Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The answers aren't in the animation.

I was hoping to post some student work but I'm still waiting for some files from a few folks, and where I promised Andrew I'd post something this weekend I figured I'd follow through on my promise and cover a topic that has come up quite a bit recently.

Our director was in dailies with us this week and the subject of the difference between contemporary animation and that of the classic golden age came up. It was observed and generally agreed upon that the largest shortcoming of present day animators is the ability to reference past work as a means of problem solving. Unfortunately, it's very easy to do. How can you not watch Bagheera and Mowgli struggling to get up that tree, or the dwarves sadly approaching Snow White's casket, or Stromboli tearing Pinnochio a new one without thinking that you've found the answers to everything you need to make your work great? The flaw in that reasoning however becomes apparent when you remember that the talents that generated that work did not have the luxury of such reference. I believe our generation easily forgets that and from there we develop movement and performance cliches that can make modern animation unsatisfying, if not down right annoying to watch. The answers to our problems are not in the work of our gifted predecessors, but in the same place they found theirs. In life.

It is nearly impossible to do this job well without a keen sense of observation. Your job as an animator does not stop once you get up from your desk. When you're strolling through a mall it's your job to notice certain things. It's your job to notice the look on the face of a husband following his wife around the store when there is only 15 min. before the game starts. It's your job to notice the body language of a mother with a stroller full of twins being followed by her four year old who is screaming for a toy in a shop window. Perhaps even pausing a moment to see the the way someone scarfs down a Hot Dog on a Stick. These observations will provide you with what you need to make those interesting and unique choices that will reach out and touch the audience watching your work, and separate it from the person who has ripped off the the ol' Baloo-rubbing-his-hand-on-his-neck-while-he's-thinking bit for the millionth, freaking time.

The work of the pioneers who have blazed the trail we walk on now should continue to be enjoyed and will always be a source of inspiration. However, in the interest of pushing the medium to be as great as it can be requires that we not use their work as a means to solve our problems. Frank and Ollie didn't write the "Illusion of Animation". It was "The Illusion of Life". Make the effort to take a good long look at it and let it strengthen your work.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel Inspired once again!! Thanks!! - melvin

9:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Putting the time and effort into generating new and original ideas/performances for our characters and their stories is the only thing that will help the medium of animation grow up and out of its current 'mold' set.

Fantastic Post!

Thank you Dr Burke

- Matt

10:04 PM

Blogger David Martinez said...

Inspiring stuff as always! Thanks for posting!


3:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you.

3:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with that post, however it seems to me that Pixar has been guilty of using some stock animation before, an example is that, opposing action with head and hands, coming together, then moving away to accent something, just off the top of my head, it appeared in The incredibles, when buddy says in the car "i know all your moves....everything", also in toy story 2, and in recent trailer for the ratatouille when remy is saying "..hard for a rat to find".

But it doesn't annoy anyone, audience believe in that performance and even so many animators dont notice,

maybe there are times when an animator could use stock animation to his advantage, he just needs to know when and how?

3:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've made an important point and it's worth reinforcing, but part of me is surprised that it needs to be said at all.

Maybe it's because I'm longer in the tooth than some, but it was hammered into my head from day 1 that inspiration comes from life, and admiration from other animation. If you're rehashing something that another animator did, you're that much further away from the source. Not that I haven't been guilty of it myself... :0)

9:46 AM

Blogger curran said...

Somebody once told me "Sometimes the most obvious, cliche gesture is the right gesture. A lot of times that gesture can be done in an original way, that makes it feel new, by changing something small."

I think there's something to that.

2:39 PM

Blogger Dr.Burke said...

Hey curran,

You're point is valid. There are some universal gestures in life which communicate very clearly and can be very interesting once you layer in the nuance of character. My intent for this particular post was to reinforce the idea of not getting your ideas from animation, as you're basically creating second generation work. A xerox of a xerox. By the way, whoever told you that sounds like a very wise and attractive man.


8:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it wouldn't have been you by any chance... lol...

7:57 AM

Blogger dal.tadka said...

sometimes you find the appropriate words at just the rite time....i know my words wouldn't really make much of sense to u, but in the situation that i am, ur words made a huge difference to me....

3:22 AM

Blogger dal.tadka said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:23 AM


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