Fan Film, Fan Films

More Stop-Motion Animation Secrets of Star Wars Tales

star wars talesIn December, FCT covered Danny Mosier’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; today in the conclusion of the interview, we get 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.

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!


Some of your more original characters, I have to say, I didn’t recognize from any of the Star Wars films—what’s the story there?

They’re custom figures; if you have an original character in you fan film, you might want to look into making one. I made several custom figures for Star Wars Tales and it’s a relatively quick and fun hobby to get into if you’re interested in it at all and the only way to make your own figures (and I do commissions, if anyone’s interested!).

Some Lego animators I’ve talked to love the fact that the little figures in Brixploitation movies don’t fall over that much, but I bet that’s not the case with Star Wars figures. How do you keep them in one place so that you don’t accidentally knock them over and such?

As far as having the figures stand goes, I’ve done several things. There’s this company called Ultrama that’s famous for their action figure displays, and they sell small pegs for both 3 3/4″ scale (Star Wars and GI Joe scale) and 6″ scale ones (Marvel Legends, DC Direct, etc. scale). For scenes where I used the pegs, I had a cardboard base and essentially drilled a hole that was big enough to fit the peg but was also small enough to allow the peg to stay still without the figure pushing it down.

They work well if the figures are not walking. The pegs allow for a great flexibility to animate the upper body and keep the figure relatively still. The major drawback is that they, of course, can’t walk when you’re doing this and you have to plan the animation around where you’re going to station the pegs. I didn’t use this method too much, though, since it is a little bit more work. Additionally, I used a trumpet case as a base for a lot of the animation, and of course I won’t drill holes into that.

The nice thing about animation, though, is if you’re not filming a long shot and can’t see their feet, you can just tape them down and make sure none of the tape peeks in the frame. If they have to move a little bit and you can’t tape them down, one of the things I often did was just to hold the feet down with my hand and made sure none of my flesh appeared in the frame. While it was a bit strenuous on my part and wildly uncontrollable, it does allow you to move the figure around and sometimes your shadow can add a nice lighting touch to the frames.

More articulation equals increased posability, and with more articulation, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to move and pose the figure in that one perfect position that makes it stand perfectly still. Of course this is painful, but watch any professional stop motion animator at work and you’ll see how that pain goes with the job. Sometimes with increased joints, they can get wobbly if they’re overused, but even when this happens, I do find it much easier to pose them as opposed to using an upright figure with four points of articulation where, if it falls over, you’re screwed.

Balance can also be a problem when posing a figure that is not tied or held down. As you might see in part five of my fan film, the figure of Taykla had a real problem with this due to her massive head with the head-tails. Threre’s not much you can do with an unbalanced figure such as that (it was a custom, but this problem does occur with factory product); you can just use one of the methods above or just find another model.

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