Analyzing a Stop Motion film – Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo has been congratulated for being the most advanced stop motion film to come out in a long time, for good reason, Laika, the company responsible went to great lengths for the movie in terms of technical effects.


Laika used a lot of green screens and much larger puppets in this film than they had before to create more dynamic visuals, as seen in the screenshot above in which Kubo looks at a large yellow eyed monster which is even bigger than a person.


The above screen shot also has very good use of colour the different shades of green give a sickly look to the environment with the bright yellow light contrasting it well and taking the main attention.

The movements of Kubo when he was underwater was also very realistic and well done, with him bobbing slowly as he swam, the attention to these little details while animating in stop motion are always appreciated as it shows dedication to the film which gives the viewer a good reason to want to support the film, as they know the people who worked on it worked hard.

The model of Kubo himself is very well made; the use of different materials makes the puppet seem more realistic as well as varied so that the viewer can clearly see which part the clothes are, what is skin and what is hair. It would have probably been very difficult to work with such different textures, given that they use stop motion for their animation which needs every slight movement to be exact or else it will look strange, the clothes look very loose which means that some of the movements could have been difficult to shoot as the clothes would move when the cameraman didn’t want them to. I probably won’t use a cloth material for my stop motion because of this fact but it’s good to see a company that is able to do it well.

Something else to point out about Kubo’s model is the fact that the skin has a lot of its own texture, with certain parts of the face being a red colour while everything else is more pale beige, this helps the character look more realistic as well as to put emphasis on shadows that naturally fall on the face, since Laika used stop motion they wouldn’t be able to input an artificial light source which would be able to put the shadows onto the face and body through coding, like a 3D model could be, which meant that the colouring had to actually be painted onto each face they used for each expression, another example of the crew’s dedication to the films details. The model also had to be painted on because without the painted on shadows the face would look strangely plain, unfinished and texture-less in comparison to the rest of the models body as well as the sets.

The colouring itself is very good, the colours are smooth and seep into each other in a way much like how human skin does, however, it has a stylistic spin on it by how emphasized the red around the nose and jaw is. The clothes have a dirty feel to them as they’ve been torn and stained, this could have been done to show how Kubo has travelled far on his adventure, by giving him travel torn clothes it creates an image of Kubo as a brave explorer, the sort of character that is used a lot as a main character in children’s media as it’s seen as a good role model for children to explore their world.


You can see in the picture how Kubo’s hair is very dark blue so that, when shone a light on, it creates a lighter blue colour, this was a good stylistic choice because, while not realistic, it’s appealing and can help show each section of hair they put on Kubo, showing the hard work put into the model.

Generally Kubo has a varied colour scheme depending on mood and setting, mood and setting also usually correlate, for example:


Here we can see Kubo, Monkey and Beetle overlooking a landscape, the colours used are mostly yellows and golden with rays of sun shining onto them from one side of the screen, the use of golden and yellow have the connotation of happiness and heroism which lead to a viewer possibly feeling like they’re about to embark on a brave quest as a result.

The use of walking into the sunset, as the three are doing, is a trope used for when heroes are leaving an area, usually at the end of a film or after a happy/hopeful scene has happened and they’re about to face the big villain of the film, the use of this trope is usually symbolism for a new start or adventure after one has ended, or simply a new perspective on something. This, in turn gives the audience a sense of hope and excitement for the next part of the adventure, creating excitement and anticipation in this form is a very good idea, especially if the story is about to reach its last act because if a film wishes to be remember it must end on a high note by making the audience excited for a good payoff and giving it to them.


The pale yellow of the sky mixed with the misty mountains in the background and birds flying in the sky give the audience a sense of peace, this can add to the excitement by representing the calm before the storm. The mellow yellow is much less bold than the bright gold colour of the grass in the foreground, this creates a good contrast between the two and stop the scene from becoming overwhelmed by bright colours or underwhelmed by less saturated colours. The mountains stretching into the distance give the audience a sense of depth as it shows the audience how large this world is.


In contrast, the image above gives a sense of peace for a different reason, the dark blue colours against the saturated yellow of the fireflies and the stark white and red of the models and foreground contrasts well and is a beautiful mix of colouring. The reason this scene is also relaxing is because of how, almost simple it seems in design; the space seen on the camera is uncluttered and has large empty spaces filled with just the dark background and bright yellow fireflies. The fireflies themselves, against the dark background are very reminiscent of stars in a night sky which many people find relaxing to look at sometimes, there is also the fact that the only different colour is Kubo who wear bright red and stands out against everything else, this is to create the connotation that Kubo is different and special in comparison to the world around him, by doing this Laika can easily show that Kubo is the main hero who should have the most focus on him.

In conclusion I believe that Laika put a lot of detail into their film

Completed Stop Motion Animation

I had a lot less time on my stop motion animation compared to my 2D animation so I had a lot less time to plan and create what I wish, however, even with this setback I was able to create a fairly good animation.

My main source of inspiration for it was Lotte Reiniger who is famous for her silhouette stop motion animations. I sadly couldn’t create proper silhouettes since I had no access to a light box  so I had to make do with a plain piece of white paper. I felt that it would have been too dangerous to try and cut each star on the witches dress and hat out as it couldhave easily lead to me cutting too much off so I improvised by painting white where the stars were. If I was able to add anything else on or even restart I would have liked to paint the pins I used to allow the puppets movement black so that they didn’t stick out so much as it talks away from the immersion and also loses a bit of the silhouette stop motion style.

I decided to use the bright colours of red green and blue because they would stand out the most against the white background, however, while they stood out more than some other colours they still could easily blend into the background because of lighting, especially the green which was very faint at first until I replaced the green colouring pencil I used. If I could start again I would like to have used the darker, more bold green colouring pencil from the start.

I sadly didn’t use any music or sound effects, though I wanted to, the reason I didn’t was because I didn’t feel I could make any music short enough to fit 5 seconds, same goes for sound effects, however i also wasn’t sure what sound effects i could use. I’d been considering the foley work to be the sound of hitting a glass cup with water in it and recording the noise that happens and then adding a reverb in Adobe Audition and if the animation had been longer I would have, but I felt the sound effects would overlap as there isn’t much breathing room between each spell casting.

To create the coloured flash I used a special light I own which can be set to a red, green and blue colour, another reason for why I picked those colours for the spells. I took a picture of the witch with the coloured light on and then turned the light back to normal white light, below you cane see an example of what I did.

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 10.26.53

I made the coloured frame only last a couple of seconds and fade in and out to look less present in comparison to the normal frames, since these were only on screen for a split second.

In conclusion I think my stop motion animation came out well and was very smooth and had a lot of cool ideas, such as using the multi coloured light to create a cool lighting effect and if I’d had more time I would have created foley sound and music for it.

Completed Hope Animation and Evaluation

My Hope animation is the first ever animation I’ve ever done, meaning that, in my opinion, there was a lot that went wrong however it was a very good learning experience as I learnt how to use Adobe Animate well, including the key shortcuts Animate has.

The feedback I got from my class after I finished version 1 of my animation was very insightful and helped me to finish the final version seen on my blog. The main complaints were about a lack of foley and the music not being very good which I agree with, my first piece of music I put together in just half an hour and I reused a lot of tracks which didn’t blend well together.

To follow my feedback and improve the music I restarted my music entirely and spent an hour and a half coming up with the new music, one specific complaint I got was that the pitch and volume went much too high at one point which was not a pleasant sound to hear, so to fix this I kept an awareness of how high the pitch was going and how loud the notes were getting at certain points. To follow my other piece of feedback on adding foley, I went around my house and recorded numerous sounds to use in the animation which brings me onto my next criticism of my final production, one of my sounds near the end, while audible when putting in headphones seems to be a much lower volume without headphones, if I was to have more time to I would have liked to go back to Premier Pro or Audition to put the volume of that sound piece was high enough to be heard over the music better without headphones.

For my foley work I used a Pringles cylinder container with some dried rice in it to create the sound of rushing waves, this was my favourite, in my opinion, most creatively made sound, I put the sound into Audition and gave it a louder volume and added an echo effect to simulate when the sea crashes into rocks and reverberates off of them. The other sounds I created were the loud crash of the plant pot hitting the table which I made using a thick and heavy china bowl and hitting it against the table, the bowl wasn’t damaged in the impact but created the closest sound I could get, I would have liked to use a real plant pot but that could have been much more dangerous and would have been more likely to lead to a smashed plant pot.

I used the sound of water droplets in a sink of varying quantity to create the sounds of the watering can pouring different amount of water, it took many attempts at getting the sound right because the droplets kept causing a different sound upon impact with the material of the sink than what I wanted, meaning it was imperative I had small droplets that hit the basin. I couldn’t use actual rushing water because that created the sound of water hitting metal on the sink’s hole as well as being too fast and harsh for what I had in mind so to create the sound I had to turn the tap on and then turn it off and record the few droplet of water that come out after it’s turned off and rinse and repeat that with different amount of water numerous times till I got my sounds.

In terms of my actual animation I personally feel, for a first attempt I did ok, I went with a frame by frame style of 2D animation which increased the work load but also gave me full control of everything that happens on screen meaning I was easily able to show squash and stretch as well as timing.

I had the characters bounce a lot when moving, especially the character Mari who had a lot of smear frames in her movement as well as having the more squash and stretch applied to her to exaggerate her expressions and movements; such as when she begins smiling, her cheeks will rise and squash to make her face more squashed together, this was to emulate how face’s in real life squash and stretch when pulling expressions, both Mari and Bea had moments of stretching out exaggeratedly, such as when Bea leaps back in surprise at Mari or when Mari appears next to Mari near the beginning of the animation.

The reason I had so much squash and stretch was because my hope animation is supposed to be at the foremost, a comedy, particularly a slapstick style, so I took inspiration from numerous well known animated slapstick comedies such as Tom and Jerry as well as Loony Toons and studied how they used squash and stretch to emphasize and exaggerate movement for comedic purposes.

One thing I disliked about my animation was the timing; I’m still learning how to do timing well enough to create the effect of force behind something, such as when Bea threw the flower or when Mari smashed the watering can onto the plant pot, I know that to put more weight on to an action you should hold on the positions longer and have more of an arc in the movement, with more frames for reeling back before the contact and less once the contact is about to happen, I was unsure of how to do this for some movements, such as Bea throwing her flower and as well as that I felt the time could overrun if I did, if I could redo the animation I would have liked to spend more time on the timing to put more weight on some of the movement.

Style wise I was ok with the art style my animation took, it was a very general stylized look that wasn’t too realistic that slapstick and squash and stretch would look weird but realistic enough to know that we were looking at people, personally I would have liked to spent much more time making the models stay accurate more, with the change of expressions and head positions I had to redraw the characters a lot to fit the expression or movement they were doing, causing the character to go off model a bit, and to even change position slightly when they should be staying still.

As well as this there were a couple of mistakes where I accidentally left something uncoloured, such as Mari’s eye at the end, or a more obvious one, the plant pot disappearing before the tree trunk has had time to wipe the screen and change backgrounds, this was because of me putting the plant pot frames on a layer where they couldn’t go too long, or they’d ruin another frame’s timing, a solution to this would have been to simply put the frame on a different layer and if I had more time I would have liked to.

I personally feel like my style was ok and from the feedback I was given a majority agreed with me, giving it a 5 out of 5, the others giving it a 4 out of 5. So I felt no need to change it in the second version I made.

In terms of the actual character I personally had a lot of fun writing what would happen with them as well as creating the distinct personality difference between them, I wanted their personalities to be a lot like what the two general outlooks on hope are, with Mari being optimistic and trusting in hope full heartedly and Bea being more pessimistic towards the idea of hope and much more sombre in attitude.

I thought a lot about the designs of the characters and how it would have connotations on hope and them, for example, the reason I made Mari’s dress green was because green is a colour usually linked to growth and Spring, which has its own connotations of rebirth happiness and nature. The reason I picked this colour for Mari was because she’s trying to help Bea grow her plant, albeit unsuccessfully but was also helping Bea to grow and become less pessimistic towards hope.

I made Bea’s colours much dark in contrast to Bea, with dark blues and purples, this is because darker colours have the connotation of being sadder and generally more pessimistic compared to greens and I felt it would be a good colour to contrast against Mar’s green dress.

The flowers I had in the animation are both used to represent hope, with the first plant, the blue iris, meaning general hope and the snow drop meaning hope and friendship, I felt it would be good symbolism to have Bea throw away her old dead flower that meant hope for a new, still growing flower that also meant hope but also had a strong symbolic meaning of friendship.

In terms of colours I think I did pretty well, I had the colours of Bea and Mari change in each scene, with the first scene having their colours be more dull and ark, to represent the sad and hopeless feeling at the time, then when the next scene happens of them at the Cliffside, Mari and Bea’s colours are more saturated and bright because 1: when you’re facing the sun directly outside your colours would be affected and it would be weird to have kept the same dull unsaturated colours when they were outside in the sun. 2: It was supposed to represent how Bea and Mari make up and find a new flower, i.e. hope and become more optimistic. The last scene is in the middle of the other two colours schemes for Bea and Mari in terms of saturation, this is because I wanted it to be a good parallel to the first scene where their colours were much more dull as the mood was more sad but now the mood is happier the colours are brighter and more cheerful.

In summary I feel, for my first attempt at animation I did pretty well at it, my animation was mostly smooth and I enjoyed creating it greatly and also took the feedback given to me by my classmates to improve it, and while there are a couple of things I would like to change if I had had the time I’m pretty content with how the final piece came out.

12 principles of animation

1: Timing/spacing
The essence of animation
The speed at which something is moving gives a sense of what the object is.
2: Ease in and out
Ease in and out has to do with gradually causing an object to accelerate, or come to rest, from a pose. For example, a bouncing balls tends to have a lot of ease in and out when at the top of its bounce.
Everything in real life moves typically in an arcing motion
When creating animation one should try to have motion follow curved paths rather than linear ones
Even gross body movements when you walk somewhere tend to be perfectly straights
     Action in animation usually occurs in three sections
The motion, the actual action and then the follow-through of the action
The first part is known as anticipation, sometimes, anticipation is needed physically.
Anticipation is used to lead the viewers eye to prepare them for the action that follows.
Longer period of anticipation is needed for faster reaction

For good clear animation, the viewer should know what is about to happen, what is happening and what happened.

     Exaggeration is used to accent an action
If used in a careful and balanced = better results
Figure out what the desired goal of an action or sequence is and what sections need to be exaggerated
The key is to take something and make it more extreme but keep it believable

6:Squash and stretch
    Deforming an object in such a way that it shows how rigid the object is.
No matter how an object deforms, it should still appear to retain its volume
Most obvious usage = muscle

7: Secondary action
     Refers to creating actions that emphasise or support the main action of the animation
The secondary action should typically be subtle.

8: Follow though and overlapping action
Can be considered two different principles
Follow through: The idea that separate parts of the body will continue moving after the character has come to a stop
Overlapping action is a very similar in that it means different parts of the body will move at different times

9: Straight ahead action and pose to pose action
   Straight ahead = linear
Pose to pose = methodical/planned out

10: Staging
     The set up of your scene
It’s purpose to make the purpose of the animation unmistakably clear to the viewer
keep focus on the purpose of the shot and what you want to communicate

11: Appeal
     Comes down to adding more appeal in many different areas of your animation e.g: Character design
You want to have a character that the audience can connect to or relate to

12: Personality
   Refers to the correct application of the other principles
It determines the success of an animation
One character would not perform an action the same way in two different emotions
No two characters would act the same

Character animation is about an artist bringing a character to life.
It requires the artist to interpret and create something that is more than the original.


Hope animation treatment

Working Title – Bloom


Genre –  Bloom is a 2d frame by frame animation.


Duration – around 70-80 seconds long


Target Audience – My main demographic is younger children from the ages of 9 up to 30 year olds, the demographic includes both females and males however has a slight lean towards women with the main two characters being female.

The psychographics of the group I’m appealing to are

  • People that enjoy cartoons and the sort of physical comedy that goes into it.
  • People who enjoy animation
  • Optimistic about the idea of hope
  • Understands metaphors

The social economic groups I’m applying to is most,since the animations contents should be relatable to everyone but the demographics I’m trying to appeal to most is A – C2 groups.



Outline – My hope animation is about a young girl named Bea who’s flowers dies, her girlfriend, Mari, arrives and tries numerous times to help the flower, all failing. First she tries to water the plant and then accidentally pours all the water over the plant, drowning the plant and then tries to replicate the sun using a light but accidentally sets the flower on fire.

Bea then leaves the room and goes to stand by a cliffside, Mari tries to give her the dead plant but Bea throws it out to sea. Mari looks horrified before noticing Bea smiling, Mari then notices a red leaf behind them which she investigates to find a snowdrop flower.

Bea and mari plant the snowdrop and give it a note stating that it symbolises hope.

The topic of my story is hope and re-finding hope once it’s destroyed.


Character Breakdown
Name: Mari
19           Race: Black
Gender: Female     Romantic Preferences: Lesbian
Personality: Has an optimistic attitude towards most things, tries to help when possible to varying rates of success. Is very compassionate when others are upset (especially Bea). Can sometimes be a bit absent minded.

Other info.
Colour scheme: Greens and whites with a little bit of dark pink for hair
Cares a lot about making people happy
Is in a relationship with Bea
Name: Bea
Age: 20           Race: Asian
Gender: Female     Romantic Preferences: Lesbian
Personality: Is more of a pessimist than Mari. Has a much more somber mood. She doesn’t have hope through the animation.

Other info
Colour scheme:
Blues and purples
Cares a lot about plants
Is in a relationship with Mari


Visual Elements / Mise en Scene- The lighting changes 3 times, at first it’s low key lighting then it becomes fairly high key and the last scene goes back to neutral lighting.
The camera stays still for most of the animation but has a few pans to the left and right and also zooms out a bit near the end of the animation.

The setting is in modern time in England. The sets are in a bedroom and on a cliffside.

Audio – The soundtrack will be created by myself. There will be foley based sound effects also created by me. The music will be made on Garageband.

I will be making the sound of the sea using a Pringles tube with dry rice inside and will make the other various


Rationale – I chose this idea because it was easy to understand the meaning of and would be open to any sort of person watching. The current skills I have are a basic knowledge of how animation works, though not how to apply it properly, hopefully, this project will help me learn how to. I also have a basic understanding of how to use Adobe Animate, including the shortcuts, meaning I can do certain tasks much quicker, such as ad new key frames. I also have a fairly good understanding of GarageBand

To achieve my idea I will have to learn how to animate in a realistic and generally good way as well as how to use Premier Pro to edit the video and audio together and export it as the correct file type at the end.


Primary and Secondary Research – The research I have undertaken to back up my idea is to research what hope is in basic definition as well as historically and philosophically, to understand how other people represent and see hope so I can use it in my animation. I also researched the different types of animation that exists and analysed why it’s appealing to people and how I can use it to make people find my animation appealing, such as colour schemes and the speed of movement as well as general symbolism.

Before trying to do the full animation I’ve done numerous animation tests to see if a movement would work in the final piece, such as a hair test to see if having the animation of hair blowing in the wind would work, I also did a test to see if I could animate water correctly.


Requirements and resources –  The equipment I’ll need is a computer with Adobe Animate, GarageBand, Adobe Audition and Adobe Premier Pro on it. I’ll also need a sketchbook to sketch my ideas and processes into, I’ll also need a recording device, preferably a microphone but a normal phone will work too.


Constraints and Contingency – A big problem I think I’ll have is time restraints, since I started this idea a bit later than I should have since I’d originally planned for a different idea, however this problem will be easily overcome by simply editing my schedule I made to indicate where i changed my idea and then restart the creation of storyboards, animatic and animation, luckily the character and background designs will probably be reusable so I can keep those for this second idea.


Legal and ethical considerations – My animation will be shown to a panel of judges for a competition and, if it is put into the final it will be shown on a big screen to a large group, including myself, however since the competition is for young people. the crowd will also include children as young as 8 or 9, meaning the animation will have to be family friendly since showing an adult oriented animation to a large group of children is unethical for numerous reason, including that it’s inappropriate and I’ll get in serious trouble for disobeying the rules the judges had put in place.


Budget – Potential costs include the monthly cost of the Adobe Suite which, with the student deal I have would be about £15 per month.


Schedule – The schedule I created shows that I would have a maximum of 42 days to create the animation but since I started a new idea I’l have less time, about 30 days or so.