Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Animation Timeline: The Quay Brothers( born in 1947)

Stephen and Timothy Quay are identical twins born in Norristown, Philadelphia in 1947. After graduating from an illustration and graphics course in Philadelphia College of Art, they moved to the Royal College of Art in London where they studied Film and Television. This is where they worked on their first short films along with their fellow student Keith Griffiths. With Giffiths producing, the Quays have maintained a a steady output of surreal stop motion animations using creepy puppets. They are well know for their moody taste in animation and their use of doll  parts and often organic or inorganic materials. Highly influenced by Jan Svankmajer , the Quay Brothers take this approach to its logical extreme, essentially re-animating materials, bringing to life matter which has all the appearance of being dead. As Jonathan Romney noted: "Quay puppets are not alive but undead; they don't have lives but afterlives."  (Wells.1998:90)
FIG.2:The street of Crocodiles
One of their films called The Street of the Crocodiles(1986) which is based on a novel, is packed with symbolisms about war. The animators use deteriorating dolls as their characters, meaning the state people find themselves in the aftermath of war. The people are half dead or half alive, with empty heads which move circular and mechanically. In a very strange and gloomy way The Brothers Quay portray war as an event which leaves people half dead, mentally and physically. "The work of the Quay brothers suggests that the avant garde has continued by using a historical and dead language, much like the equivalent of speaking Latin, yet it is the audiences ability to recognise, on no matter how simple a scale, 'readymades', almost fully developed discourses that allows a system of signification such as this." (Earnshaw.2998:252)
In conclusion, the Quay Brothers have have had an important impact on surrealist cinema. The will always be remembered as the artists who brought back figures from the dead. Their work has literally given life to objects and have made us feel suspicious for the world around us.


Wells, Paul(1998).Understanding Animation.USA: Routledge
Earnshaw, Steven(1994)Just Post Modernism

List of Illustrations

FIG.1: The Quay Brothers At: http://www.egs.edu/faculty/stephen-timothy-quay/photos/ (accessed on 21/3/2011)
FIG.2: At: http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/reviews/2007/03/04/the-quay-brothers-the-short-films-1979-2003/ (accessed on 21/3/2011)
FIG.3: At: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/phantommuseums.php (accessed on 21/3/2011)

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