The Animation Chefs Cook Up an iStopMotion Storm

by Megan -

Back when we were kids, we watched our favorite animated TV shows and movies in awe, wondering how the magic of animation was even possible. One of the oldest forms of animation, which has been making a big comeback over the last few years, is stop motion animation – better known to some as claymation. Animators have been using it for years and years, bringing inanimate objects magically to life. Some people are content watching this small phenomenon on the screen. Others (like us here at Boinx) have this unquenchable need to go behind the scenes and be a part of the magic. Also in the latter camp are the Animation Chefs.

The Animation Chefs are four brothers on a mission to make animation as well as visual media in general the norm. They discovered the power of animation eight years ago and haven’t stopped since. Today, they host their own website, which features all the Animation Chefs webisodes, behind-the-scenes footage, and secret recipes. They also teach an animation class for kids at a local gymnastics center. Oh, and did we mention the Animation Chefs essentially ARE kids? Yup, from ages eight to 18, the Chefs are four brothers, teaching their own peers AND adults the art of animation. So, how do a couple of unsuspecting brothers become the stars of their own web series?

We made a holiday video for our family about eight years ago. Our mom and dad helped us animate some Rudolph the Reindeer paper cutouts, made from our own drawings. It was a big hit when we sent out the DVD Christmas cards that year,” the Chefs tell us. “A teacher at school also allowed us to submit a short animation instead of an essay for a project in history class. So we also got into animation because it was another way to get good grades. Since then, we've used animation for YouTube thank you cards, birthday wishes, and more school assignments.

After a few years of animating, in 2006, the guys needed something to replace the Lunchbox Synch their dad got for them on loan from a friend. That’s when they discovered iStopMotion. “iStopMotion was a breakthrough product for us then, just as the app is now for the iPad. It allowed us to do stop motion on our Mac laptop without all the overhead of monitors and Lunchbox.

Six years, 34 YouTube videos (and counting), and over 10,000 Twitter followers later, the Chefs are well on their way to becoming the next big Internet sensation. Their videos are a fresh mix of informative and witty content, and they clearly have an intuitive understanding of the television industry. Episodes even include special segments, like Pot-O-Problems – where the Chefs are challenged to create an animation out of miscellaneous objects pulled out of a pot – and Slap Me With An App, where they feature an iOS app (like iStopMotion for iPad!). And it’s all in the family, too. Mom and Dad are the producers.

The Animation Chef’s dad used to work in the television industry, which may account for some of their industry savvy, but that doesn’t mean they’re using him as a crutch – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. “Our dad is more excited for us to create our own audience online with our own site than pitching this to television or other mass media outlets,” the Chef-brothers tell us. “We have seen many artists, musicians, and animators create an audience without having to go through mass media channels. So we are starting small and growing our own audience, making them happy, producing great stuff, and getting their permission to send them more stuff. We have big plans for next season, and for products and detailed lessons we would like to sell on our website. We hope to use the proceeds for college. We are in this for the long haul.

For the Animation Chefs, iStopMotion has played a big role in their ability to produce animated content. “We use iStopMotion for everything, both on the iPad and on a MacBook Pro,” they say. “The iPad changes everything. On the iPad version, we love using our iPhone as the camera and the iPad as the capture device. We have Wi-Fi at the house, so we have been able to clip the camera to the ceiling for certain shots and use the iPad for remote picture taking. This is by far our favorite feature of the iPad version of iStopMotion. Other than that, just the simplicity of iStopMotion is invaluable. ‘What app do you use’ is the most-asked question by parents. You know the answer.

Their latest iStopMotion endeavor is Episode 5 of their web series, featuring Godzilla vs. Justin Bieber – an animation challenge from the Pot-O-Problems, which took the chefs about 50 hours to complete! Animated with the use of iStopMotion and After Effects and their biggest episode yet, the fifth installment of the series also features a short movie done by local kids with the help of Animation Chefs. They used their brand new green screen to film the children slaying a dragon. Check out the hilarious episode above or on the website, and be sure to check out the Members’ area for behind-the-scenes footage – simply enter your email address in the field provided in the site to receive all the goodies before anyone else!

The Chefs clearly love what they do and are good at it - exemplifying passion and skill one rarely sees in the younger crowd. But animating is only half their story. “We hope that we can inspire other kids to use all these cool digital tools and devices to do more than just play games or text. We think telling stories visually, making movies, and being distributors is the future,” said the Animation Chefs. “Kids get this already, so we'd like to be the reason parents, educators, and other learning outlets turn to visual media production as a basic skill. Like reading and writing. Our dad says iStopMotion is like a pencil. It's another tool we can use to express our ideas and ourselves.

It is such an amazing thing to have an idea in your head, to produce it as a movie, send it out to the world, and find all sorts of people who love what we do and, more importantly, do what we do.