A rather unique stop motion animator is Jiří Trnka. He made several films both short and long such as Ruka (The Hand) (1965), A Midsummers Night’s Dream (1959), Cybernetic Grandma (1962), and Dva mrazíci (1954). In these films he was able to what live action or traditional animation couldn’t, express may emotions with just one face along with different camera angles and lighting effects.
Jiří Trnka was most well known for his stop motion pictures because of how well he showed many expressions in one face. He never changed the puppets used in his films and used lights and angles to show different expressions. This is most notable in A Midsummers Night’s Dream when we first time we see the king, it was very obvious he was curious what Hermia’s father had to say. Another example is in Ruka, when the sculptor sees his plant fall, we can clearly see he is worried, even though he still has the same face. In Cybernetic Grandma, we can tell the little girl is scared during the time she spends the Cybernetic Grandma.
While in some scenes it looks like the head did change, it was actually a different puppet. Any scene where a character had his or her eyes closed, or in Midsummers Night’s Dream when one of the actor’s heads was turned into that of a donkey’s, it was actually a separate puppet. Also from Midsummers Night’s Dream, Oberon’s many outfits were also separate puppets. This was just something Trnka chose to do.
He also used traditional animation in his other films to add more expression, an example of this is Dva mrazíci. In this film, Trnka had ghosts try to haunt some lumberjacks in the cold. The ghosts and some features on the lumberjacks were animated traditionally.
This technique has been used by other animators worldwide, it is even used today. Stop motion made by most Youtubers uses this technique when they animate with their action figures (like myself). Trnka is definitely one of the most impactful stop motion animators in history, even though he wasn’t the first.