Why Animation Needs Anomalisa

Although Anomalisa got nominated for best animated feature, the acclaimed Charlie Kaufman/Duke Johnson stop-motion drama faced resistance from the animation community. 

Among the negative comments I’ve encountered were: it’s too talky, it doesn’t fully make use of stop-motion; the story leaves too many unanswered questions; there’s an inconsistency with regard to leaving the seams on the faces; it should’ve been a short; it shouldn’t have been animated at all.

Yet it’s such a bold, progressive move for stop-motion — just the kind of adult animation we keep demanding – despite dissatisfaction from those who either don’t appreciate Kaufman’s existential story or its minimalist aesthetic.

There are so many unforgettable moments, beginning with the shaky opening plane ride and then the uncomfortable taxi ride to the hotel. And how about that continuous-take from the lobby to the elevator to the corridor to the room, brilliantly executed by cinematographer Joe Passarelli? You don’t see that very often in stop-motion.

Or the scenes when Michael’s alone in his room or the unnerving meeting in the bar with his ex-girlfriend or the weird dream. Just the act of lighting a cigarette or holding a drink becomes a major accomplishment for stop-motion. And let’s not forget the superb trio of voice performances by David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan. The whole movie shifts dramatically when she achingly sings ”Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Then there’s the incredible sex scene, which took six months to perfect. The tenderness, vulnerability and realism achieved is difficult enough in live-action, let alone in stop-motion, which contained an additional set of challenges.

Indeed, this required special armatures from Merrick Cheney to get believable motions from Michael and Lisa. And  the bed sheets and comforter needed special rigging to make them animatable and life-like. Then removing clothes naturally was extremely difficult. The puppetry is magnificent, thanks, in particular, to supervisor Caroline Kastelic and animator Kim Blanchette.

Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Clips, Crafts, Movies, Oscar, stop-motion, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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