Fan Film, Fan Films

Stop-Motion Animation Secrets of Star Wars Tales

star wars tales 2In December, FCT covered Danny Moiser’s extensive fan film, Star Wars Tales, a stop-motion animated action figure flick that spins a slew of new short stories that take place in the Star Wars Universe. Mosier spent three years animating the flick, which makes him either extremely dedicated or utterly insane (or both).

Speaking with FCT, he revealed a bit about the methods to his madness, including how to work with actors who fall over a lot and have only one expression (no, not Artie Lange). There’s a true art to stop-motion animation, and while we’ve covered the software extensively (the posts on free stop-motion animation software for Windows, Linux and Mac are probably the most popular ones on this site), we haven’t done much on how to do stop-motion animation. Accordingly, here’s some hints from a professional amateur!


Your movie is based on the old Dark Horse anthology comic book, Star Wars Tales; are these original stories or adaptation?

All of the stories in this movie were my creations. The notice that this is “Issue 25″ at the beginning is an allusion to the fact that the final issue of Star Wars Tales was #24, so this is “a continuation”. It’s just a small detail, and I don’t know how many people got it.

So what kinds of equipment did you use to make this action figure epic?

I’m a bit embarrassed to say this to you, but this was probably the most low-tech fan film ever. For capturing the images, all I did was set up a consumer digital camera on a mini tripod and either took the images of the figures in front of a green screen, in front of a printed background, or in front of some sort of makeshift set like the pop-up Cantina set [a Star Wars playset from 1998 that unfolds like a pop-up book to create a massive Mos Eisley Cantina for figures]. Overall, the film was about half green screen and half physical backgrounds.

Here’s a tip: When using a backdrop or a set, you should try to take a pictures without any of the characters to be animated in it from the angle you’re shooting, so you can use that as a template to clean up the animation. For example, let’s say you’re animating Indiana Jones in front of a temple and are using a temple backdrop. You take a picture of that backdrop first; that way, when you animate Indy, if any of the frames end up jerking or the lighting pokes in and “messes up” the frame, you can clean it up in Photoshop or any such program. It’s kind of like greenscreening, except you clean up the bad stuff and it’s less work.

Speaking of Photoshop and software, once you had taken the photos, what software were you stitching them together in?

To animate the images, I put them in Adobe Premier 6.5—that’s the 2002 edition of the program, which was the last version that had a function called Stop Motion where it took the images directly from your camera and automatically placed them all on the timeline at 24 frames per second. Since I used still images and I already had this program on my computer, I just ended up using Jasc PaintshopPro 8 for the effects (it’s pretty much a lesser clone of Photoshop), although you should definitely use Photoshop or After Effects for the effects, depending on how you’re animating it. That’s really the majority of the software I used. Your readers are probably really unimpressed right now and won’t watch my film, but that’s how I did it and it somehow managed to work.

Stop-motion animation is slow, painstaking work, and while action figures may look like people, they certainly don’t move like them. What do you look for in a figure when it comes to animation?

For any character, I try to find the action figure of that character with the most articulation (how many moveable joints the figure has) in order to get the best “performance” out of it.’s archives are a great resource to look at Star Wars figures and to get an idea of their sculpt, paint, and articulation.

I bet it’s pretty useful info if you’re buying your cast via mail order—speaking of which, where did you get your characters? Were you haunting Toys R Us for the last three years?

Nope; the best places to get Star Wars figures are eBay,,, and Amazon, plus for newer stuff. If you can get a figure loose (i.e. not in the packaging), it will save you a bit of money. The truly cheapest way to get toys is to join a collecting board and trade/buy with other users. It tends to be much cheaper than eBay and you have a lot more opportunities to get loose figures.

• • •

I’m sure there’s a joke to be made here about “I like my action figures the way I like my women: loose,” but of course, I’m far too much of a gentleman to say that (oops, guess I just did). In the meantime, tomorrow, we’ll run part two of the interview, getting some insight into custom action figures, how to make the little muthas stay in one place when you stand ‘em up, and the pros and cons of using a trumpet case as your animation base (really).

In the meantime, here’s Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the five-part Star Wars Tales; the other two will run with tomorrow’s interview finale

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