How an Insect Collector Influenced Hollywood Through Stop Motion

One of the stranger titles I've written, but the subtitle would be stranger: Lithuanian man uses stop motion to make insects dance and influences some of the most iconic films of all time.

Wladyslaw Starewicz, a Russian-born photographer and filmmaker was tasked with creating a video of stag beetles fighting. When they refused to do so under the lights, he forged himself a new path to the end result. That path was stop motion and it not only started his highly successful career in filmmaking, but heavily influenced major works in Hollywood over the next century. While not necessarily the inventor of stop motion photography, Starewicz' work — while initially simplistic — grew into complex movements of "puppets" with wire and plastic, and eventually becoming a hit in cinema of the era.

During World War 1, Starewicz worked as a director and cameraman for live-action features before fleeing to Paris to avoid the Red Army as they captured the Crimea. Once in France, he began work as a cameraman before falling back into filmmaking with puppets, producing multiple hit films which are still mentioned today. In 2009, Wes Anderson mentioned Starewicz' work "Le Roman de Renard" as inspiration for "Fantastic Mr. Fox".

A fascinating and bizarre history to a technique still popular today, albeit significantly easier to produce!

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Very cool. He must've had huge amounts of patience.

Back in 2000 I had a couple of goes at stop motion, just for fun, using my first digital camera. A stonking .5 megapixels, or something like that. It's still in my drawer, unused for years.

320 by 240 resolution, or to really crank it up, 640 by 480, but max 46 shots. Yeehaw!

From this I learned a few things like how important timing each frame is. If you get that wrong, the footage looks jerky. Mind you, the quality is so low here, that's the least problem.