Friday, April 24, 2009

Quotes, and words from the wise...

Great art can't be made without making rules and limitations
-- Andrew Stanton (quote from Spline Cast interview)

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.
-- Orson Welles

I feel like its our job is to know better, than the audience, what they want.
-- Andrew Stanton (quote from Spline Cast interview)

So I'm a fan of finding some good quotes whenever I can... Recently I've been listening to all of the Spline Doctor's podcasts, and they are good stuff, really. Their interviews have been some of my driving inspiration as of late. One of the most cutting ones was a quote from Brad Bird:

"To animate means to give the appearance of life, and you can’t create the illusion of life if you haven’t lived one."

It's tough being an animation student. You struggle from some of the toughest of things to learn about: there are really no "secrets" to animation. You either know how to do it, or (more importantly) how to learn how to do it, or you can't do it at all. The important thing is being a constant learner, something that isn't stressed enough anywhere. You never stop learning in any field, and animation is no exception. For instance, think about how many ways one could pick up a fork. A simple act, no? But that person could be upset, so would he pick it up, hands shaking with fury? What changes that from hands shaking in fear? What if he is bawling? Wouldn't his hands shake too in that situation? What makes each of those different?

Animation is such an intense study of subject matter: You can't just know the technical side of squash and stretch, and all the principal's of animation from the Illusion of Life... You need to have your eye's open recording everything around you constantly. I've noticed something recently: I don't hang out with people anymore, and if I do, I'm talking about animation. If I'm not talking, I'm watching the subtle cues of body language and taking it in as if it was a fine wine. I don't play video games anymore JUST for enjoyment, I do it to observe the story telling practices (A good example is Braid. The storytelling in that is brilliant). Learning the bouncing ball isn't enough. Learning the walk cycle isn't enough. Learning what makes things tick is what is important. Looking at the way someone swaggers is what is important. Observing the way people talk is the true secret to learning animation. The technical side of everything comes with time and patience. The hard part is observation and learning. In order to be an animator, you can't just be an animator. You have to be...

A Scientist - To study how things happen, and observe things through experimentation.

An Actor - To understand the methods of evoking emotion, and expressing it to the audience.

A Storyteller - To understand the methods of delivery, in order to tell the most effective story.

A Musician - To understand the painstaking process of rhythm and timing.

A Designer - To understand the points of composition, and what makes good compositions.

A Filmmaker - To understand film language, and cues to the audience.

A Linguist - To understand the rules of social interaction and speech.

And almost any other field applies. As an animator, you simply cannot know too much: you ALWAYS know too little. That's why its important to be able to practice finding resources. That's why youtube is one of the greatest inventions known to the modern animator: almost limitless resources for the taking, reference footage for almost whatever you need! And for a small cost of a digital camera, you can record your own references, cheaply and easily. Animator's now have more resources than ever. And yet, sadly, I have seen nothing as great as an accomplishment as what Frank Thomas did in Pinocchio. This is borrowed from Michael Sporn's Animation Blog. I'd suggest you read his full post, along with all the images on it... It's magical stuff that Frank Thomas accomplished. I'd also watch Pinocchio if you have the chance, they did a rerelease of it with some great featurettes on the old days with Walt.

Hope you other animator's find this inspiring, or interesting, or at the very least informational. All other readers, I hope you learn to appreciate what a fine and intricate art that animation is. Animation is the illusion of life, and that is one of the hardest things to master.

My next editorial will be on advise from peers, professors, and industry people.