Aardman Animations, the British geniuses who have cornered the stop-motion market for decades, are back with ‘Shaun the Sheep,’ a big-screen adaptation of their TV series. It joins these other stop-motion classics.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Aardman’s signature duo, oblivious inventor Wallace and his brilliant dog, Gromit, debuted in 1990 – in fact, one of the ‘W&G’ shorts introduced Shaun the Sheep – but they didn’t get their first feature until 15 years later. It was worth the wait.
Chicken Run (2000)
The first Aardman feature was this enormously successful barnyard thriller, in which a group of hens enlist a, well, cocky rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson) to help them escape their miserable coop. Brilliant from start to finish.
Hot on Aardman’s heels is Laika, owned by Nike founder Phil Knight. Their gorgeously eerie ‘Coraline,’ adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book, is the studio’s best work, though ‘ParaNorman’ (2012) and ‘The Boxtrolls’ (2014) are also winners.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Besides Aardman and Laika, the biggest names in stop-motion are Tim Burton and Henry Selick (who directed ‘Coraline’). The two joined forces on this holiday classic, appropriate viewing for both Christmas and Halloween.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Selick-directed and Burton-produced, this whimsical adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel wasn’t the hit that ‘Nightmare’ was. Still, it has gained a well-deserved audience.
Tim Burton also codirected the criminally underrated ‘Corpse Bride’ (2005), but his stop-motion masterpiece has got to be ‘Frankenweenie,’ a black-and-white labor of love adapted from Burton’s own 1984 live-action short film.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The year 2009 was great for stop-motion: ‘Coraline’ was joined by France’s ‘A Town Called Panic,’ and Australia’s ‘Mary and Max.’ While both are fine films, they’re simply no match for the charms of Wes Anderson’s unlikely foray into stop-motion.
Twice Upon a Time (1983)
Now we sail into the past – and into less familiar territory. Produced by George Lucas, animated using back-lit fabric cutouts, and out of circulation for decades, this cult favorite might finally get a proper home video release in 2015.
Fantastic Planet (1973)
Ask anyone who grew up in the 1970s – they will probably have disturbing childhood memories of this French-Czech sci-fi classic, which used paper cutouts as its stop-motion media of choice. Fascinating, but definitely not for kids.
Gumby: The Movie (1995)
You can’t talk about stop-motion animation without a nod to TV’s most beloved green-clay humanoid. Alas, in the wake of the technically flawless ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ Gumby’s humble big-screen debut flopped. We still like it.
Mad Monster Party (1967)
Who isn’t familiar with the timeless holiday fare produced by Rankin/Bass? Yet despite the success of TV specials like ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ we bet you never saw this, their only theatrical feature, a silly spoof of old horror movies.