Action Figure Animation Comes of Age in Storm Cloud

For a lot of animators, toy action figures made great guinea pigs for those early childhood animation experiments. And while many of those artists have moved on to more professional mediums, there is at least one studio devoted to making legitimate action stars of those 12-inch, poseable descendants of G.I. Joe.

In Storm Cloud: Anti-Terrorist Operations from AFM Prods., rampant terrorism forces the United Nations to take action. Billionaire Sir Ian Cloudsley-Thompson assembles a team of elite soldiers to be led by lone wolf operative Eric Hammond. Bullets fly and fun hand-to-hand combat ensues as the Storm Cloud team takes on the hooded bad guys through the magic of stop-motion animation.

Collectors will recognize the film’s stars from their favorite action figure lines from Blue Box Toys, Lanard, M&C Toy Centre Ltd. and Dragon. The “actors” are even credited with the character names assigned by their manufacturers.

Though less tongue-in-cheek, Storm Cloud evokes the fun of the classic Gary Anderson marionette shows like Thunderbirds. The low-tech approach to filmmaking is endearing and it’s much more interesting to look at than some of the better-funded CG projects on the market.

Model animation is used quite a bit in preschool TV series, but the stop-motion action genre is still virtually untapped. With more polished voice acting and punchier dialogue, Storm Cloud would make a great interstitial or half-hour series on a late night adult animation block like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

In addition to the featurette, which runs about 30 minutes, the disc contains behind-the-scenes commentary by director and co-creator Philip C. Lane, who also serves as producer, animation director, editor, set designer and cinematographer. Storm Cloud was written by co-creator Christopher J. Valin. The crew is currently working on Storm Cloud 2: Covert Operations and an unrelated action figure project called The Fury: The Next Vessel.

Storm Cloud is available for purchase at www.actionfiguremovies.com. The distributor also has plans to make it available at major retailers nationwide. The makers have been invited to preview the project at this year’s Comic-Con Int’l in San Diego, Calif. and this month’s Roc-Kon Sci-fi convention in Arkansas.

In addition, a 30-second clip has been requested for use in Darren Garnick’s television documentary Toying With War.