Friday, December 22, 2006

Night at the Museum

Reading the Baltimore Sun's review of the new Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum made me think I had seen something like this before, and I had. Night at the Museum's conceit - that all the statues and exhibits at New York's Museum of Natural History come to life every night after the patrons leave - is not bad, but it's already been done before as an 8-minute short, a more suitable timeframe that doesn't exhaust such a conceit's modest ambitions.

The short was Will Vinton's Oscar-winning 1974 claymation short Closed Mondays, which presented the same idea, albeit in an art museum, and featured paintings coming alive before the eyes of a skeptical wino. They used to show this short a lot at The Charles Theatre, usually before the main feature film. It's a shame it's not available on VHS or DVD at the moment, but it is on YouTube (isn't everything?):

CLOSED MONDAYS (Will Vinton & Bob Gardiner, 1974, 7:30 min)

In 1975 Will Vinton and co-creator Bob Gardiner won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film for Closed Mondays - amazingly, it was Vinton's first film as an animator. After this auspicious beginning in animation Vinton coined the term Claymation® to describe his unique process of animating with plasticene clay, and registered the word as a trademark.


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