Strata-cut animation, also spelled stratcut or straticut, is a form of clay animation, itself one of many forms of stop motion animation.

Strata-cut animation is most commonly a form of clay animation in which a long bread-like "loaf" of clay, internally packed tight and loaded with varying imagery, is sliced into thin sheets, with the animation camera taking a frame of the end of the loaf for each cut, eventually revealing the movement of the internal images within.[1][2] Wax may be used instead of clay for the loaf, but this can be more difficult to use because it is less malleable.


Designing the interior contents of a clay block is complex in and of itself. Abstract images and patterns are easier to create than recognizable images or character-driven moving images. Both the pace and forms of the movements of the internal imagery have to be considered when building the block (or loaf). A kind of non-high-tech "underground" quality of the all-moving imagery is usually the result.

Interesting abstract images can be created by folding strips of different-colored clay together, flattening them out, and then folding them again, repeating this process until the final result is a relatively tight mosaic of "woven" patterns. Eventually, a series of blocks of these mosaics can be combined into single blocks (loafs) and also combined with non-abstract imagery.


Experimentally toyed with in both clay and blocks of wax by German animator Oskar Fischinger and his associate Walter Rutmann during the 1920s and 1930s, a crude form is specifically found in the Lotte Reiniger film "Prince Achmed". The technique was revived, named and highly refined with precision and control in the mid-1980s by California-Oregon animator David Daniels, a past associate of Will Vinton, in his 16-minute short film Buzz Box.[3][4]

In popular culture

The method of strata-cut animation was used in the music video for "Big Time" by Peter Gabriel (1986),[5] for the "ABC" part of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker video compilation,[6] and in the title sequence for the 1993 film Freaked. Daniels has also used it as background imagery as other forms of animation or live action are superimposed over it.[7]

Daniels has used variations of this style for a variety of TV commercials and bits made for the Pee Wee's Playhouse series during the mid-1980s, "10th Anniversary Birthday", a network ID for MTV, and an 'acid trip' section from the television series Gary and Mike. In reference to the 'time sculpted extrusion block' or 'geometry loaf' slice-reveal technique, Daniels coined the visual results or look as ‘insanimation’ in 1984 while a graduate student at Cal Arts.

An example of a strata-cut sculpture by David Daniels.


  1. ^ Furniss, Maureen (1998). Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics. Indiana University Press. pp. 52–54. ISBN 1-86462-039-0. OCLC 1082875614.
  2. ^ Tafelski, Tanner (2016-09-08). "The Crude and Chaotic Art of "Strata-Cut" Claymation". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 2023-03-28.
  3. ^ "David Daniels Strata Cuts New York – Animation Scoop". Retrieved 2023-03-28.
  4. ^ Robinson, Chris (2017-09-25). "What are all those paint men digging? - 'Buzz Box'". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2023-03-28.
  5. ^ "David Daniels". Retrieved 2023-03-28.
  6. ^ Furniss 1998, pp. 52–54.
  7. ^ Ulloa, Alexander; Albinson, Ian (2009-06-01). "Freaked". Retrieved 2023-03-28.