Physically Demanding Challenges

or: Teaching Animation (2)

As you’re reading my blog regularly, you’d know that I’m teaching two animation classes with kids in schools. A few weeks ago I introduced the students to pixilation, an absolutely outstanding animation technique.

Since their results are great and lovely, I’d like to share those great videos with you with their given permission:

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My personal favourites are the restaurant scene above and the murder below. – The kids were doing a great job!

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At that time, the kids and I were still working on the understanding of animation and it’s principles. I wanted them to learn about the lengthy process of animation by literally experiencing it. Each clip (except the short dancing sequence) took about 20 to 30 minutes and they had great fun – although eypecially the younger were moaning all the time it needed to complete the pieces. But they love the results! And so do I.

I brought several items that day I had collected randomly at my home, like a fork and a spoon, a teapot, some cups, a rope, juggling balls, clothes and stuff like that. They were meant as an invitation to play and the kids did their best as you could see.

Most of the time they moved their limbs and objects theirselves but occassionally some of the others helped to correct movements or other details like hair and else. We’re going to add sound effects to the videos later, so it might be much more fun to watch them again then.


Pixilation is a variant of animation in which real people act frame by frame like stop-motion puppets in front of the camera. The word pixilation might spring from the expression pixilated which again refers to the Pixies, an old English fairy folk – due to the weird, shaky or crazy movements this technique creates. At least so they say.

Norman McLaren is an artist who had made regular use of this technique. He seems to be the one who coined the phrase, and his film Neighbours (1952) is a great example of how it could work and works. Perhaps only Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer music video (1986) is a bit more popular object lesson on pixilation. You’ll find both Neighbours and Sledgehammer on youtube.

And I nearly forget to mention one of the greatest pixilation movies ever here, The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993) by Bolexbrothers in which they combined pixilation with stop-motion animation. Due to the sheer endless list of great pixilation films and videos it’s easy to miss one. There are a lot of contemporary filmmakers working in this field of animation right now.

Oh, and during my research on pixilation I found several information about the Sledgehammer clip. Did you know that Aardman was involved, and so were the Brothers Quay? Rumours say that a young Nick Park animated the chicken dance… I’m not sure about the Quay Brothers here, I always thought it had been Jan Švankmajer who added his unique style. However, I wasn’t able to find clear information about that. Do you know anything more specific? Feel free to add a comment!

12. November 2009 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. You’re doing a fabulous job, Jessica! Congratulations to you and the kiddies!

    (And I’m moaning all the time needed to complete my film too! :))))

  2. I’ve got something the kids might like: ‘The Wizard Of Speed & Time’ – you can find the trailer and some clips on youtube etc. (can’t watch videos here at the moment). It’s hillarious, no-budget and always makes me feel like a ten year old jumping with joy…

    And I really like the idea of teaching kids animtion through pixilation. Great idea !

  3. Hey Shel,
    thanks for the compliment! I guess everybody doing animation is moaning. – But if we wouldn’t love to do it we could stop, can’t we? … uhmm…

    And Michael, hi! I just found that low quality youtube video of [The Wizard Of Speed & Time](, so I thought it might be interesting to link it here… It was great fun to watch, thanks for the hint!

  4. Did you do any resarch about it too – I didn’t really try, but it want on a long list (headed ‘procrastination list…). Here is a beginning:



    And I’m glad to hear that you liked the link. Another idea that came (when I finally had the possibility to watch the clips): how about letting things (dis)appear in the short films. I saw it already happen, but how about clothes changing colours, backround items (dis)apperaing and a character struggling with all this… I think the kids might like it. All the best. M.

  5. Thanks for the other links, I’ve already found them before. You’re talking about the very basics of animation, the stop frame tricks as those Georges Méliès develepoded at the end of the 18th century… I highly recommend his work to you because I think you’d like it very much. Perhaps you’d already know it?

    Oh, and I edited your links, you could use [markdown syntax]( to insert clickable links.

  6. And I guessed so (about the links). A link here to very basic animation:


    Incredible work. Melies had later to sell most of his works (hundreds) to a factory – they made soles for shoes from it.
    And why must I alwys come along with such sad stories…

    All the best for your projects ! M.

  7. Yes, I know almost all of Méliès films, at least those with an existing copy. As a matter of fact I saw few of them at the Vienna film museum. – He must have been an absolutly outstanding artist…