4: Animation Strategies: related posts In Process Stop Motion CutOut/Puppet

Stop Motion: Puppet cut-outs

Cutout animation is a form of stop-motion animation using flat characters, props and backgrounds cut from materials such as paper, card, stiff fabric or photographs. The cut outs are used as puppets for stop motion. Cut-out animation puppets can be made with figures that have joints made with a rivet or pin or, when simulated on a computer, an anchor. These connections act as mechanical linkage, which have the effect of a specific, fixed motion.

The technique of most cut-out animation is comparable to that of shadow play, but with stop motion replacing the manual or mechanical manipulation of flat puppets. Flat, jointed puppets have been in use in shadow plays for many centuries, such as in the Indonesian wayang tradition and in the “ombres chinoises” that were especially popular in France in the 18th and 19th century. The subgenre of silhouette animation is more closely related to these shadow shows and to the silhouette cutting art that has been popular in Europe especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Cut-out techniques were relatively often used in animated films until cel animation became the standard method (at least in the United States). Before 1934, Japanese animation mostly used cut-out techniques rather than cel animation, because celluloid was too expensive.

While sometimes used as a relatively simple and cheap animation technique in children’s programs (for instance in Ivor the Engine), cut-out animation has also often been used as a highly artistic medium that distinguishes itself more clearly from hand-drawn animation. Today, cut-out-style animation is frequently produced using computers, with scanned images or vector graphics taking the place of physically cut materials.

Of most relevance to my work here are:

– puppets manipulation of cut-out photographs, drawings and other flat materials.

– manipulation of drawings and paintings in natural media like charcoal and scraperboard to produce expressive lines

For other types of stop motion see my research and own work in:

My experiments January 2021

‘Tupa Tupa’ DRCongo
Animatic with digital manipulation of photograph cut-outs in Procreate on iPad. To be developed as Stop Motion photo-collage in Stop Motion Studio with final composite in After Effects.

Pig Tales, India
Feeding the pigs sequence. Started with digital manipulation of photograph in Rough Animator on iPad. The version here was produced by drawing and watercolour painting from video, then photographing the puppets and manipulating in Procreate on the iPad. With final toning and tinting in After Effects. To be redone with smoother movement as cut-outs of the sketches and drawings and multiplane manipulation in After Effects.

Silhouette experiments for Mary’s Story, Uganda and/or Pakistan ‘The Airplane’ are also envisaged.

Key Inspiration

History and Evolution

Quirino Cristiani

The world’s earliest known animated feature films were political cut-out animations made in Argentina by Quirino Cristiani. He generally animated on his own. One film could take 7-8 months. Unfortunately the films were burned in a fire, and not much remains.

Lotte Reiniger

Made extraordinarily elaborate silhouette animations. She invented the multiplane camera with background, middle ground and foreground and lit from below to give the illusion of depth.

She used a similar technique to produce different monochrome and coloured styles with different degrees of ornament and abstraction in the cut-outs.

Her earliest animations were: Das Ornament des Verliebten Herzens (1919); Amor und das Standhafte Liebespaar (1920); Der Fliegende Koffer (1921); Der Stern von Bethlehem (1921); Aschenputtel (1922); Das Geheimnis der Marquise (1922, advertisement for Nivea); Dornröschen (1922) and Barcarole (1924, advertisment for Mauxion).

Her most famous film is “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” 1926 – the oldest surviving full-length animated film. Pre-dating Disney by a decade.

She continued to make dozens of shorts throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Other projects were her fantastical short animation, “Papageno” (1935), and a dazzling struggle between the Frog Prince and a covetous octopus. She moved to London to escape from Hitler in 1938 and worked and lived in the United Kingdom until her death in 1982.

General documentary of her work.
Documentary of key innovations.
“The Adventures of Prince Achmed” 1926. Visual highlights. Lotte Reiniger cut the figures out of black cardboard with a pair of scissors, and joined movable parts with thread as armatures in order to animate them. Backgrounds were variously painted or composed of blown sand and even soap. Walter Ruttmann collaborated on the special colour and light effects.

The Secret of the Marquise (1922) silhouette animation in an early advert for Nivea skin care products.
Details of technique.
Details of technique.

Japanese cut-out animation

Before 1934, Japanese animation mostly used cut-out techniques rather than cel animation, because celluloid was too expensive.

Some modern Japanese animators have also used cut-out with painted puppets.

Noburō Ōfuji (1900-1961) was a Japanese film director and animator. He is one of the pioneers of the Japanese animation using Japanese paper with coloured figures and the shadow picture animation .

Russian cut-out animation

!! More research needed

Ivan Ivanov-Vano “Seasons” (1969) has very static puppets with most of the effect created by the delicate tracery on the multiple moving planes to which oily and other substances have been added for atmospheric effect.

Sergei Ryabov

Eastern Europe

Czech animator Dagmar Doubková created several short cut- out animations, often with a feminist message and very distinctive painted style:
– as Oparádivé Sally (1976) (broadcast in the USA as About Dressy Sally on Nickelodeon’s  Pinwheel
Sbohem, Ofélie (Goodbye Ophelia) (1978)
Královna Koloběžka první (Queen Scooter First) (1981)
The Impossible Dream (1983)
Shakespeare 2000 (1988)

She later co-founded 3D Art And Animation Studio with her husband.

Dagmar Doubková: The Impossible Dream (1983) Takes a wry humorous look at the double workload of a full-time job and being a housewife.
Dagmar Doubková, Ofélie (Goodbye Ophelia) (1978) An animated lecture that gives young girls advice on life when it comes to conquerors and others.

Dagmar Královna Koloběžka první (Queen Scooter First)- 1981
Dagmar Doubková Shakespeare 2000 (1988)

United States and Canada

No. 12, also known as Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Everett Smith, completed in 1962, utilizes cut-out illustrations culled from 19th century catalogues.
How Death Came to Earth (1971) Ishu Patel

Digital cut-out animation

Many digital software programmes can now produce different types of cut-out puppet animation styles.

Physical cut-outs can be filmed in Stop Motion using Stop Motion Studio on the iPad or Dragon Frame on the pc.

Software like Adobe Animate and Adobe After Effects have 2D puppet rigging features to manipulate photos of physical puppets or imports of digital puppets from digital drawing programmes like Illustrator or Photoshop.


South Park is a notable example of the transition since its pilot episode was made with paper cut-outs before switching to computer software.

Svetlana Androva Russian digital Stop Motion
(2017) uses digital animation to imitate cutout animation in the storyworld sequences

3: Contemporary Animation Inspiration - related posts 4: Animation Strategies: related posts In Process Inspiration: 15 contemporary animators Physical media Stop Motion CutOut/Puppet

Terry Gilliam

3: Contemporary Animation Inspiration - related posts In Process Inspiration: 15 contemporary animators Stop Motion CutOut/Puppet

Yuri Norstein

Yuri Norstein was born to a Jewish family in the village of AndreyevkaPenza Oblast, during his parents’ World War II evacuation. He grew up in the Maryina Roshcha suburb of Moscow. After studying at an art school, Norstein initially found work at a furniture factory. Then he finished a two-year animation course and found employment at studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1961. The first film that he participated in as an animator was Who Said “Meow”? (1962).

After working as an animation artist in some fifty films, Norstein got the chance to direct his own. In 1968 he debuted with 25th October, the First Day, sharing directorial credit with Arkadiy Tyurin. The film used the artwork of 1920s-era Soviet artists Nathan Altman and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.

The next film in which he had a major role was The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971), a co-production with Russian animation director Ivan Ivanov-Vano under whose direction Norstein had earlier worked on 1969’s Times of the Year.

Throughout the 1970s Norstein continued to work as an animator in many films (a more complete list can be found at IMDb), and also directed several. As the decade progressed his animation style became ever more sophisticated, looking less like flat cut-outs and more like smoothly-moving paintings or sophisticated pencil sketches. His most famous film is Tale of Tales, a non-linear, autobiographical film about growing up in the postwar Soviet world.[3]

Norstein uses a special technique in his animation, involving multiple glass planes to give his animation a three-dimensional look. The camera is placed at the top looking down on a series of glass planes about a meter deep (one every 25–30 cm). The individual glass planes can move horizontally as well as toward and away from the camera (to give the effect of a character moving closer or further away).[4]

For many years he has collaborated with his wife, the artist Francheska Yarbusova, and the cinematographer Aleksandr Zhukovskiy.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Norstein’s animations were showered with both state and international awards. Then, in a bitter twist of irony, he was fired from Soyuzmultfilm in 1985 for working too slowly on his latest film, a (presumably) feature-length adaptation of Gogol‘s Overcoat. By that time he had been working on it with his usual small team of three people for two years and had finished ten minutes.

In April 1993, Norstein and three other leading animators (Fyodor Khitruk, Andrey Khrzhanovsky, and Edward Nazarov) founded the Animation School and Studio (SHAR Studio) in Russia. The Russian Cinema Committee is among the share-holders of the studio.

To this day, Norstein is still working on The Overcoat – his ardent perfectionism has earned him the nickname “The Golden Snail”. The project has met numerous financial troubles and false starts, but Norstein has said that it currently has reliable funding from several sources, both from within and outside of Russia. At least 25 minutes have been completed to date. A couple of short, low-resolution clips have been made available to the public.[5][6] The first 20 minutes of the film have also toured among various exhibits of Norstein’s work in Russian museums. The full film is expected to be 65 minutes long.

Norstein wrote an essay for a book by Giannalberto Bendazzi about the pinscreen animator Alexander Alexeïeff titled Alexeïeff: Itinerary of a Master.

In 2005, he released a Russian-language book titled Snow on the Grass. Fragments of a Book. Lectures about the Art of Animation, featuring a number of lectures that he gave about the art of animation. That same year, he was invited as “guest animator” to work on Kihachirō Kawamoto‘s puppet-animated feature film, The Book of the Dead.[7]

On 10 August 2008, the full version of the book Snow on the Grass was released (the “incomplete” 2005 book was 248 pages). The book, which was printed in the Czech Republic and funded by Sberbank, consists of two volumes, 620 pages, and 1700 color illustrations.[8] The studio stopped working on The Overcoat for nearly a year while Norstein worked to release the book.[9]


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Ng’endo Mukii

“I propose the use of animation in relation to indigenous people as a means of just telling you that these people are human. Animation is not related to the indexical image. It is able to emulate the human emotion and experiences even if to a fantastical level…since the artist’s hand is very obviously involved in bringing these images to life, animation is not pretending to be alive as is the case with taxidermy. Unlike ethnography, it is not tied to a singular story or to any absolute truths. It allows multiple interpretations of the human experience”

Animation can be used to emulate something that is intangible, something that is humanity. It is our soul, unlimited by the preconceptions and expectations of the ‘real’ image.

A distinctive African feminist voice from Kenya. Highly skilled animator combining work in different physical media: cut-out puppets, drawing and charcoal, photography and video that are then composited and manipulated digitally. The fluid movement comes from the video. The other media are more static with puppet manipulation and boil effects.


– Uses a lot of dialogue and text in English
– Many of the concerns are from urban areas. How far do these resonate with poor rural areas, or represent their voices?

Argues that animation can make real people alive. Has the full movie in the middle. Banyavanga Nyainyaina. Death, destruction, disease danger. Jim Chuchu’s film ‘African Stories’ is shot in black and white to separate African stories from the colour and romanticism of the ‘African story’.

Documentary animation technique

Real people do not like to talk on camera, so she animates them in their real words.

Textless NGO shorts

Short film made for Plan International in celebration of International Day of The Girl. Part of the Girls take Over Campaign.
Mobile phone animation. Wanjiku seeks a better future, far from home. Commissioned by HAART Kenya.

Commissioned political/development documentaries

Uses digital compositing of multiple media. But reliant on English text commentary.

This migrant business is particularly effective visually – the combination of very gritty drawings and manipulated video effects, overlaying newspaper clippings and use of ‘binocular framing. Though the commentary is very direct and not so clear on what can be done by the viewer.

A short digital puppet animation with commentary in poetic rhyme, based on a true story of human trafficking, commissioned by HAART Kenya. At the end video clips are added for realism.
Commissioned project for the Danish Refugee Council and RMMS in Nairobi. This Migrant Business, shows the systems that exist that enable and exploit African migrants seeking better lives in the Middle East and Europe. The system creates a cyclic force that ensures that demand and supply will continue to to feed into each other, indefinitely. This is a lucrative trade with vulnerable people as its currency. Really effective digital compositing of photography overlay, rotoscoping and puppet animation of drawing/painting.

Yellow Fever

Rotoscoped paint over.

Stencil effects

Ahwak Runaway This film was made at the Ölands folkhögskola last week, during a two-day animation workshop. The students chose Kanye West’s #Runaway film to work with. We selected a sequence and each student was given one second (25 frames) to reinterpret in any way they wanted. Most of them printed out the frames, some worked digitally. They began drawing, painting, gluing flowers, and even foil paper onto their frames, playing with masks and blending modes and layering in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects, and worked late into the night to create this beautiful piece. As we were putting the frames together the next afternoon, trying to beat the deadline, we were asking ourselves what to do with the sound. At the same moment, one of the girls began to play a song from #Syria on her phone; Jamal Slitine’s Hobbi Lak.

Vimeo channel

2DFrameByFrame 3: Contemporary Animation Inspiration - related posts Inspiration: 15 contemporary animators Rotoscoping Stop Motion CutOut/Puppet

Yoni Goodman

You Tube comments are interesting.
First prize winner of 2010 Maratoon competition. The goal of the competition was to create an animation short in 5 days using the words “gong”, “tail” and “extortion”

Goodman began his career as an illustrator and graphic designer, working for two of Israel’s major newspapers, Maariv and Haaretz. In 1998, he studied at the department of visual communication in Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, majoring in animation. After his graduation in 2002, Yoni worked as a freelance animator and illustrator, working on commercials, short films and clips, as well as teaching animation in the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

In 2004, Yoni worked as an animation director for Ari Folman‘s documentary series The material that love is made of. Folman and Goodman’s collaboration continued with Yoni as an animation director in Ari Folman’s acclaimed film Waltz with Bashir. Goodman also developed the Adobe Flash Cutout technique for the film.

In 2009, he made several short films for human rights organizations, notably the short film Closed Zone, protesting against the Gaza blockade.[1][2] Yoni also worked as an animation director in the short film The Gift,[3] directed by Ari Mark.

In 2011 Yoni began his work as Animation Director for Ari Folman’s feature The Congress (2013), based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem.

He also collaborated on a Global Health Media project about Healthcare literacy, notably on[4]

Yoni Goodman currently lives in Israel with his wife and 3 children.


  • Waltz with Bashir (2008, animation director)
  • Closed Zone (2009, director)
  • The Gift (2010, animator)(short film)
  • “The Story of Cholera” (2011, director)(short film)
  • The Congress (2013)
  • “The Story of Ebola”
  • “The Story of Coronavirus”