Tag Archives: Stop-Motion Animation

Roll ‘Em!——5th Annual “G.I. Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival” to Premiere All-New Movies Based on—and Utilizing—”America’s Movable Action Hero”

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Submissions for 5th Annual “GIjOE Stop-Motion Film Festival” Now Being Accepted

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Gio Toninelo, coordinator and distributor of the upcoming 5th Annual GIjOE Stop Motion Film Festival (Photo: Gio Toninelo)

Despite Hasbro having turned its corporate back on 12-inch GIjOE action figures and their worldwide array of fans, collectors and customizers, the “most beloved toy in the last 100 years” (see HERE) continues to make its presence known to the public in ever more unexpected ways. We’re speaking specifically now, about independent filmmaking—and stop-motion animation. Cinematographer, graphic designer and festival coordinator, Gio Toninelo (shown above, right) has just announced the opening of submissions for what will become the 5th Annual GIjOE Stop Motion Film Festival (GSMFF). The GSMFF is referred to as a “travelling” film festival, due to the fact that Toninelo will exhibit the winning entries in theaters and venues all across the country. This year’s festival premieres September 27th at the Bug Theater in Denver, Colorado and extends thereafter to LA, New York and Austin (TX).

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Lisa and Tim Weedn, creators of superb 1:6 scale stop-motion animated videos, regularly premiere their work at Joelanta conventions in Atlanta, GA. (Photo: Tim Weedn)

Stop-motion animation, once championed by early effects wizards Ray Harryhausen (see bio video above) and animators Rankin & Bass (of 1964’s Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer fame), had almost become a lost and forgotten art form, but it seems to be back on the path to popularity once again. This will surprise many, because today’s CGI-dominated animators view the (much) more laborious and time-intensive stop-motion process as an unwieldy and (dare we say) “wasteful” practice from a bygone, pre-digital era. Fortunately, there are STILL some diehard (and VERY patient) individuals out there for whom stop-motion animation (and its unique results) remains a JOY to create and behold.

An Analog Technology For a 1:6 Digital World

You may already know of some fellow GIjOE fans who are also stop-motion animators. We certainly do. Two such patient practitioners of the technique (that come immediately to mind) are the talented filmmaking duo of Lisa and Tim Weedn (see above, right). The Weedns are regular attendees and popular presenters at each of the Toylanta (formerly Joelanta) GIjOE shows held annually in Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s a 2014 video they made in celebration of GIjOE’s 50th anniversary:

Is Stop-Motion Animation Merely a Fad—Or Making a Comeback?

Fortunately for stop-motion animation afficiandos, they don’t have to rely solely on the efforts of amateurs in order to get their “fix” of the technique. In fact, there are many influential showbiz pros out there who continue to utilize stop-motion in their projects. For example, Seth Rogen revived the technique for his standout animated TV series, Robot Chicken (see his HILAROUS GIjOE short below). Academy Award winner Nick Park too, used the process for his superb Wallace and Gromit shorts and features. Perhaps a sort of “tech-revolt” is underway, one that rages against the film and TV industry’s current overuse of CGI? If so, it appears that the nostalgic animation style is actually GROWING in popularity—with no end in sight!

We asked Mr. Toninelo to comment on the upcoming GIjOE film festival and he kindly replied:

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Filmmaker and Festival Coordinator, Gio Toninelo (Photo: GT)

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“Hi Mark, I’m so excited! Our GIjOE film festival is back for its 5th season! I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard about our festival. We started waaaay back when the internet was a sleepy teenager. Plus, we took a needed break since 2013. Put simply, we screen films that use G.I.JOE action figures as their main characters using the ‘stop-motion’ animation technique. We always read The Joe Report and I’ve bought some stuff from Patches of Pride (PoP) in the past as well. I’ve even listed PoP as one of our sponsors! 

There are only TWO main rules for our Festival:1- Your film MUST be shot using stop-motion technique. Puppetry, wires and live action could also be used as long as it does not comprise 30% of the entire film. 2- Your main character MUST be an official G.I. Joe action figure, created by Hasbro, Inc. or an Action Man figure, created by Palitoy. Other licensed figures are also accepted, like “Comandos em Acao” and “Falcon” (BRAZIL) or “Commandos Heroicos” (MEXICO). Other action figures, dolls and toys can be used for supporting roles.

Finally, because we are a ‘travelling’ festival, I try not to put the videos up on the web, at least not on our social media channel. We always save the BEST ones for the tour. However, some of our old trailers can still be found over on YouTube HERE. Enjoy!

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At Work in the World of 1:6 ScaleGio Toninelo, shown here in his home office and/or art studio, carefully details one of his 1:6 scale custom GIjOE action figures. Will this Joe become a “star” in one of Toninelo’s future film productions? We’ll just have to wait and see! (Photo: Jeff Otte)

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Fans of Films and GIjOEs— Is there anything better than watching “America’s Movable Fighting Man” up on the big screen? Here, fans gather at a past screening  of Gio Toninelo’s GIjOE Stop-Motion Film Festival to watch the “Best of the Best.” (Photo: Gio Toninelo) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: This looks like yet another EXCELLENT opportunity for GIjOE fans and customizers, as well as all aspiring amateur and/or professional filmmakers. For complete details on festival submission requirements, entry deadlines, etc., go HERE. Our sincerest thanks go out to Gio Toninelo and to everyone else connected with these exciting shows. Go, Joe! And… Go, GIO!

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Cinematic Stunner!———National Film Board (NFB) of Canada Restores 1966 Grant Munro Film, “Toys”

For the first time in 48 years, the faces and clothing of the young children in the 1966 short film, Toys, are clearly visible, almost startlingly so. The newly restored film is a timeless treasure of 1:6 scale animation and is held in the highest esteem by GIjOE fans worldwide. (Screenshot: NFB)

For the first time in 48 years, the faces and clothing of the young child actors featured in the 1966 short film, Toys, are clearly visible, almost startlingly so, with fully restored color and clarity. A timeless treasure of 1:6 scale animation, the film is held in the highest esteem by GIjOE fans worldwide. (Screenshot: NFB)

Grant Munro, animator, filmmaker, director. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Grant Munro, animator, filmmaker, director. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Classic Animated Short Film Featuring 1:6 Scale GIjOEs Lovingly Restored to Unbelievable Clarity

GIjOE fans have long considered the 1966 stop-motion animated short film, Toys, to be a premier example of movie-making’s most painstaking and patience-testing art form. If you’re not already aware, “stop-motion animation” requires frame-by-frame photographing of miniature action figures that are posed entirely by hand, with each movement carefully repositioned in minute increments that are then captured one—click!—frame at a time (i.e. Rankin/Bass’ Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer or Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit).

As you might expect, such a slow and deliberate filmmaking technique can become very tiresome and only the most patient animators attempt it; with far fewer ever truly mastering the art form’s many intricacies and requisite disciplines. Yet there’s one man who’s clearly mastered this arduous method, and that’s Canada’s renowned filmmaker and Toys director, Grant Munro (91), who proved long ago he is a MASTER animator—especially of GIjOEs!

You’ve Seen “Toys” Before—But NEVER Like This.

Munro’s Toys has long held a proud place in the pantheon of 1:6 scale animation, ever since its original debut back in 1966. Unfortunately, over the last four decades, GIjOE fans have had to placate their penchant for the legendary short by viewing it from grainy, third or fourth generation VHS copies, replete with annoyingly garbled audio and static-strewn imagery; much like watching ’60s reruns on an old-time television set without an antenna (not a pretty sight).

Finally! We can SEE! The crystal clarity of a recently restored master print of Grant Munro’s 1966 Toys, reveals numerous vintage toys that fans had been unable to see previously whenever watching badly distorted VHS copies of the film. For example, did you ever notice that Herman Munster doll sitting on the right-hand side? Or how about Chatty Cathy, waving to us from the back row? And what about that Thompson machine gun with a scope in the foreground? WOW! (Screenshot: NFB) Click to enlarge.

Fans of Grant Munro's animation can now purchase this excellent collection of his work on DVD over at Amazon. Click here to order.

Fans of Grant Munro’s animation can now purchase this excellent collection of his work on DVD over at Amazon.

As if in answer to our prayers, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has recently and lovingly restored Munro’s Toys and the results look as if they were shot only yesterday. Here’s how the NFB website describes their mission:

“We are Canada’s public producer and distributor, and this is our online Screening Room. We offer free streaming of documentary and animated films as well as interactive stories, all of which explore the world we live in from a Canadian point of view.”

The bomb bursts were real. The explosions were real. The smoke and fire? All real. Munro spared no effort to recreate the devastation that could created when 1:6 scale warriors go to battle. (Photo: NFB)

In Grant Munro’s “Toys,” the explosions were real. The smoke and fire? Also, VERY real. Munro spared no effort or expense to create the actual devastation of an all-out 1:6 scale WAR. (Screenshot: NFB)

The Marine Corps Field Medic saw a lot of action tending to the wounded, until he too, succumbed to the battle's maelstrom of munitions. (Screenshot: NFB)

Munro’s Marine Corps Medic saw a lot of action in Toys (as he tended to the wounded) until he too, ultimately succumbed in the battle’s “maelstrom of munitions.” GIjOE collectors, take note: Despite the commonly held belief that stress cracks in GIjOEs are due to the AGE of our vintage figures, it’s interesting to note that even this brand-new (at the time) 1966 GIjOE had already developed a severe stress crack near his left wrist (see photo above). Fascinating! (Screenshot: NFB)

Due to the numerous quick-cuts of the film, the "enemy" was often hard to determine. Nonetheless, severe and ominous lighting was applied to the German soldiers, creating a menacing and threatening presence. (Screenshot: NFB)

Achtung! Due to Munro’s choice and use of a quick-cut editing style, it was difficult to determine who was the “enemy” or “hero.” However, Grant did apply severe and ominous lighting to the German soldiers, giving them an added element of menace and threatening intent. Yikes! (Screenshot: NFB)

The film's restoration was so complete, that you could almost count each freckle and hair on the children's heads. Out-STANDING!

Look at those freckles! This film’s restoration was so complete and so perfect, that now you can see practically every adorable hair and freckle. Out-STANDING job, NFB! (Screenshot: NFB)

That giant REMCO tank looks right at home with all those GIjOEs. Say, we never saw that Sea Sled down there! And where do we get one of those rotating displays? Cool! (Screenshot: NFB)

That giant REMCO tank looks right at home with those GIjOEs. Say, we never saw that Sea Sled down there before! And where do we get one of those nifty toy store rotating display platforms? How cool is that?! So much to see and so much to love. Toy fans, REJOICE! (Screenshot: NFB) Click to enlarge.

This closeup reveals a superb 5-star Jeep with working recoilless rifle and spotlight. Oh, YES! (Screenshot: NFB)

Head to the Front, Men! This closeup reveals a superb 5-star Jeep with working recoilless rifle and spotlight and GIjOEs representing all military branches. YES! (Screenshot: NFB)

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Holy Hidden Treasures, Batman! This view of the left-hand side of the toy store display reveals a previously unrecognizable Batman plush figure hanging from the wall and affords a better view of many other previously unidentifiable toys. Fascinating! (Screenshot: NFB) Click to enlarge.

As the battle raged on, the expressions of the children switch from happy to concerned to clearly disturbed by the chaos and "killing" they're imagining. Munro's clever use of "freeze-frame" images such as this one enhance the emotional impact of the viewer. (Screenshot: NFB)

As the battle raged on, the expressions of the children in Toys switch from happy to concerned to clearly disturbed by the chaos and “killing” they were witnessing. Munro’s use of “freeze-frame faces” (such as this one) increased the emotional impact on the viewer. (Screenshot: NFB)

But What Does It All Mean?

Debate over Munro’s original intent behind Toys has continued to rage over the many decades since its release. Was the filmmaker trying to convince his audience that so-called “war toys” are all bad? Or that playing with them would somehow result in innocent children becoming warlike or warmongering? OR…was the film simply an exercise in producing a stop-motion animated fantasy; created mainly to demonstrate the many techniques possible in the genre? The answer is probably a little of both. Regardless, as action figure fans rediscovered the film in the 1990s, it began to resurface at toy shows around the world. Fans began to sell (or give away) bootlegged copies of Toys—first on grainy VHS tape and then later on DVDs. Finally, with the advent of the internet, it is now readily accessible online where viewing the ’60s classic is as easy as clicking on a link (conveniently provided below).

Raise your hands if you remember burning, blowing up or otherwise mangling and destroying a GIjOE or other toy as a kid. Likewise, Munro actually burns, melts and destroys several of the Joes shown in Toys, complete with added (horrific) sound effects. Aaaaaugh! (Screenshot: NFB)

Raise your hands if you remember burning, blowing up or otherwise mangling and/or destroying a GIjOE or other toy as a kid. Yup. Us too! Likewise, Munro burns, melts and destroys several of the Joes shown in his 1966 short film, Toys, complete with added (horrific) sound effects. Aaaaaugh! (Screenshot: NFB)

Goodbye, GIjOE! What happens when you soak a GIjOE in lighter fluid and set him on fire? Oh, the HORROR! (Screenshot: NFB)

Goodbye, GIjOE! What happens when you soak a Marine GIjOE in lighter fluid and set him on fire? First, his helmet melts all over his face turning him into a 1:6 scale version of the “Little Green Army Men,” then… well, thing gets progressively worse from there. Oh, the HORROR! (Screenshot: NFB)

Wake up, Kids! Eventually, the "spell" that had fallen over Munro's kids breaks and happiness returns. Cheerful music plays, giggles continue and the obvious love and rapt desire the little boys hold for the fully restored GIjOEs remains firmly intact. Go, JOE! (Screenshot: NFB)

The Nightmare is Over! Eventually, the dark mood breaks and happiness returns. Cheerful music plays again, giggles and laughter are heard and the obvious love and rapt desire children hold for the toy store’s (fully restored) GIjOEs remains intact. THIS is the REAL dream! (Screenshot: NFB)

This gas-powered Cox Stuka came to life, its machine-guns spitting bullets at the enemy down below. To create this effect, Munro attached simple firework sparklers to the plane and "flew" it towards the camera using fishing line. Ingenious! (Screenshot: NFB)

Spittin’ Flame! In Toys, this gas-powered Cox Stuka comes to life, its machine-guns spitting bullets down at the enemy below. To create this effect, Munro attached simple firework sparklers to the plane and “flew” it towards the camera with fishing line. Ingenious! (Screenshot: NFB)

Bottom Line: Over the years, the legend behind Munro’s Toys has continued to grow until it is now considered by GIjOE and animation fans alike to be an undeniable stop-motion masterpiece. While Munro’s original intended message for Toys may have been anti-war, GIjOE fans today appreciate it more for its animation achievement and as a sort of “time capsule tribute” to imaginative fantasy play with “America’s Movable Fighting Man.” While we all agree with its undeniable message that “War is Hell,” we can’t help but grin with delight as we watch Munro’s toys burn and melt each other with brutal abandon. So many of us did similar things as kids! Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to Mr. Munro for all of his superb contributions to the world of movie-making, stop-motion animation and his unintentional homage to GIjOE fandom. Alright then, Joeheads—Let’s roll this masterpiece!

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