Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Richard. Richard Wonders, “How do you make clay animation?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Richard!

Do you love animated films? What kid doesn’t? Your family members probably like them as much as you do! In animated films, animals can talk. Characters can fly. Audiences can visit worlds that feel like dreams!

Today’s Wonder of the Day is about a type of animation. It uses figures made of clay. That’s why it’s called clay animation. Have you ever played with clay or playdough before? If so, you know that making figures out of clay can be a lot of fun. Just imagine getting to make a movie with your clay creations!

Clay animation got its start way back in 1897 when modeling clay was invented. Artists began to sculpt characters out of clay. They would then take multiple still pictures of the character. Between each picture, they moved the character very slightly.

Then, they showed those pictures quickly one after the other. This created the illusion of movement. Artists found that they could make a figure walk, jump, talk, and more. It wasn’t long before people started using this technique to make movies.

The first clay animation film was "The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream.”

It was made in 1908 by Edison Manufacturing. Many films followed. Clay animation became a very popular style of movie. Have you ever heard of Gumby and Pokey, Wallace and Gromit, and the California Raisins? They’re some of the most famous clay animation characters.

Would you like to make a clay animation movie one day? It’s a lot of work! Clay characters can only move slightly between each picture. Otherwise, the film will appear choppy. That means it takes a lot of time to make clay animation movies! For that reason, clay animation films are often shorter than other films.

For example, a typical animated movie requires 24 frames — also called stops — for one second of playback. That means creators take 24 still pictures for each second of movie time. Because clay animation is so much work, clay animators often do double stops. This means they use the same picture twice in a row. This cuts down on the number of stops needed. Doing doubles, they still need 12 still pictures for each second of movie time.

So just how much work a simple 30-minute clay animation movie would require? Let’s do the math. At a rate of 12 stops per movie second, a 30-minute clay animation movie takes 21,600 still pictures! A full-length (90-minute) clay animation movie would require 64,800 still pictures.

Can you imagine taking 21,600 still pictures while making tiny changes to clay characters between every picture? That’s how much work clay animation is!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day makes sense to us, because we know how to count!