These days, Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh’s Screen Novelties is known for its slick, colourful work on stop-motion adaptations of major properties, like Sponge Bob Squarepants and Elf. Two decades ago, though, before they’d perfected their cartoonish niche, they released an oddball of a film called The Old Man and the Goblins. Loosely based on weird fiction legend HP Lovecraft’s poem Night Gaunts and influenced by the visual style of early Polish animator Wladislas Starewicz, The Old Man and the Goblins is an impressive homage to both of its inspirations. They nail all the details, from the expressionist architecture to the ornate title cards, to the occasional film split creating a tiny jump in the action. It’s easy to believe that a good amount of folks who’ve stumbled across it on Vimeo or Youtube might have been taken in, thinking it’s a lost gem of early animation.
Although I’m more of a fan of Screen Novelties’ original work like this film and their much-more-colourful tribute to Fleischer-era toons, Graveyard Jamboree with Mysterious Mose, seeing the care and craft that goes into these works makes it easier to appreciate the more commercial side of their efforts—there’s no arguing that Caballero, Walsh and co. are some of the best in the industry at their particular brand of stop motion. Here’s hoping they get a few more chances to pursue a few more personal projects, though, because I’d love to see what happens when they indulge in their more obscure influences again.