Stop motion is one of the most popular forms of animation. There is something inherently fascinating about watching an object come to life and move on its own. With StikBot, from Zing Toys, kids have the basic tools for creating their own stop motion videos. The basic set comes with a tripod that adjusts to fit different smartphones, as well as two Stikbots, which are highly expressive and poseable action figures. After downloading the StikBot Studio app, which is compatible with iOS and Android devices, anyone can get started on their animated masterpiece starring the Stikbots–the only other thing they’ll need is their imaginations.
The Stikbots themselves all have a similar, pixilated look, with multiple points of articulation, as well as limbs connected by stretchy rubber bands. These brightly colored figures feature a compelling design, even when they’re just standing in place. They also have suction cups for hands and feet, which can adhere to most flat surfaces—even to themselves and fellow Stikbots.
As for the StikBot Studio app, it does an excellent job of guiding users through the stop-motion video-making process, which is actually more like photo-taking (And this makes perfect sense, since stop motion animation traditionally consists of individually photographed frames, with the object moved slightly in between them). Whenever they’re ready to start, users can press either an on-screen button or the volume control to take a picture. The app then creates a ghost image of the photograph, which it superimposed slightly over the camera view, which allows the user to easily adjust the object so it only appears to move a little bit each time. Repeat the process many, many times, with minor variances between photographs, and kids have themselves a stop motion video.
(Please note: It can take a descent amount of time to set up your shot, take a photo, readjust the object, take another photo, etc., just to get half a minute of stop motion that looks decent. If your 4-year-old is interested in creating his or her own feature length stop-motion animated movie, get them to start now. They ought to have a rough cut finished by the time they turn 18.)
Along with boasting an intuitive design that any experienced Instagram user should quickly figure out, the app has automatic settings for focus, light exposure, and more. With those aspects taken care of, users can focus on learning such skills as basic visual storytelling, which–trust me–is important. I actually spent hours playing with Stikbot Studio, in large part because so many of my early videos were unwatchable. I had to learn the very simple fact that just because you can animate three Stikbots simultaneously does not mean you should. It proved to be more effective to animate them one at a time—you know, so the viewer can actually focus on one thing.
I probably shouldn’t quit my job as a toy reviewer to become an animator just yet, but give me a few more hours and some Internet fame (StikBot Studio lets you easily save videos to your smartphone’s memory, and from there you can upload to social media), and we’ll see. In the meantime, here’s the very short video I made after my StikBot crash course. It’s about 7 seconds long, and it took forever to make. Enjoy!