The handmade art of frame-by-frame, stop-motion animation is a tedious, time-consuming craft that produces an astonishing illusion of motion. It clearly displays the most basic way we absorb images, from the initial explorations of the technique in 1898's The Humpty Dumpty Circus and the brilliant dino-work of Willis O'Brien's The Lost World from 1925, advancing past the monumental achievements of Ray Harryhausen's Dynamation in films like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Jason and the Argonauts and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and far into the modern age of holiday TV classics by Rankin/Bass like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.
Laika's Kubo and the Two Strings unspools in theaters today with its samurai odyssey and amazing armatured puppets, and only time will tell if it can unseat our crowned champion. Kubo represents the next stage in stop-motion animation in the 21st century and showcases some truly magical advances in 3D printing technology and fluid, computer-aided design.
With Kubo's triumphant arrival, now is the perfect time to reflect back on 14 all-time stop-motion favorites and see how they stack up against each other in a competitive Olympic-level event. See if you agree with my positioning and shout out any that might have been missed in this elemental cinematic dance of time and space.