before the final design was given over to our model making team. They then set about creating every intricate detail that made the city in a suitcase feel alive. The lead paper puppet characters in the film were created with foam centres wrapped around a wireframe core. This allowed for the armatures to stay light and yet still maintain a level of strength that is needed for stop-frame animation models. The paper elements were then integrated into the vintage suitcase prop and placed on a fabricated desk set. Every time we look back at this animation, we remember another tiny detail that was worked into this living and breathing papercraft city.

Key Travel


This is possibly one of the more striking paper animations on our reel, and for good reason. The dark yet warm colours combined with the vivid red of the papercraft models really makes this animation stand out.

As you can see in the final animation, not many paper elements were created for this animation, so this meant that great detail was put into each and every prop and character to make them as unique and striking as possible. A minimalist aesthetic needed to be maintained throughout. This is what led to the geometric style of the paper props and characters in this film. The look was achieved using a wire net shaped and bent to create the sharp angular edges of the props. This wire netting was then wrapped in a thick paper. Some of the larger props in each scene were also created using large blocks of Styrofoam which were then similarly wrapped in red card paper.

The characters within the film were modelled using the same technique as many of our other papercraft armatures, although this time on a slightly larger scale. Care was taken when shaping the foam around the wire armatures of each model in order to maintain the angular style that defines the advert.

Virgin Unite

Matches Fashion

Finishing off this list of our papercraft animations with one of our smaller films, and yet it is one of our favourites. This short, simple film was created for Matches Fashion. The basic concept for the animation was an ever-transforming piece of paper that folds itself into various origami creatures and objects. From flowers to butterflies, the film is constantly changing and throwing new and beautiful models at you with each new transition.

To create the origami transitions within the animation, lots of replacement models were made that showed different stages of the paper folding. This made the animation a lot simpler than if the animators had to fold the paper on set! Everything you see throughout the animation was animated on set. Each papercraft model was held in place using rigging. Using this method, we were able to easily animate the bird and butterflies flying. The end result is a simple yet effective animation that shows off the beauty of paper and what it can achieve.

We love working with paper here at the studio and are looking forward to creating many more papercraft animations with it in the future. The sheer amount you can achieve in stop-motion with just a few sheets of paper and some creativity is astounding! If you would like to read up on a few more of the amazing projects we have been able to work on over the years, why not check out this blog going over our cast of wonderful Claymation characters!

Matches Fashion