A Brief History of Stop Motion Animation

In this “A brief history of Stop motion animation” we look back only 100 years. We think it  has been around for a long time, almost as long as traditional film-making. Originally stop motion involved animating objects. This included the animated movement of any “non-drawn” objects such as toys, blocks or any rigid inanimate object. Cel animation quickly followed in its footsteps. Following on from this  animators experimented with clay animation and puppet animation.  A form of animation which you may be familiar with in Wallace and Gromit and Gumby.

“The Humpty Dumpty Circus” (1898) and in “Fun in a Bakery Shop” (1902) are  early examples of stop motion films and techniques. In 1907 “The Haunted Hotel” was a very successful movie with the cinema audience of the time. In 1912 “Modelling Extraordinary”, one of the first clay animation movies using stop motion was released to great critical acclaim.

First Female Stop Motion Animator

In 1916, the first female animator, Helena Smith Dayton, began experimenting with clay stop motion. She released her first film in 1917, Romeo and Juliet. December of 1916, brought the first of Willie Hopkin’s 54 episodes of “Miracles in Mud” to the big screen.

history of stop motion

Early days of stop motion

Some other notable Milestones in a brief history of stop motion

  • Edwin Porter directed “The Teddy Bears,” one of the earliest stop-motion animation films. A short sequence of playing teddy bears, just over a minute in length, takes over 50 hours to animate.
  • Willis O’Brien’s “The Lost World” included 49 prehistoric animals in stop-motion, which took a huge step in stop-motion history.
  • Willis O’Brien directed another film called “Mighty Joe Young”, a well-known film with the help of Ray Harryhausen in 1945.
  •  The film received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his technological contributions in 1991.
Stop Motion dying out slowly

Stop-motion has changed dramatically since the early 20th century. In fact, stop-motion is rarely used anymore, only in children’s TV shows do you see such effects, such as Gumby.

history of stop motion

Born in Oakland, California in 1886, Willis O’Brien

With the development of digital 3D animation, animating a 3D character in a film has become much easier and faster, which is favored by the industry. 3D animation allows unreal characters to seem to be alive.

I hope you enjoyed this Brief history of stop motion animation. To find out more and maybe how you can do some of your own stop motion animation we have lots of tutorials at

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