Watch: Stop-Motion Puppetry Short That Plato Would’ve Loved

If you think animation is a medium best reserved for Cartoon Network and not for fine artists, you’re likely to reconsider after seeing Pennsylvania-based animator Tobias Stretch’s new video, Unity.

The five-minute stop-motion animation–made for a hauntingly beautiful choral work by avant-garde composer Christopher Bono–is a mystical saga patched together from more than 10,000 individual photographs. Aesthetically speaking, it (literally) shimmers.

Over the course of the brutal 2013-2014 winter, Stretch created several 10-foot-tall sculptural puppets from a hodgepodge of colorful materials–and made them twist, dance, morph, and writhe along landscapes both industrial and woodsy. The effect creates a see-saw of emotions, from melancholia to hope. To judge by its moods, the film (if you spin it positively), is about resilience. And it just happens to be a coincidence that on several occasions, Stretch got frostbite while shooting consecutive 16-hour days in subzero temperatures (regrettably gloveless).

Explaining the film’s abstract, poetic narrative, Stretch says, in a recent interview with The Creators Project, that “two little interdimensional, elemental beings . . . aid the protagonist in transcending to another spiritual level or dimension of unity and peace.” The lyrics of Bono’s composition quote Plato’s Republic: “What is absolute unity? This is the way in which the study of one has the power of drawing and converting the mind to the contemplation of true being.”

Stretch cites aesthetic influences from lowbrow to highbrow–Slayer and skateboarding, Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch, David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky, and artist-animators the Brothers Quay and Jiri Barta. If Unity is any indication, Stretch is on his way to joining the ranks of these animation greats.

[via The Creators Project]