Usually when animators create, they start with a narration or scripted exchange that they have written and they recruit performers to record it. But many animators have found fresh inspiration from recording real people and using that as the starting point for their work.
Here are some of our favorite examples of this genre:
Nick Park/Aardman Animations
This hilarious stop-motion mockumentary from “Wallace and Gromit” creator Nick Park takes man-on-the-street interviews of people talking about their living situations and transforms them into a series of animals talking about their life at the zoo. The creative change of characters takes puts the interviews into an entirely different context, telling a whole new story.
The short film was warmly received by audiences and won an Academy Award for “Best Animated Short Film” in 1990.
Pets at the Vets (Creature Comforts Sequel)
Nick Park/Aardman Animations
After the wild success of “Creature Comforts,” Park and Aardman Animations decided to bring the series back in 2015, but this time, with a whole new angle. “Pets at the Vets” tells the stories of how people view going to the doctor. But instead of the traditional doctor’s office experiences, these stories are brought to life by animated animals, as if they were discussing their own trials and tribulations at the vet. Aside from the anecdotes, you can easily see how the quality of the animation (and the cameras used to film the stop-motion) has improved following the original 1989 release.
For more “Creature Comforts” videos, click here.
Siqi Song’s “Food” takes notes from the popular “Creature Comfort” series, and puts them on a platter — literally. In this short film, different dishes are brought to life through stop-motion animation to showcase real-life interviews of people talking about their eating habits. The attention to detail is apparent here. The food is manipulated in a way to give them “human” qualities. For example, different-shaped strawberries on a plate are carefully chosen for each frame to emulate the movements of a human mouth on a face of fruit. In another section of the short, chocolate-covered pretzels are replaced ever so slightly in each frame, creating vibrant movement in a simple, otherwise static shot.
“Fired Up” is a masterful combination of different animation styles set to a speech former President Barack Obama gave back in 2007. The film showcases an impressive array of animation styles from 13 different artists, seamlessly blending stop-motion snippets, line drawings, 3D animation, and watercolor designs to bring Obama’s words to life. For those who want to see a full spectrum of different animation techniques in one shot (while also getting a boost of inspiration) this video’s for you.
Motion Pictures in Arles (MOPA)
Sometimes, great animation doesn’t need a spoken narrative, and can work just off sound effects. This 2018 Academy Award nominated short film relies has been touted for its use of photorealistic animation and real soundscapes to tell a compelling story of frogs and other animals who live of an eerily abandoned and overgrown mansion property. The film has no dialogue. Instead, it relies solely on sound and visuals to set the tone and build suspense in this gripping piece.
This lighthearted short takes the subject of a real-life conversation — in this case, a series of jokes about nachos — and turns them into animated characters. The video is narrated using a real recording of Patch’s wife, drunkenly telling a series of jokes about tortilla chips.
StoryCorps uses animation to help collect and preserve real stories, from real people. This short video brings an interview between Joshua Littman, a boy with Asperger’s syndrome, and his mother, Sarah, to life. The video has garnered more than 1.2 million views on YouTube, and shines a light on what it means to be a parent.
As you can see, real sound can play a major role in animation production. Real-life soundtracks can be used as inspiration for animators to bring a story to life. Or, real sound can be stretched, bent and reimagined to help set the tone for creative and compelling animated video.