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"The Cat Who Makes Stop-Motion Films" is the first episode in the�short animated film KOMAKEKO: The First Step. (©TYO/dwarf·Komaneko Film Partners)

Have you heard of "frame-by-frame"? It's a technique for making animation one frame at a time by moving an object slightly, shooting a frame, and then repeating this over and over. Frame-by-frame is the passion of a cat named Komachan (the site is Japanese only), the main character in a model animation film - itself a frame-by-frame work - that has been a big hit among Japanese kids.

Frame-by-frame is also called "stop motion animation" and was one of the earliest methods used for making movies. The Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit movies and clay animation films are all made using this technique.

Making a frame-by-frame film is a long, painstaking process. Some 24 still images are needed for one second of film, and tiny adjustments must be made to the subject, background, lighting, and other elements in each frame. Sometimes it takes a whole day to produce just a few seconds of film.

The movie in which Komachan appears is called Komaneko (koma means frame, and neko means cat). It began as a short, five-minute animated work designed to introduce stop motion at an exhibition. Word of the endearing cat got out, however, and the work subsequently won a prize in the animation division of the Agency for Cultural Affairs�EJapan Media Arts Festival. Following this, it was made into a full-length model animation film for movie theaters.

Komachan lives in the attic of a house on top of a hill and loves making things. She spends her time taking frames of her favorite doll. She works hard and is kindhearted, and her story leaves viewers with a warm feeling inside.

Though a stuffed animal, Komachan moves around freely and the expressions on her face and the manner in which she twitches her tail seem so natural that it�s easy to forget that she isn't real.

Komaneko was created by Tsuneo Goda, who won the award for best short film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France for a work featuring DOMO, a character that appears on NHK television. Goda writes the stories, designs the characters, and directs the movies he makes. The one-hour full-length film Komadori Eiga Komaneko (KOMANEKO: The Curious Cat) is made up of five episodes and features a number of new characters.

Stuffed animals, picture books, key rings, and other Komachan goods have been making their appearance as the world of Komachan expands.

(Updated in March 2007)