One of the main attractions of stop motion animation is to be found in how the animator plays with materials, since the medium’s specificity, compared to 2D or 3D animation, is to film objects in real space. If any filmic medium actually needs energy to power the cameras and computers used to edit the movie amongst other uses, we can only be glad, as Miyazaki is, that cinematographic film or celluloid’s time is over (see Le Roy 2013: 37-84), because plastics and chemicals were massively used and most of the copies of a film were often destroyed once exploited in movie theatres. But what of all the plastics used to produce the objects and characters in stop-motion animation? Indeed, plasticine, rubber or latex, synthetic fibers, textiles or foams are commonly used on the stage and all this material is, again, destroyed once the movie is shot, especially since archiving it would take way more space than celluloid sheets. Also, super productions like Aardman’s or Laika’s require big-scale staging that inflates mechanically the mass of material used for the characters and objects populating the scene.

One can think that, like in every professional environment, artists have to decrease their production to break the depletion of resources, which is anyway unavoidable for every nonrenewable matter. At the actual pace, every petroleum-derived or metallic material may cease being massively produced around 2050 when the primal resources will become very critical and extremely expensive to extract from new mines. In fact, we can witness obvious issues related to the business structure itself and instantly deduce some already overexploited licenses. Besides, it has already been demonstrated how oil-sponsored media, which are themselves based on petrochemistry, could ironically become an advertisement platform for oil or a way to promote a model of society mainly based on “celebrating the mobility […], a mobility often made possible by oil and gasoline” (Ohmer 2021, 81). Merchandising products should also stop when it adds nothing new to the legacy of an artist. The American copyright is basically at the root of this deleterious franchise operations system that sees the companies striping the artists from day one. A qualitative series already having hundreds of episodes to rebroadcast do not need new incarnations or whatnot adaptations, especially poorer ones, but just new exposure.

Culture is implemented in society’s production of goods and services and, thus, also shares with most other sectors the same basic needs, or grey indirect impacts of its activity: electricity or gas for lights; heating and cooling buildings, or even ordering the construction of brand new ones; electricity or gasoline for the transport of materials or artists to the studios. It is already difficult to “decarbonate” the collateral damage side of cultural activities but even harder to “decarbonate” its very use of materials as illustrated by the last report from the French think-tank The Shift Project.

Figure 1

Having worked thoroughly on the sublimation, transfiguration, or substitution of one matter by another in stop motion productions, I think we have here, ready-made if I may say, a profound symbol of the Promethean myth issue, in other words, we have a symbol of how much humankind tends to find double-edged substitutes to resolve difficulties, thus backfiring retroactively. Nonetheless, I found out that the punkish and collective attitude of Beast Animation (or more precisely the Panique! Production Belgian collective) was in stark contrast with the corporate conception from Aardman and Laika. Of course, the series, shorts and movie of A Town Called Panic!, produced since 2002 and ongoing, still belong to the underground, despite the numerous prizes won, compared to mainstream ones like Aardman and Laika. However, the ecological side of the Belgians’ work does not only reside mechanically, in the low-budget production. It is rooted in their global vision of stop motion and in their “bricolage” aesthetic, going back to what a picture or sound composer is the best at: playing, but in the first sense of the word, like children with their toys, only in a more elaborate way. For example, they do not use complex articulated models or puppets and mechanisms. They mostly use already existing hard action figures that they find in local flea markets and custom them by breaking, disarticulating, and gluing them again more or less roughly but genuinely. Even if the look of the puppet is thus not stable, the fusing effect of the medium compensates greatly, especially since the shorts are very dynamic “rollercoasters”. In 2015, they needed a swarm of pigs for a scene and were lacking a lot of them so they asked fans on social networks to send them any small action pig figures they had by post and it worked (see Figure 1). Filmmakers and close friends Patar & Aubier do not flee ahead of the manipulation difficulties in the stop motion practice by resorting to substitute heavy technologies like hard-to-generate 4K or 8K highly detailed CGI [1] or ones that need a lot of consumables like the 3D printer is, something Laika and Aardman have been doing for at least a decade, stuck in the 20th-century progressive ideal.


BOZAK, Nadia (2011), The Cinematic Footprint, Lights, Camera, Natural Resources, Rutgers University Press.

LE ROY, Éric (2013), Cinémathèques et archives du film, Edited by Armand Colin.

OHMER, Susan (2021), “On the Road with Mickey and Donald, Walt Disney, Standard Oil, and the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939” in Petrocinema, Sponsored Film and the Oil Industry, Edited by Marina Dahlquist, Patrick Vonderau, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Dr. Cyril Lepot is a stop motion specialist whose research revolves around interdisciplinary approaches feeding from philosophy of art, art and medium theories, film studies, biology, physics, and philosophy of sciences or intermedial theories. Nevertheless, these beams are pointed in the same direction and bundled to describe the full potential of the stop motion medium as being a means to produce analog simulations and more specifically a way to emulate, translate, transfigure or sublimate one matter thus transmuting into another. This analog simulation distinguishes itself from the digital simulation made through the algorithmic process at the base of computer graphic imagery.

[1] “ […] the digital image is shot through with dirty geopolitics and environmental toxicity.” in BOZAK, Nadia, The Cinematic Footprint, Lights, Camera, Natural Resources, Rutgers University Press, 2011, p. 59-60.