Using magnets for stop motion animation

Stop motion is a technique using plasticine or clay models and sets which are shot one frame at a time. Between each frame the models and set are moved very slightly to give the impression of movement before the process is repeated and the next frame is shot.

Stop motion animation has a long and varied history in film used, for the first time before 1900 and throughout the boom of silent movies. More recently, much loved characters Wallace and Gromit and their exploits were created using the technique of stop motion animation.

Our technical experts (who are huge animation fans) were excited when they received a call from stop motion filmmaker Mark Bowyer from Oxfordshire who was faced with a familiar problem of keeping his plasticine figures balanced during walking shots. Mark explains: “When we walk, there are several points where we are off balance, which is fine for us – unless you catch your moving foot and trip – but it’s a problem when you need to keep a figure in an off-balance position to capture a frame.”

Small rectangular magnets being used to hold down patterned paper to a hardboard stage.

Small rectangular magnets being used to hold down patterned paper to a hardboard stage.

When Mark called, he explained that although his figures are made of plasticine, they actually have a wire frame and steel feet. This meant that we were able to offer Mark an ideal magnetic solution. We supplied Mark with two 20mm diameter x 10mm thick N42 neodymium disc magnets that could be used underneath the raised 3mm thick hardboard stage and strong enough to attract the steel feet keeping Mark’s character, Fudge Small, upright during shots that would otherwise be impossible.”

Mark continued: “I also use 3mm x 3mm x 8mm rectangular N45H neodymium magnets. To help dress the stage I use patterned paper, like the wood effect paper (pictured). As they are stored in a tube, they need to be held down so they don’t move or curl up.  The small magnets are ideal as they are attracted to the screws that I used when making the stage, holding the paper down without marking it.

“I also make use of magnetic tape so I can use a similar method to hold the wallpaper seen on the back wall of the set, rather than using drawing pins or conventional tape. Thank you for your very swift delivery and excellent prices.  I was originally using similar strength tie down magnets bought from an animation supplier, but yours are half the price!”


The first4magnets team enjoyed watching the finished animation of Fudge Small and his table. Here it is for you to enjoy.

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