If the prospect of a stop-motion animated film written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman is not enough to quicken the pulse of a film critic, very little will. Based on his own play, Kaufman’s Anomalisa is a unique, long-gestating comedy-drama made in collaboration with animator Duke Johnson, who also worked on Moral Orel and Community’s stop-motion Christmas episode. The project is really not a radical departure for Kaufman. After all, his breakthrough film as a screenwriter, 1999’s Being John Malkovich, contained this classic burn from Catherine Keener to John Cusack: “You play with dolls, Craig.” If “Crafting Anomalisa,” a promotional featurette from Paramount Pictures, is to be believed, the creation of this 90-minute film took three years of playing with dolls, as well as lots of tiny furniture and props: wee little telephones, desks, and beds. If the human characters, voiced by David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan, didn’t look so sad, this would all be adorable.

“This was a very challenging film to make,” says Johnson, and it seems like an understatement. The featurette throws daunting statistics at the viewer: 1,261 faces; over 1,000 costumes and props; 118,809 frames of film; and two lousy seconds of animation completed on average per day. All of this is in service of a movie in which, according the IMDB, “a man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.” It sounds like a far cry from a Rankin/Bass special, but Hermey The Elf did experience his own form of angst and ennui while making toys at the North Pole, and Rudolph knows a thing or two about alienation. Perhaps stop-motion is inherently a sad medium.

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Kaufman’s finished movie goes into limited release on December 30.

[via Laughing Squid]

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