The juddery nature of stop-motion films gives them a slightly unworldly feel; a new spot for BBC Knowledge by animators Grandchildren ramps up this unreal edge, mining the works of Surrealist and Dadist artists.
Eat Up Brain is a 60-second piece to promote the channel’s new tagline ‘A little knowledge goes a long way’.
It looks like the offspring of a brief dalliance between Monty Python’s animations and Saul Bass’ iconic 1960s title sequences.
There’s also more than a hint of CBBC’s exuberant stop-motion Ooglies, including in the popping soundtrack and a voiceover from Richard E Grant.
Grandchildren is US-based animator Sean Pecknold – and a few cohorts. The studio is best known for its new-folk stop-motion music videos for hip bands such as Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. Having seen these, BBC Knowledge got in touch with Pecknold and invited him to pitch, to a brief of ‘a world of facts’ and the new tagline.
“We wanted to create a surreal place for these facts to come to life.” says Pecknold. “We experimented with a couple of techniques and looks, and eventually went with the combination of stop-motion and [digitally composited] animation.”
Pecknold drew from the weirdly bleak landscapes of Dali for the wide shots, while the characters owe much to the cut-up collage techniques of Hannah Hoch.
Grandchildren created detailed handmade models and painstakingly animated them in stop-motion, to handle as many of the effects as possible in-camera.
Promoting the educational nature of BBC Knowledge, Eat Up Brain avoids the slapstick humour of Python or Ooglies. Instead, the piece illustrates facts such as ‘pencils can draw a line 56km long’ and ‘the Wright brothers’ first flight was less than the wingspan of a 747’ in a way that is at once quirky and serious: the tone is educational rather than comedic.