Ray Harryhausen Awards 2024 - Best Children's Animation WINNERS!

I am over the moon that animations created with me at my stop motion club won the Ray Harryhausen Awards 2024 Best Children’s Animation.

As with all of my workshops, a great deal of work went in behind the scenes. Here is how I helped Lisa Holmes (10) and her brother Benjamin (11) create winning films at my stop motion club in my Edinburgh studio. 

We had so many high quality entries in all categories this year, and so all of this year’s awardees and notable entries should be particularly proud. 

Given that we receive entries from around the world, I was very pleased to realize that these winning films were created under your supervision at StopMoGo. The judges were not aware that these had been created in Edinburgh when choosing their favourites, and so this is a lovely coincidence. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the presentation that Vanessa and I made at the Animated Women event last year, and that this has helped motivate the creation of such wonderful children’s films in some way! 

Connor Heaney, Diana & Ray Harryhausen Foundation Collection Manager

A Bit of Background

How did this all come about?

I first became aware of the Awards at the event, ‘Animated Women UK – An evening with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation’ November 2023. It was at this event that I had the fortune to meet Ray’s daughter, Vanessa Harryhausen and Connor Heaney, the Foundation’s Collection Manager.

I will confess, I wish I had known about the awards sooner, as I have been inspiring and helping hundreds of children make amazing stop motion animations ever since I set up StopMoGo in 2010.

Ray Harryhausen's Influence on me

The work of Ray Harryhausen has had a profound influence on me. It is undoubtedly one of the defining reasons I have been devoted to running stop motion animation classes, courses, after school clubs, birthday parties, holiday workshops, and public participatory events for the last 14 years. I will never forget the first time I saw Clash of the Titans, enthralled by Pegasus and terrified by Medusa. I must have spent at least 6 hours at the incredible ‘Titan of Cinema’ exhibition at National Galleries Scotland, marvelling at his extraordinary creations.

The way Ray brought mythical creatures to life has stayed with me. When I was a primary teacher. Myths and legends was one of favourite topics to teach. When I left my job as a teacher to pursue my passion for stop motion, it was one of the first themed workshops I created.

Here is artwork featuring my two StopMoGo mascots, Pip & Pogo, that I created to advertise the workshop (for more of my artwork, check out my design portfolio).

I had worked with Lisa and Beni at a couple of my workshops previously. Here they are as ‘living puppets’ in some pixilations I animated at my Halloween workshop last year.

How I ran this Stop Motion Club


Building on the previous workshops I have run, I chose myths and legends as the theme for the stop motion club to introduce Lisa and Beni to, and inspire them with, Ray Harryhausen’s incredible work.

Which monsters to make?

We watched various videos to be inspired by Ray’s fantastic creatures and to start thinking about which monsters they wanted to make.

Title Sequences

Whilst they were thinking about what their story could be, in the first class they made animations with plasticine letters of their name that would form part of their title sequence. This is a fun activity that I first came up with for my after school clubs.  You can find full instructions on how to create an animation like this in my on-demand 3D stop motion course.

Model Making

Creating Monsters

Beni decided on making a cyclops and Lisa, a giant snake.

To enable them to have as much time as possible to work on their films at the classes – 2 hours a week over the course of 6 weeks – I prepared armatures for their puppets in the time between classes.

Giant Serpent

Here is the simple armature I made for Lisa’s giant snake from aluminium wire from Animation Toolkit, polystyrene egg, and masking tape. The reason I covered the wire with tape was to help the plasticine stick to it. Lisa covered it in two tones of green and created texture with modelling tools.

I made the eyes from balls of yellow Fimo and painted the pupil with black enamel.  I made an indent in centre before baking as the hole allows you to use a pointed tool to animate the eyes moving.


This was a bit more complex. I had never made anything approaching a cyclops puppet before.

As it would have taken Beni several classes to make the armature alone (and not left much time to animate), I helped him by doing a lot of the preparation in between classes.

I first created a wire armature. I looked at the design of Ray Harryhausen’s Cyclops for inspiration.

I then used Milliput, a two-part epoxy, to create structure and bones. I usually use superfine, but did not have any to hand, so used the standard one. It is important to make sure that the Milliput is well mixed.

One of the trickiest things was designing the armature so that the top body was large and muscular whilst also ensuring it would stand up by itself and not topple over. It took some effort to find the centre of balance (and modelling quite a big backside!). I also added a neodymim magnet to the bottom of each foot before the Milliput dried, as I would be putting a magnetic board underneath Beni’s set. This would also help the puppet stay upright.


To help the plasticine stick, I wrapped the armature in surgical tape which is softer and better than masking tape for more complex shapes.

I made the eye from Fimo, painted the pupil with black enamel, making a hole before baking so that it could be animated looking in different directions.

I showed Beni how Aardman include large brows to their characters so that they can convey emotion. We talked about how you can make a character look angry, surprised, scared etc. Also, how eyelids and blinks can bring a character to life and express emotions. These things are especially important if a character does not talk, such as Gromit.

I gave him a 1:1 model-making masterclass, showing how to use tools to add hair-like texture to the legs, definition to the muscles.

I always encourage children to go bigger with their characters, to exaggerate features as it will look better on screen. With the cyclops, I suggested bigger ears, horn, nose, lips, hands – as you see in the finished model below.

We added large hooves so that it would help it stand up. I suggested we make the teeth from something other than white plasticine as this would get squished when animated. I searched about my studio for something suitable, and went with small pieces of white foam.

After Beni finished his animation, I repurposed the armature and created a cyclops puppet of my own. Below (left) you can see how I made and (right) animated it.

Handmade props

I gave Beni and Lisa the use of props I made for my ‘Myths and Legends’ workshop.

I originally made the helmets, swords and shields for an activity recreating the scene with Medusa in ‘Clash of the Titans’, which can you see in action in compilation below. You can also see more about these props on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

Replacement Technique

Anyone who has ever been to one of my workshops will know how much I love to use the replacement technique in stop motion animation. 

The reasons I love it so much, especially for use at workshops, are that, whilst the initial creation of the replacements takes time, especially with these Pegasuses (Pegasi?) – they took me a lot of cutting out, animating them is relatively quick and can produce excellent results.

I gave Beni use of the Pegasus replacements I had made for an activity at my Myths and Legends workshop as an ode to Ray Harryhausen’s remarkable model and animation in ‘Clash of the Titans’.

Principles of Animation

Something I have always worked hard on when creating activities for my stop motion animation workshops and courses, is devising engaging ways to instil the 12 Principles of Animation.

For Lisa and Beni, I looked for ways to help them improve their films by introducing them to these principles. These included:


With staging, it is all about thinking of your stop motion set as a miniature theatre stage. Can the audience see what is happening? Are you focussing our attention on the most important thing that is happening? How can you create shots that makes us feel what is happening? How can you position your characters, their eyes to do this? More on the techniques and ideas I shared for their films to improve staging below.


Anticipation is important when creating engaging films. So, when it came to the moment that they were either cutting head off snake or stabbing the cyclops, it was a great moment to teach this animation principle. I encouraged them to think about how they would swing a bat to hit a ball, advising that they raise the sword up for several frames with a very slight pause, before bringing it down in a swift motion.

I showed them a clip demonstrating this from the stop motion I made of a Punch and Judy show.

Here you can see how Lisa took this on board – raising the sword up, a slight pause, before bringing it down. The movements on the way down could be larger to take gravity into account and to make it more dramatic.

Filming-Making Techniques

Establishing Shot

To introduce the audience to where the action is taking place, position the camera so that it takes in the whole scene. 

Focus Pulling

To make his shot more interesting, I cut out some blades of grass for Beni and showed how they can be used to add depth, especially with a focus pull. First, focussing the camera on the grass, then adjusting the focus frame by frame onto the subject, as I did in my Tatty Devine animation (watch in full here).

I chose black card as the scene was set at dusk and it would make it look like the grass is in silhouette.

Here it is in Beni’s animation:

Extreme Close-Up

At the other end of the scale, moving the camera for a extreme close-up is effective for moments such as when the cyclops gets stabbed.

Scrolling Background

This technique is used a lot in classic cartoons. It is really effective and easy to do in stop motion. Your character stays in the centre and all you need to do is move the clouds. I suggested to outline the clouds in black pen so that they would stand out and have a more cartoon look.

POV shot

You can make the audience feel like they are part of the films with shots from the point of view of the character – we see and feel what they do.

I suggested that Lisa and Beni include POV shots for the important moments when their hero faces the monster. With a close-up of the protagonist first, showing them shaking their head, raising their hands to their face, or showing fear in some other way. This establishes that what we see next is from their point of view. 

Using colour enhances the emotions the character is feeling. This orange background with jagged red and black lines adds to the sense of menace.

The Hollywood Backdrop

In the way classic films such as The Wizard of Oz used painted backdrops, I suggested we could use this as a simple technique to create depth with forced perspective. The background sheets in Lisa and Beni’s films are all ones I printed for my Myths and Legends workshops. This dungeon one is especially effective with the way we positioned the camera and had the character walking towards it.

Match Cut

As Beni’s character was travelling to several different locations, I suggested he use a match cut. I showed him how I had used one in my Pirates animation to transition between the pirate in the captain’s cabin to him on the plank (watch my animation in full here). 

The way I animated my pirate looking around was my homage to one of my favourite directors, Steven Spielberg – inspired by this cut in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’.

Here is where this technique was used in Beni’s animation to transition between locations.

Tilting Shot

I suggested this technique for revealing the monster as it would help the audience share the protagonist’s fear.

I showed them the transformation scene from ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ as it features a tilting shot, starting from the group upwards, to gradually reveal the monster, building the audience’s excitement and anticipation.

This is how I directed the scene in Beni’s film:

First, an establishing shot, where the hero looks up at something off-screen, noticing it. He steps backwards in initial surprise/fear. This creates excitement in the audience. What is he looking at? It must be something scary!

Then a close-up so that the audience can connect with the character. He raises his sword in preparation. This builds even more anticipation. We do not want to reveal the monster straight away.

Now the tilting shot, revealing the monster.

Then, back to the hero. Raising his sword to show he is resolute to attack the monster.

Taking it to the Next Level

All of the techniques I have mentioned above will take your films to the next level. Great films tell stories and immerse you in their world. They make you FEEL.

In the section on model making I spoke about how I helped Lisa and Beni with character designs, and why certain decisions were made, i.e. encouraging them to think about how they were going to use eyes, brows, and eyelids to express the character’s emotions.

Here you can see the various moments in their films that I suggested shots, what to animate, and how to improve scenes with additional moments.

How to add more drama and make us connect with your character

With the cyclops, to make the scene more dramatic, I suggested a close-up where he frowns, looks down into the camera, gesturing with his hand as if daring you to ‘come on then’, with blinks and blood dripping. This really adds to the menace! You will notice the benefit of my intervention in Beni’s animation when the cyclops looks down and more into the camera. Something I often remind children at my workshops to do is making their puppet look at us, the audience or towards their other puppet ‘on stage’, as it helps us to connect with their character.

Before the monsters were dispatched, I suggested a close-up shot, showing their eyes widening, brows raising in fear and surprise.

Extra Sprinkles of Fun

To add some additional appeal, drama and fun into her films, I suggested Lisa add a moment when people run away from the monstrous snake in terror and towards us shaking their heads and arms. I showed her this iconic moment from ‘Home Alone’ and suggested she try to animate it in the same way.

Another retro reference was the opening clip of a cartoon from my childhood, He-Man and Masters of the Universe. I suggested using a whiteboard to animate the magical power emanating from her heroine’s sword.

For another injection of fun, I suggested that Lisa create some ‘outtakes’ or bloopers similar to those created in Pixar movies. For example, the ‘actors’ relaxing after filming the movie, sitting on a chair chatting, eating or drinking etc.

This is from Lisa’s ‘outtake’ of Timmy, her heroine’s side-kick, based on her own pet hamster, noshing. I happily donated some of my afternoon snack, sunflower seeds. I showed how she could animate Timmy’s cheeks filling by adding increments of clay.

The Magic of Stop Motion

As anything is possible with animation, I showed Beni how to use the magic of stop motion for the moment his character puts the dragon’s head in a bag. I made replacement bags from plasticine and silver thread. I suggested that his character reaches behind his back to make it look like he is getting the bag out. Then, to start with the smallest bag and swapping it for the larger one to show that the dragon’s head has gone into it. 

As we could not see what was happening very well, and as a reminder of importance of staging, I suggested he tilt the camera down as he animated the head going into the bag. Using my one of favourite sound effects, ‘flop’, is the finishing touch to this moment.

Sound Effects and Music

I absolutely love this part of the film-making process as sound effects and music really bring animations to life. I have a huge library of sound effects and music that I have compiled over the years. 

We used Adobe Premiere Pro to add sound effects and Audacity to record their voices. We had fun in Audacity changing the pitch. Beni decided to lower the pitch of his voice for his character.

You too can enjoy a selection of my sound effects and a guide on using Audacity in my on-demand courses.

I absolutely love this part of the film-making process as sound effects and music really bring animations to life. I have a huge library of sound effects and music that I have compiled over the years. 

We used Adobe Premiere Pro to add sound effects and Audacity to record their voices. We had fun in Audacity changing the pitch. Beni decided to lower the pitch of his voice for his character.

You too can enjoy a selection of my sound effects and a guide on using Audacity in my on-demand courses.

Software, equipment & Table-Top Studios

The software used to make these animations is Dragonframe. It is the industry standard for stop motion animation software. I have been using at my workshops every since I set up StopMoGo in 2010. It has an inuitive interface and has a wealth of features to assist you as you animate. 

I have included a comprehensive set-up guide with full information on which camera and lights I use at my workshops in my on-demand courses

I have also included instructions on how to make a portable table-top studio with special features based on my original design. Find out more here.

Summing Up

I could write more about everything that went into helping Lisa and Beni create their animations, but I think it is time to share the films. 

If you would like to support me and find out more about my work, please check out my films, shop, and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube.

Here is the amazing trophy Lisa and Beni will receive from the Ray Harryhausen Foundation.

These are the films that won the Ray Harryhausen Children’s Animation Award 2024:

Share this