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BFI Bringing Massive Celebration Of Stop Motion To London This Summer

Stop-motion animation is an often underappreciated artform. In cinema stop-motion features are much rarer than 2d or CG films. But some of them represent some of the most beautiful animated films ever made. The British Film Institute (BFI) is celebrating the medium this summer with a series of screenings presented in partnership with LAIKA.

The season will feature free screenings for under 16's at the BFI Southbank. An exhibition will run in parallel at the venue  LAIKA: Frame x Frame. It will showcase the art, science and innovation of the titular studio's films.

Films set to screen include King Kong (1933), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Chicken Run (2001), Corpse Bride (2005), Coraline (2009), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Anomalisa (2015). Special guests attending select screenings include Henry Selick (director of Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas), Chris Butler and Sam Fell (directors of ParaNormanGuillermo del Toro (Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio), Peter Lord (co-director Chicken Run), Nick Park (creator of Wallace and Gromit), The Brothers Quay (Street of Crocodiles), Suzie Templeton (Peter and the Wolf), Barry Purves (Achilles) and Osbert Parker (Clothes). More names are to be announced.

The season celebrates stop-motion and its unique analogue charm. Unlike other forms of animation is requires the production of physical objects and it gives the animation a distinct hand-on feel- fingerprints are sometimes even visible on screen. Perhaps the most time-consuming of all animation mediums, stop-motion has a magic all of its own.

The screenings are supported by acclaimed stop-motion studio LAIKA and curated by BFI Southbank's lead programmer Justin Johnson. The programme will include screenings of all five of LAIKA's films released to date- Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and The Two Strings and Missing Link, all of which were nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.

A special 15th Anniversary screening of Coraline will take place with writer/director Henry Selick and cast members in attendance for a Q&A, ahead of the film's international re-release. Henry Selick will also be attending a special In Conversation event, and ParaNorman directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell will also take part in a Q&A after the screening of their film.

The LAIKA Frame x Frame exhibition will run parallel to the season, and entry will be free. The exhibit showcases the artistry of the nearly one million hand-crafted frames that make up LAIKA’s five films.  Vistors will be able to see puppets, sets and artefacts from the production of the films- some never seen before. Perhaps most enticingly, it will offer a first look at the upcoming sixth film Wildwood. LAIKA Frame X Frame will run from August 1 to October 1.

The season will also highlight the work of British talent working in stop-motion. A programme of shorts from filmmakers Suzie Templeton (Academy Award winner for Peter and the Wolf), Barry Purves  and Osbert Parker will screen accompanied by a Q&A with the filmmakers. Shorts from Paul Berry and Daniel Greaves (Academy Award winner for Manipulation) will also accompany feature presentations during the season.

A programme of more recent stop-motion shorts funded through the BFI Short Form Animation fund and BFI Network, awarding fund from The National Lottery will also screen. They include Salvation Has No Name (Joseph Wallace, 2023), Visible Mending (Samantha Moore, 2023), Red Rover (Astrid Goldsmith, 2020) and Shackle (Ainslie Henderson, 2023), with many of the filmmakers attending. 

British stop-motion powerhouse Aardman will also be celebrated. Co-founder Peter Lord will take part in a career retrospective, and Nick Park will discuss his celebrated work alongside Wallace & Gromit creative director Merlin Crossingham. Aardman films screening in the season include Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. Beloved children's series will also feature including Bagpuss, Morph, Pingu and The Pingwings.

As well as the biggest names in Hollywood animation and British animation, the season will also spotlight independent animation from all around the world including My Life As A Courgette, Mary and Max, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On and the work of Jan ┼ávankmajer. It will also celebrate two names from the golden age of Hollywood: Ray Harryhausen with Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and VFX pioneer Willis O’Brien, who will be celebrated with classic screenings of King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949).

“We’re honoured to support the BFI’s stop motion season and offer visitors an insider’s look into the pioneering world of Laika through this exhibition,” says David Burke, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer at LAIKA. “Artists, scientists, and craftspeople at our Oregon studio pour their passion into telling these cinematic tales and fashioning immersive worlds. So, to create an experience that deepens the fans’ connection to Laika’s creative spirit is a great pleasure. We’re also thrilled that the BFI audience will be among the first to see the newly remastered 3D Coraline, which brings Neil Gaiman’s masterful storytelling into even deeper focus with stunning stereoscopic detail.”

“It’s impossible to overestimate the level of patience, vision and pure artistry that goes into making a great stop motion film,” says Justin Johnson, BFI Southbank Lead Programmer and curator of the season. “In this season, we present work by pioneers of the form throughout the years, in the company of some of the finest living stop motion auteurs who will share their knowledge in person on stage at BFI Southbank. With an incredible exhibition that unlocks the magic behind the films of Laika running in parallel, this is a unique opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves in every aspect of an art form that has thrilled people of all ages throughout the history of cinema.”

Stop Motion: Celebrating Hand-Crafted Animation on the Big Screen takes place at BFI Southbank, London from August 1 to 9 October. Tickets for August will be on sale to BFI Patrons from 1 July, BFI Members from 2 July and to the general public from 4 July, with tickets for September and early October on sale to BFI Patrons from 5 August, BFI Members from 6 August and to the general public from 8 August.