ShadowMachine: Stop Motion as STEAM

Science At Home People and Place

Have you ever seen movies like Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio and wondered “how do they do that?” OMSI, with assistance from our friends at Comcast, can now help in answering that question! We took a trip to ShadowMachine, an Academy Award winning animation studio, to learn about how scientific disciplines help bring high art to life.

First Frames

Stop Motion is a form of animation that manipulates object to give the appearance of ambulation. basically taking a model, taking it a picture of it, moving the model a little bit, taking another picture, and so on until there is an appearance of movement.


It is one of the earliest forms of cinema that we have as an audience. From Willis O’Brien to

Ray Harryhausen to Phil Tippet to Will Vinton, there has been a lot of progression in the medium since 1898. Today, we have new technologies and techniques to bring stop motion visions to life!
Gif of dinosaurs attacking each other in a black and white stop motion film

Material Science with Elsa

Meet Elsa, she is responsible for making the costumes that bring the characters to life. Material science is key to this process. Understanding how fiber and how they work aids in the dying and sewing processes. There is engineering into the miniature costumes-there is lining on the inside that makes them structurally sound and allow the fabrics movement to look like that of a full sized actor.

Chemistry with Mattzilla

Meet Matzilla, they are a puppet fabricator at that specializes in mold making and casting. They are responsible for making the skin of the puppets that are used in ShadowMachine’s productions.

Industrial Design with Winnona

This is Winnona and they are a puppet fabricator at ShadowMachine. With a background and metalsmithing, they utilize fine motor skills and 21st Century Technologies to bring characters to life. Designing with tools such as Rhino, they are responsible for modeling and 3D printing components of the puppets we see on screen. A fun example is making eye sockets for character’s heads. 

Engineering with Alex

This is Alex and he is an armaturist for ShadowMachine. He is responsible for building the metal skeletons for the characters in the films the studio makes. The joints of the characters use ball and socket technique which has been employed for the last 100 years. ShadowMachine puts 3D printed components such as Winonna’s eye sockets and printed titanium to make the puppets strong and limber.


Thank you to our Corporate Members

OMSI’s would like to extend gratitude to Comcast and ShadowMachine for helping us bring this Learning Article to life.

ShadowMachine - Wikipedia