This is not CGI, it is honest work of a papercraftsman.
These are, in fact, 16 different papercubes that switch places in each frame. That technique is commonly known as replacement stopmotion.
Problem: It only works on the screen and not in reality.
Therefore, some good guy invented the zoetrope and some younger guy invented the stroboscope, and combined, they unleash their combined real life magic.
It is a wooden plate that you turn, making the stroboscope strobe in the frequency that makes the cubes look animated.
Problem: This doesn‘t work really well on the screen anymore. It is a bit like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
Step 1: The modeling
But hark, I bring good news to thee. You will not have to spend money on 3D-software:
There are many great freeware options for 3D beginners and experts, such as Blender (expert) and Anim8or (beginner).
To be honest, creating a short 3D animation loop isn’t easy, so you should be familiar with the program already. There are some great tutorials on their websites or in the whole web.
So I will give you only a short instruction on how to animate and not to animate your model, as this defers greatly from program to program.
- You need a looping animation with 12, 16, 20 or 24 frames, these are good numbers for a stopmotion animation, they can divided by 4 and are a good amount of phases to handle.
- Work low-poly; You will have to make this from paper.
- It is no coincidence that I chose a cube to animate. When you animate a whole character, you have a pleasant afternoon with cutting, folding and glueing the almost similar model 16 times.
- In case you also want to animate a cube, especially in shortage of alternatives, you can mess around with the deformer tools like bend, curvature, stretch etc.
- Remember one important rule from Disney: Movements are always curved in speed and space, this means: The object doesn’t move from A to B with constant speed, it has to accelerate and decelerate. In my case, when you watch the animation, you can see that the cube stays in its extreme positions for a long time, but rushes through the point where the cube is fat. These movements make it look natural.
- Remember another important rule from Disney: The cube does always have the same volume, meaning when it stretches to the top, it tears itself together and vice versa. You can imagine it like a real wobbly cube that would do the same when you stretch or push it.
- The model should always stay on the ground with one face. When you make a rolling or jumping cube, for example, you would have phases where it stands on the edge or is in the air, making it impossible to fix the single phase on the ground.