“Unity” by Tobias Stretch.

There are many ways to create animation, and most of them are tedious and life draining. It’s pretty common to find animators incorporating some combination of chair and desk as a prison of their practice, where they trudge through their work while simultaneously wasting away. Tobias Stretch has no appetite for that lifestyle, and uses the world as his stop motion playground.

Living in downtown Philly, he spends his time creating large-scale stop motion puppets in his studio, amongst other artworks, and devotedly brings them to life in the same environments you or I might travel through on an odd day. His creations find temporary homes in abandoned buildings and underneath highway overpasses. They lurk in the deep woods and the shores of serene lakes. They inhabit the spaces we take for granted, from mundane to sublime, and bring a completely unique vision to the spectrum of animation.

He shoots his stop motion outdoors, which introduces a plethora of random elements to the filmmaking process. It’s a challenge that only a handful of animators have been willing to tackle. That’s because the lighting constantly changes, the weather can be sporadic, and the environment is always moving on its own. Tobias takes all of these random elements and allows them to flourish alongside his crazed creations as they travel through varied landscapes, sinuously combining time-lapse elements with stop motion.

Frequently working to musical tracks, Stretch’s creatures move to their fullest potential. You’ll witness them growing, decaying, swaying drunkenly, flying and diving, and otherwise doing whatever they feel like. They form odd relationships as their timelines progress, often conjoining and trading parts with each other. The effect is playful if a bit terrifying. The limitations of the medium he works with don’t even come to mind until after you’ve watched his puppets soar through canopies of trees, swim through trash, or emerge from a swampy shoreline. His works suspend disbelief and create a magical experience for the viewer.

For more reading check out an interview with Toby at The Creators Project about his film “Unity”, and an older interview at 22 Magazine.

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