The Seafarer and the Moonlight – A Paper Cutout Animation

After months of work, we have completed our newest short film ‘The Seafarer and the Moonlight.’ The film is stop-motion animation done entirely with thousands of paper cutouts.

James first conceived of the idea about a year ago, and initially thought that it might be done with lighting gels and diffusion to create a stained glass look. Eventually we decided upon parchment paper, and he created one digital concept image to get the process started. Here it is on the left next to the final shot in the film:


All of the elements began with either digital paintings, or 3D animatics. Each color layer was isolated and printed out so that we had a guide of exactly where to cut.


This is a comparison of one of the digital images and the final shot. In many instances, they are almost exact.


Although originally a Viking story, we changed it to Norman after visiting Normandie on our honeymoon.


When we first started cutting, we were using the same knives that we used for our Christmas cards, but it was very strenuous on our hands, and we switched to very fine nail scissors.


These sheets of paper waiting to be cut are for the tentacles of the Kraken rising out of the water. That shot required over 1,000 individual pieces of paper.


All of the coloring was done digitally. Some of the backgrounds were glued together as one image like this one, but most of the shots had each piece shot separately on green.


Here are layers of shipwrecks and underwater rock formations.


The skeletons had two layers, one for the highlights, and one for the shadows.


Some animated elements were tiny enough to be shot in the same image. This is a bird flying loop, then a smaller bird doing that same loop, and then a flag flapping in the wind.

This was a completely new filmmaking experience for us. We have done stop-motion animation in the past, but the amount of manual labor involved with this project vastly exceeded that. It was a tremendous amount of work, but we’re very pleased with the end result.

You can watch the film below:


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