Bug Under Camera – Stop Motion Insect Movie

Amazing stop motion film from 1912 with insects.

Władysław Starewicz (August 8, 1882 – February 26, 1965) was a stop-motion animator and director of Russian origins, via Poland. His early work began while the Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kovno, Lithuania, where he produced several short documentaries. For his fifth film he wanted to shoot two stag beetles fighting. Stag beetles are however nocturnal which posed a problem. When Starewicz wanted to film them he needed to use lights, which caused the stag beetles to go to sleep. He did not give up however, and decided that he could re-create the battle by attaching wire legs to the creatures, thereby using them as stop-motion puppets. This was only the first of many stop-motion shorts and feature length films.

Throughout his life Starewicz produced 66 films, some of his best known works are perhaps The Beautiful Leukanida (1912), The Grasshopper and the Ant (1911), The Tale of the Fox (1939), which may remind contemporary audiences of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and perhaps the most famous of his productions, The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912).

The Cameraman’s Revenge is about a married couple, two beetles, who feel their home life is not as exciting as it could be. Each spouse is unfaithful, the husband with a dancing dragonfly and the wife with an artist friend and beetle. In a meta-commentary that would make even the most severe cinephile giggle the dragonfly’s jilted lover, a grasshopper, is also a cameraman. Mr. Grasshopper packs up his large box camera and follows the dragonfly and Mr. Beetle to a hotel where he catches them in the act, making sure to get an establishing shot before some intimate close-ups through a key hole. This film returns in the final act to plague Mr. Beetle when he takes his wife to a movie where Mr. Grasshopper shows his masterpiece before the audience. Even by today’s standards the animation is superb. Of course, fans and readers of Bug will enjoy the use of beetles and other insects as puppets.