What Was the Animation Process of Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride"?

by Robert Godard
Stop-motion animations are shot by still cameras, one photo at a time

Stop-motion animations are shot by still cameras, one photo at a time

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"Corpse Bride" is a dark comedy released by Warner Bros. in 2005. The film stars the voices of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Watson and was directed by Tim Burton. As with some of Burton's other films, "Corpse Bride" uses stop-motion animation to make its characters come alive. Stop-motion is an intricate process with several steps.


"Corpse Bride" is acted entirely by moving puppets that were modeled after concept art designed by Burton. Most of the puppets featured in the film were built by Mackinnon and Saunders. The puppets' bodies feature many joints so they can easily be moved into any position. The most complex part of a puppet is its face, which must be able to replicate subtle facial movements and mouth movements, so these are built to be moved around quite a bit.


A stop-motion production is made by taking a series of pictures one at a time and then stringing them together. For "Corpse Bride," this meant designing small sets that fit the scale of the puppets, which were about a foot tall, then moving the puppets around one frame at a time. Each picture makes up about 1/24th of a second. There are many people on set to move this process along, and each puppet might have several technicians working on it as the pictures are taken.


"Corpse Bride" was one of the first stop-motion films to be edited on Final Cut Pro, a non-linear editing program developed by Apple. Once all of the pictures were shot, they were brought into Final Cut Pro, where they arranged on a time line, one picture at a time, and the pictures were given motion. The film contains very little computer-generated imaging, and the smoothness of the film was created by the precision of the photographers on the set, not by elaborate editing.

Lip Syncing

In order to make it appear as if the puppets are saying something, actors are first recorded on a sound stage. These voices are played back on set for reference, and the puppet masters must pay close attention to the way the characters' mouths move, to make sure they match the recording. Later the editor can make small changes to better line up the puppets' mouths and the recording, and then put them together for the final edit.

About the Author

Robert Godard began writing in 2007 for various creative blogs and academic publications. He has been featured on multiple film blogs and has worked in the film industry. He attended Baltimore College, earning his B.A. in history.

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