ITVBe’s THE SOUND COLLECTOR Showcases The Best Stop-Motion Film and TV Shows Including THE TRAP DOOR + PADDINGTON
The Best Stop-Motion Film and TV Shows
A highly skilled filmmaking technique, stop-motion animation really took off in the 1950s with Ray Harryhausen’s unforgettable FX in a series of super successful fantasy films, which continued well into the 1980s.
In stop-motion animation, objects, often puppets, are physically manipulated in tiny increments which are then captured in a still photograph. Moving the puppet for the next photo, the result creates a string of single frame images that appear to move when played back-to-back.
To celebrate ITVBe’s The Sound Collector, created and produced by Eagle Vs Bat, we take a look at some of the very best stop-motion film and television shows.
Based upon the Paddington Bear novels by Michael Bond, the Paddington TV show was the first adaptation of the popular children’s book and was broadcast from 1976 to 1980 on BBC1, with three television specials appearing between 1980 and 1986.
The show revolved around the adventures an accident-prone but well-meaning bear from Darkest Peru and the Browns; the loving family that took him in after discovering him in London’s Paddington train station.
The show was unusual in that it combined a wonderful three-dimensional Paddington puppet with two-dimensional paper cut-out backgrounds and characters, predominantly in black and white, giving the show a very distinctive style. This style was masterminded by animator Ivor Wood, famous for The Magic Roundabout and Postman Pat, to eliminate the need for lots of puppets in the crowded London scenes. Additionally, as an aesthetic choice it immediately positioned Paddington as the outsider, helping audiences to sympathise with his endless mistakes and mishaps.
Created by FilmFair, the British production company and animation studio responsible for many popular children’s shows including The Wombles, the first series ran for 30 5-min episodes under the direction of Wood, with the second series winning a silver medal at the New York Film and Television Festival in 1980, the first British animated series to ever do so.
All 56 episodes across the two series were written by Michael Bond and narrated using the wonderfully distinctive voice of Sir Michael Hordern.
The Trap Door (1986–1990)
Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions where nobody goes stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place lives Berk, overworked servant of The Thing Upstairs. But that’s nothing compared to the horrors that lurk beneath the trap door. For there is always something down there, in the dark, waiting to come out…
Created by British animators Charlie Mills and Terry Brain, who together were known as ‘Brainbox Mills’, The Trapdoor was first shown in the UK in 1986 - a golden age for all manner of weird and wonderful monsters on Children’s TV!
Revolving around the daily antics of a band of monsters living in a Haunted Castle, owned by an unseen, cantankerous creature known only as the Thing Upstairs, the show’s main protagonist is the overworked Berk, who spends his time hanging out with his disembodied skull companion Boni, doing his master's bidding and trying to the keep the real horrors underneath the eponymous trapdoor at bay.
Inhabited by monsters of every imaginable shape and size, the horror-inspired world of The Trap Door allowed the Bristol-based CMTB to create an endless array fantastical characters and disgusting recipes (eyeball jam anyone?) to delight the children, while its dark humour kept the adults entertained. Even the catchy opening theme began with a lampoon of Vincent Price’s famous horror film introductions.
With a vibrant, hands-on approach to all their work, CMTB didn’t overly concern themselves about how polished the final episodes looked, instead choosing to place flexibility and performance above neatness and perfection – resulting in a spontaneous liveliness to the series.
Later responsible for another Claymation classic Stoppit and Tidyup just a few years later, Terry Brain then went on to work for Aardman Animation where he worked on the Wallace and Gromit films, as well as Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep Movie and the animated TV show Creature Comforts.
Wallace and Gromit (1989–present)
From starting as a concept in Nick Park’s sketchbook, Wallace and Gromit has grown to become a staple of British afternoon television. Aardman Animation’s stop-motion comedy franchise so far consists of four short films - A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and A Matter of Loaf and Death - and one feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Centring on the good-natured Wallace, a cheese-loving inventor, and his pal Gromit, a highly intelligent beagle, each Wallace and Gromit outing has impressively gone on to either win or be nominated for a prestigious Academy Award.
Shot using the traditional stop-motion animation technique, pre-production of the films began with highly detailed storyboarding alongside set and plasticine model construction. Shooting the films one frame at a time, the characters were moved in miniscule increments to give the impression of movement in the final film. Sadly, most models from all Aardman productions were destroyed in a fire in 2005.
Peter Sallis, another stalwart of British television, with his performance as Cleggy in the BBC’s Last of the Summer Wine, lent his voice to the character of Wallace, with Benjamin Whitehead taking on responsibilities after Sallis retired from the role in 2010.
In January 2022, the exciting news of a new Wallace and Gromit film was announced.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
This 2009 release signalled Wes Anderson’s first full foray into feature film animation. Based upon the classic children’s novel by Roald Dahl, the film boasts an incredible cast of superstar voices; George Clooney; Meryl Streep; Bill Murray; Willem Dafoe; Jason Schwartzman and Anderson regular Owen Wilson.
To bring his vision to life, Anderson called upon some of the very best names in the puppet-making business – The Sound Collector’s very own, Mackinnon and Saunders. Basing their puppets on beautifully detailed drawings by Félicie Haymoz, Mackinnon and Saunders began fleshing out the character designs into three dimensions using plasticine clay and steel frameworks which were approximately 12 inches tall.
It was clear during pre-production that Anderson didn’t want the film to look polished. Instead, he wanted viewers to embrace the hand-made medium of stop-motion – which only served to compliment Dahl’s darkly-humorous work further. Anderson injects a sense of homemade delight into every aspect of the film, making it all seem endearingly cobbled together when of course it was painstakingly made over the course of several years.
The foxes bristle with exposed fur and the charming world is permeated with authentic texture – Anderson’s meticulous, attention to detail is a perfect fit for an art form that demands such patience and care.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)
Acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro once said, “No art form has influenced my life and my work more than animation and no single character in history has had as deep of a personal connection to me as Pinocchio,” and with his 2022 film winning Best Animated Film at the 2023 Academy Awards, it’s a testament to Del Toro’s brilliance and creativity that this oft-told tale can still bring about excitement among audiences.
Starting in development over 15 years ago, Del Toro had always envisioned the film as a stop-motion production. He also knew that key members of the cast had to be built by The Sound Collector’s very own Mackinnon and Saunders. Describing them as “the best in the world,” Mackinnon and Saunders are renowned not only for their expertise, but also for constantly pushing the boundaries of stop-motion animation.
Using the same mechanical gear system they invented for Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, the mechanisms inside the puppets head would allow the animators to adjust the gears between frames to move the silicone skin, enabling the animator to create nuances and subtle expressions.
Achieving its lifelike stop-motion by mixing old and modern techniques, the title character was built via metal and resin 3-D printing but it’s fitting that the tradition of stop-motion animation would be utilised to tell the famous story of a wooden boy that comes to life.
The Sound Collector (2023)
A masterful mix of live-action and stop-frame animation, The Sound Collector is the brainchild of creators/showrunners Erica (formerly Darby) & Tom Angell of Eagle Vs Bat. Airing daily on ITVBe and streaming on ITX, the show is narrated by Keira Knightley in her first-ever pre-school children’s programme.
The Sound Collector spends his days discovering and using new sounds that he finds on his adventures: the blooping and popping of sea anemones, the hissing of the tide drawing back along a pebble beach or even the snores and snuffles of his best friend and pet, Mole. He is endlessly fascinated by the world around him and whether he loves sound because of, or despite the fact that he is very hard of hearing, it is the focus of his life in an incredibly positive way.
Eagle Vs Bat chose stop-motion animation for the show as they believe it’s tactility and handmade detail is the perfect match for the show's macro focus on sound, inspiring audiences to seek joy and wonderment in the little things and gaining a new appreciation for the world around them, from the littlest insect to the tallest tree!
The stop motion animation is brought to us by the creative minds at Mackinnon & Saunders Ltd. Based in Manchester, Ian MacKinnon and Peter Saunders first teamed up 35 years ago at UK stop frame giant Cosgrove Hall and have since worked on a huge range of TV shows, feature films and everything else in-between. They pioneered new techniques in puppet making on productions such as the BAFTA-winning The Reluctant Dragon and Emmy Award-winning The Fool of the World and their puppet making skills are renowned throughout the world.
The Sound Collector is a beautiful, heart-warming series that is already becoming a favourite among households.
Make sure to catch up on the wonderful adventures of The Sound Collector and his best friend Mole – available to stream on ITVX, Sky, Virgin, Apple TV & Amazon and will air daily on ITVBe at 10:20am from 12th May, with brand new episodes beginning 1st June!
THE SOUND COLLECTOR STREAMS ON ITVX, SKY, VIRGIN, APPLE TV & AMAZON AND WILL AIR DAILY ON ITVBE AT 10:20AM FROM MAY 12 WITH BRAND NEW EPISODES BEGINNING ON JUNE 1