Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Joy of Animation
Animation bloggers spend much of their time touting news, analyzing industry trends, spotlighting unsung artists, or preserving the past. My mission has been to discuss all-things-NY-animation, but I just as often share strategies on how to build a career in this unusual business. Along the way, my blogging buddies and I, tend to overlook one elemental thing: the joy of animating.
For me the joy in animation comes from animating ordinary moments in a character's life. For instance, in my new children's film, Rabbit reluctantly agrees to keep his promise to Owl and sit down for a game of checkers. In the pilot I'm currently animating and directing for a client, a little girl breaks a crayon in frustration and then walks out of scene dejected (see above stills pulled from the film).
I think the indie filmmaker has a better chance at bringing some truth to life than an animator that just makes the occasional animation test or sample for a reel. When you make a such a sample scene for a reel, its largely a technical exercise. You might animate some lip synch, or a walk, or a special effect. But, when you have the burden of an entire film, complete with smaller connecting scenes, you are forced to confront smallish moments.
Neither of these scenes are dripping with high octane action. There's no epic sword fight, battle with a dragon, or robot space war. Instead, these are ordinary moments, which (as an animator) I hoped to imbue with insights into the characters, revealing their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. That's the joy of animating for me. And, its in these ordinary type of scenes that live the potential to really bring a character to life. Everything about these little scenes interests me. For instance, I love figuring out what part of the character should lead the action and how that choice reveals how the character is feeling. Or, where to place a blink. Everything is choices. In other words, what to leave in...what to leave out, as Bob Seger sang in his hit song, "Against the Wind."
As I see it, an animator has a responsibility to their characters...and this is something that goes well beyond the ability to keep a character on model. In my film "Owl and Rabbit Play Checkers," the characters go on and off model at times, but they are always "in character." Their animation is always informed by character. I am wagering that in this film, that is more important than technically perfect drawing. And that comes in handy for me because I can't do the technically perfect type of drawing anyway. Long ago I stopped caring what the reason was: Either I don't have the talent for it, or I'm just not interested in it. Perhaps its a little bit of both.