HouseSpecial Releases New Stop-Motion Short ‘Jailbreak’

From HouseSpecial Director Aaron Sorenson comes the short film Jailbreak, a noir-ish nod to German Expressionism that explores the psychology of imprisonment via stop motion animation. Shot in black and white, the film has an adult twist and dark theatrical feel.

“I was influenced most directly by the silent German Expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Golem. But I was also inspired by my love of prison break films such as Escape from Alcatraz, I Was a Prisoner on a Chain Gang and Papillon,” Sorenson said.

The story follows Klaus, a haggard-looking prisoner jailed in a nightmarish cell in a dismal city. His daring escape leads him through the night and back into the arms of custody.

“I wanted to make something that felt fresh. This dark genre has been done before in stop motion, so we focused on experimenting with the design and fabrication approach.”

Led by Art Director Alan Cook and Sorenson, HouseSpecial artists employed laser cutters to construct a world created from 2D flats, capturing the skewed aesthetic of the production design’s line quality. The set pieces were painted and layered to give the illusion of depth and to emote a sense of doom.

“We studied productions notes from black-and-white shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family to understand how to use color to create rich gray tones. Turns out that the color pink, when shot in black and white, becomes a deep shade of gray,” Sorenson said.

Klaus, the prisoner puppet, was inspired by Cubism (mostly Picasso) and realized as fully-armatured puppet with a bespoke inmate uniform, along with custom leather accoutrements featured in the closing scene.

“There are treasures like that all over, especially at the end of the short. I love how great model builders bring such enthusiasm and creative little details to everything they touch,” Sorenson said.

Jailbreak will be seen globally as part of various animation festivals and special screenings, but is also online on HouseSpecial’s website, as are production stills and bonus footage.

Following the success of the CG short A Tale of Momentum & Inertia, this film is the second released under the HouseSpecial banner and the studio’s Short Stuff ™ program, which is made possible from the support of Oregon Film. 

About HouseSpecial

The animation studio will soon celebrate a successful second year following its spin-off from feature film studio LAIKA. The studio’s collaborations include an ongoing CG campaign for Boom Beach® with Supercell and Barton F. Graf 9000, the long-standing M&M’S campaign featuring the beloved Red & Yellow characters with BBDO and a stop-motion homage to artisans and the maker movement for Häagen-Dazs® with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. The studio’s award-winning CG short film A Tale of Momentum & Inertia recently found a second life as a spot for Watch all the latest work at

HouseSpecial's 'Jailbreak'

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