December is a time for holidays. And holidays often mean TOYS! For our virtual Lenfest Kids this month, we’ve chosen to explore the year’s theme of “repair” through three movies about broken and misplaced toys. Our “classic” is the CBS perennial Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), a stop-motion holiday film in which Rudolph and friends visit the Island of Misfit Toys. Our live-action selection is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011), in which a boy fixes his father’s automaton with the help of turn-of-the-century filmmaker Georges Méliès (see the “Get Creative” section to learn how to make a Méliès-style “trick film”). And our animated choice is Toy Story (1995), the first ever computer-animated feature film.


Watch Rob King, Lenfest Kids Programmer and Film Professor at the School of the Arts, explain how Toy Story came to be.


 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Island of Misfit Toys)

Dir. Larry Roemer, 1964

United States | PG | ages 3+

Sam the snowman tells us the story of a young red-nosed reindeer who, after being ousted from the reindeer games because of his beaming honker, teams up with Hermey, an elf who wants to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelius, the prospector. They run into the Abominable Snowman and find a whole island of misfit toys. Rudolph vows to see if he can get Santa to help the toys, and he goes back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. When Santa's sleigh is fogged in, Santa looks over Rudolph, and gets a very bright idea…

 

CBS (free) | Archive.org (free online streaming)

CBS Showtimes: 

  • Saturday, December 7 at 6:45 PM ET/5:45 PM CT 

  • Friday, December 20 at 6:15 PM ET/5:15 PM CT 

  • Saturday, December 21 at 1:25 PM ET/12:25 PM CT 

  • Tuesday, December 24 at 8:50 PM ET/7:50 PM CT 

  • Wednesday, December 25 at 3:40 PM ET/2:40 PM CT


 

Toy Story 

Dir. John Lasseter, 1995

United States | PG | ages 5+

Woody, a good-hearted cowboy doll who belongs to a young boy named Andy, sees his position as Andy's favorite toy jeopardized when his mom buys Andy a Buzz Lightyear action figure. Even worse, the arrogant Buzz thinks he's a real spaceman on a mission to return to his home planet. When Andy's family moves to a new house, Woody and Buzz must escape the clutches of maladjusted neighbor Sid Phillips and reunite with their boy.

 

Disney+  | Prime Video | YouTube


 

Hugo

Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2011

United States | PG | ages 8+

Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo's job is to oil and maintain the station's clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father. Accompanied by the goddaughter of an embittered toy merchant, Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home.

 

Netflix  | Vudu  | Prime Video

Fun fact: The original Rudolph and Santa figures used in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sold in auction last month for $368,000!

Please note: We provide MPAA ratings and suggested age range ratings from Common Sense Media for your guidance, but as always, parental discretion is advised.


Get Creative Project

Stop-Motion Animation with Stop Trick

As a continuation of the Fall 2020 Get Creative Project, the December project will be a Stop Motion Animation that utilizes a stop-trick, or substitution splice, in which an object suddenly appears, disappears, or transforms in frame. 

A stop trick is achieved by altering one or more selected aspects of the scene setting between two shots, while maintaining the same framing and other aspects of the scene. A famous example by the filmmaker George Melies, in which chairs suddenly appear in frame, can be seen here

The stop trick is a technique used in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), one of the films in our December programming. Tadahito Mochinaga, a pioneer stop-motion animator and founder of Animagic in Tokyo, supervised the meticulous animation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for producers Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass. Mochinaga studied the Nara deer, east of Osaka, Japan, in order to create his true-to-life reindeer animations. This attention to detail is visible in the animation itself, which featured rich details such as delicate eyelids crafted from leather, and subtle movements. Each second of filming required 24 painstaking frames of animation.

There are several phone apps available that will make the Stop-Motion process easier for you. Here are some options.

iMotion (free - iphone only)  |  Tutorial using iMotion app

Stop-Motion Movie Creator (free - Android only)  |  

Stop Motion Studio Pro ($4.99 - iphone & android)  |  Tutorial using SM Studio app

 

Steps for creating Stop Motion:

  1. Think of a story. Write down in a few sentences what your story will be about, and brainstorm ways to make this story come to life with objects. Your plan might change as you go, but it’s important to have an outline. 

  2. Create a storyboard. On a piece of paper, draw pictures of each scene, and estimate the number of frames you will need for each scene. (Remember, the more frames per second you include, the smoother the animation will be). Around 10-12 frames per second is a good number. 

  3. Create your props. Props for stop motion animation can be crafted with ordinary household objects such as fruits and vegetables, utensils, plants, or magazine cutouts on popsicle sticks. You can also use action figures, matchbox cars, dolls, magnets and legos, or for the more ambitious, make your own puppets with fabric or polymer clay. Perhaps include cameos from pets and people. You might have all of your props ready before you begin filming, or you might create new props as you go. 

  4. Find a setting, and adjust lighting. Test your setting with your props to make sure that the lighting looks as desired. You can enhance lighting with flashlights, a phone light, or by adjusting the brightness or flash in the app. What different angles can you film from? Would the story work best in a mini-studio made with poster board, or a natural setting? 

  5. Begin filming. Set up your props, take a shot, move them a tiny bit, take another shot and repeat until you’re done.

  6. NEW STEP: STOP-TRICK: Find a point in which an appearance, disappearance, or transformation of an object or person would fit with the story. Suddenly remove, insert or alter this object or person with no continuity in photos. This will create a stop-trick. 

  7. Edit your sequence and export. Once you have finished filming, you can adjust color, aspect ratio, transitions, speed, quality, add titles and credits, and even sound effects and music. When you are finished, the project is ready to be exported as a .mov or .mp4 file.

  8. Upload your video to this Google Form or email it to us at lenfest-center@columbia.edu.

We will feature selections from your submissions on the Lenfest website and social media.