The five most despicable stop-motion creatures

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Stop-motion animation is not as popular these days as it used to be, with CGI rapidly taking over as the dominant choice. Less time-consuming and quicker to produce, computer-generated imagery has increasingly infiltrated mainstream cinema, leaving the art of stop-motion more of a rarity.

Still, many filmmakers are champions of stop-motion, such as Tim Burton, as demonstrated by movies like Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie, as well as Guillermo del Toro, who used the medium for his 2022 film Pinnochio. There is a real beauty to stop-motion, which has a more distinctive and captivating look than computer animation.

Stop-motion has often been used to make movies with horror and surrealist tendencies, as displayed by films like Jan Švankmajer’s Alice, a creepy adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, and Blood Tea and Red String, featuring red-eyed mice. In turn, many stop motion movies, or those live-action films which incorporate the medium, have given us some truly horrific, scary or downright despicable characters.

From the absolutely terrifying characters like Coraline’s Other Mother/Beldam to the visually harmless but purely evil figures like Feathers McGraw from Wallace and Gromit, here are five stop-motion creations which are enough to incite feelings of fear, disgust or anger in the viewer.

Five despicable stop-motion creatures:

5. Feathers McGraw – Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (Nick Park, 1993)

While Feathers McGraw isn’t scary to look at, he is a truly evil character who is arguably the most anger-inducing on this list. First appearing in The Wrong Trousers, the penguin, who somehow fools people into thinking he’s a chicken by wearing rubber gloves on his head, is a cheeky, conniving criminal. After charming Wallace and leaving Gromit feeling unloved, he utilises the Techno Trousers to commit a diamond heist, using a sleeping Wallace to carry out the crime for him.

Luckily, Wallace and Gromit save the day, leaving Feathers McGraw back in prison, where he rightly belongs. We see the horrible little penguin try and shoot the beloved protagonist as he tries to escape being caught; he’s an all-around despicable character who, despite not saying a word, has the capability to ruffle the audience’s feathers with his cunning attitude.

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4. The Beldam – Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, Coraline was directed by Henry Selick, with Dakota Fanning providing the voice of the titular character. She gets sucked into another world, which she discovers through a door, exposing her to a universe full of creepy characters, such as The Beldam or The Other Mother, as the character is also known. Voiced by Teri Hatcher, the stop-motion creation is truly creepy, seeking out impressionable children by spying on them through rag dolls. Once she lures them in, she replaces their eyes with buttons.

As the movie progresses, the Beldam gets creepier, and her true form becomes less and less human. It turns out to be part human and part spider-like, all pointy and bony, with an incredibly menacing face. Even when her hand is severed from her body, it still tries to attack poor Coraline.

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3. Boggis, Bunce and Bean – Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)

Wes Anderson made his first foray into animation in 2009 with Fantastic Mr Fox, keeping his quirky style as he experimented with stop-motion. He also maintained his collaborations with certain actors, such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. Even Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker features in the beloved movie, which remains one of his best. In the film, George Clooney’s Mr Fox, along with some of his friends, steal food from three nearby human farmers, much to their annoyance.

The farmers—Boggis, Bunce, and Bean—are terrifying villains seeking to kill Mr Fox. They even attempt to shoot him, which blows off his tail. Described by Badger as “three of the meanest, nastiest, ugliest farmers in the history of this valley,” you can’t do anything other than viciously despise these characters whenever they’re on screen, getting in the way of Fox and his friends.

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2. Cyclops – The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Nathan H. Juran, 1958)

A list of stop-motion characters could not be complete without the master of the medium – Ray Harryhausen. The animator is celebrated for his pioneering efforts in the stop-motion realm, creating his own approach called Dynamation. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, directed by Nathan H. Juran, was one of his most prominent movies – and his first in colour. Based on the classic tale, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was one of three that Harryhausen worked on that used the iconic character, creating many significant stop-motion villains as a result.

The Cyclops, who all possess one giant eye in the middle of their forehead, a big, sharp horn on top of their skull and scaly skin, are the main monsters in the film. They are partly human in nature, although they lack much cognitive ability. Still, their large stature and ugly appearance make them hideously intimidating, regardless of how smart they actually are.

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1. Medusa – Clash of the Titans (Desmond Davis, 1981)

Harryhausen really was a giant of stop-motion animation, which is why another one of his creations, Medusa from Clash of the Titans, makes it onto this list. The film, released in the early 1980s, was the final piece of media that the animator worked on, even though he didn’t pass away until 2013. Still, he made sure that his last work was memorable, creating the terrifying Medusa, with glowing eyes and lots of snakes emerging from her head.

Of course, when we consider Medusa’s complex backstory, she becomes less of a frightening figure and one that has been severely misunderstood. Yet, based on her appearance alone in Clash of the Titans, Harryhausen did an excellent job of making her look as hideous as possible. She is horrific in her outward appearance, combined with her propensity to attack and turn people to stone, which terrified many of us as children.

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