George Pal was born in Cegled, Hungary, and developed an interest in drawing and design at an early age. Shortly after graduating from the Budapest Academy of Arts at the age of 20, he began making films based on a technique he patented called the "Pal-Doll" technique. The process utilized replacement animation, which is based on the idea of creating a completely new figure (in a different pose) of the same character for each frame of film. For example, say the character on screen needs to yawn. Film is projected at 24 frames per second. So, for each frame, a new puppet head is created in which the mouth gradually opens to a wide yawn. When 24 puppet heads are created, each head is photographed, in sequence, one puppet head for each frame. When the film is played back, the illusion of life is created. Pal made a few of these films in Berlin, Germany for the UFA Studios.
In the mid-thirties, Pal continued to make films using replacement animation, honing and refining the technique, until the rise of Nazism forced him and his wife, Elisabeth, to leave Germany for England.
In the mid-thirties, Pal continued to make films in England using replacement animation, until 1939, when Hollywood beckoned and they moved to America.
The Yawning Man Sequence from "Tom Thumb"
In the example to the left, we can see each individual head that was sculpted, in preparation for single-frame replacement animation photography. Move your cursor over the Yawning Man image, then off again, to see him yawn. Clicking on the Yawning Man image will take you to the actual scene from "Tom Thumb".