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“Garage Kit” Animations That Keep on Giving

Christian Frahme’s Latest Dedication, “Wonkamation,” is a Bittersweet Farewell to the Late Gene Wilder

Hooligan assistant editor Christian Frahme has been painting model kits since he was eight years old. He picked up the hobby from his father, who would bring him to “garage kit” conventions in search of rare and limited-run resin castings of characters like Superman, Jason and Freddy. Garage kits are called such because they’re typically independently sculpted and cast in garages and home studios.

As an adult, Frahme has found a way to combine this pastime with his passion for filmmaking. The most recent specimen being “Wonkamation,” a fantastical stop-motion tribute to the late Gene Wilder. Layer by layer, frame by frame, the three-minute animation captures Frahme’s labor of love. “Pure Imagination,” the beloved song from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” adds bittersweet resonance too the piece.

“Wonkamation,” like all of Frahme’s other stop-motion paintings, was conceived in the spirit of nostalgia and giving. Sharing a great love of Gene Wilder with his mother, he set out to create the piece for her birthday. When you consider its sheer beauty and detail, Frahme is the odds on favorite for Son of the Year.

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“The year before, I animated a Young Frankenstein bust for her birthday, while dad got the Superman treatment for his birthday with a representation of George Reeves as the caped hero,” says Frahme, who coyly admits that he is too sentimental to sell the physical models featured in his films. “If I give a kit to someone, it means that I work on it with them in mind from the time I buy the casting.”

That’s quite generous when you consider the hundreds of hours that not only go into painting these garage kits, but also animating them into the wee night hours.

The primarily in-camera, DIY production adds to the nostalgic gusto in “Wonkamation,” which Christian shot in his living room. His grandmother’s antique liquor cabinet provided the worn, textured backdrop – perfect for staging a retro vibe that echoes the original movie’s practical effects. Frahme used a turntable for the rotating platform, which was an homage to the glass elevator scene at the end of ‘Willy Wonka.’

“Albeit DIY and low-budget, I did very little correction in post – only slight edits to offset minor camera bumps, really,” he says.

Careful planning, scrutiny and patience were equally paramount to realizing Frahme’s artistic vision, as he meticulously researched and studied photographs of Wilder, as well as key elements in the film to achieve the most authentic representation of Willy Wonka himself.