Modelling Clay and Stop-Motion Animation Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Modelling Clay and Stop-Motion Animation

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Modelling clay is essentially clay and oil plus dye. For many years it was regarded as completely inert, although its spontaneous metamorphosis from a rainbow of colours into a uniform shade of brown when nobody is looking has always been a source of speculation.

But then, out of the blue (or in this case the brown), there came Morph1. Originally a segment within Vision On2, Morph started in 1976 and was produced by Peter Lord3 and David Sproxton, under the banner of Aardman Animation.

Nick Park (one of the Aardman team who created Morph) continued to explore the potential of modelling clay-based stop-motion animation and in 1989, with a risible budget, started work on his short film A Grand Day Out, the first Wallace and Gromit4 adventure. And it was successful. So successful that actual money was spent on the successors, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. But modelling clay actors were not receiving the recognition they deserved. In an attempt to head-off any injunctions, the Motion Picture Academy of America awarded Oscars to the latter two films.

Modelling clay is now seen as a mainstream material for manufacture of Hollywood leading actors, and is known to create a more lifelike result than the now seriously outmoded actor Roger Moore.

Making your own Modelling Clay

In the interests of completeness, here is the secret to invoke modelling clay using US measurements:


  • 10lbs microcrystalline wax
  • 1/2 gallon #10wt5 oil
  • 4lbs plain automotive grease
  • 25lbs dry clay powder (such as Kentucky ball clay)


  1. Melt wax, oil, and grease together in an (electric) frying kettle or chip pan.

  2. Once melted, stir in clay powder slowly.

  3. Pour into shallow microwave-safe plastic containers, or into a wet plaster mould.

Alternatively you could try this novel recipe:

  1. Take 1 Early Learning Centre (Toys 'R' Us will do in a pinch).

  2. Ask assistant where the modelling clay lives.

  3. Add sufficient pounds (or dollars, yen, dinarii or other currency) to be allowed to leave the building unaccompanied by gentlemen in blue serge suits.

You can choose modelling clay in a rainbow variety of different colours, all of which will transmogrify into brown if not adequately supervised.

1An animated character made of modelling clay.2A programme on British television hosted by Tony Hart and Pat Keysell. The show was also notable for being the first mainstream British TV programme with signing for the deaf and for introducing Sylvester McCoy, who later played Doctor Who.3No relation, as far as is known, to Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-O.4Two more stop-motion animation characters made of modelling clay.5This is the Society of Automotive Engineer's scale for the thickness of oil. The lower the number, the thinner the oil.

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