Sunday, September 28, 2008

Komaneko-The Curious Cat

Stop motion? Check.

Cute little kitty? Check.

Self-reflexive storyline that examines the process of stop motion animation? Check.

Japanese? Check.

What more do you want? Komaneko is a series of animated shorts about a cat and her efforts at making a stop motion film. At times her puppets behave as though they are truly puppets, in that they wait for Komaneko to bring them to life. At other times, they are alive under their own power. Of course, the whole show is being animated by a human animator, and this layering of puppets animating puppets who aren't actually puppets but are characters in their own right gives this otherwise simple (and touching) children's show some real complexity.

This show is great in all ways, and I think (from what I could find out) there's a feature film that has just been made?

I've embedded only episode 2 for a reason. There is a wonderful moment for all animators (stop motion or otherwise, but it's especially juicy for stop mo people) in the beginning of the episode. Komaneko has her set all made, her puppets are ready, she is lit, the camera is set up... she is poised to record her first frame of animation. And what does she do?

She stops what she's doing, closes her eyes... and imagines.

As a stop motion animator, I like to think she's seeing her first shot in her mind's eye, from first frame to last, feeling all of the movements and visualizing where and what her puppet is going to do. This moment of inner reflection, of breathing deep and bringing the shot-to-be to the front of the mind through visualization is essential to successful stop motion.

Or maybe she's just thinking about catnip, who knows.

This episode goes on to explore many of the headaches/nightmares that are an inherient part of the stop motion. And the joys, too.

I'd recommend anyone who wants to seriously attempt a stop motion film to watch all these episodes. This show is great training!

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