Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Looking to the Future as an Animator

While browsing through the archives of the Ghibli Blog, I came across a video Daniel posted in June 2007: a montage of food commercials made by Studio Ghibli. Same product, same music, same animation technique. It's the latter that truly stands out, for these ads featured a fantastic mixture of traditionally animated characters within a CG, but painterly environment. The combination was so seamless and subtle, maybe even more so then the exhilarating ballroom dance in Beauty and the Beast. If and when I ever become a good enough animator, this is definitely the direction I want my works to go.

It's strange to think about, but for all my love of Pixar's films, I don't think I'd ever want to make a completely CG movie. I love the possibilities with computers, which is why I'd never dismiss them outright (besides, in these days of digital ink-and-paint and compositioning, a computer is almost mandated in traditional animation), but there are a few reasons I don't think I would do. For one, none of the stories I want to do benefit at all from CG. So many of them are about ordinary people and their interactions with each other on generally mundane circumstances. Why use computer processing for talking heads? Quite a few of my ideas are knock-offs on my favorite traditional animations anyway. Another reason may be the availability of the materials needed to make an animation. My resources range from sketch pencils to paper. My home scanner doesn't work, I don't have Photoshop or GIMP (among others), etc. I might as well just learn to be a traditional animator and make traditional animations. I could probably later get into computer animation. (This point is pretty silly, actually; how many seventeen-year-old aspiring computer animators do have available, affordable resources to practice their craft?)

I don't know why, but to me, a CG film with all traditionally animated characters is so much more exciting than pure traditional or pure CG, maybe because it isn't seen too much. That can be attributed to the fact that mixing the two, and making it work, is extremely difficult. I've seen the combination disintegrate many times, most recently in Avatar: the Last Airbender. What should have been the greatest long take in the series failed because the separate components ran on different frame rates. You can not have the background move 24fps while the aircrafts trail off at 12fps, especially when said aircrafts were moving at 24fps a few shots ago. It's distracting, it calls attention to its mechanics. Maybe budget was a problem, so they cut it in half by bisecting the frame rate. A bad move that totally took away from the impact of the shot. Now, done well (e.g. Beauty and the Beast and the escape from the lava in Aladdin), it's breaktaking.

I'm getting way too ahead of myself. Before I can even think about trying to combine CG with hand drawing, I have to learn how to hand draw in the first place.

Lately, I've been working on drawing other artists' characters. One of these sets of characters (from the game Persona 3) will be used in a music slide show I'm working on with a friend. Then, I'm simply drawing some characters in my *snort* style. Thanks to John Kricfalusi, I've grown incredibly hostile toward drawing styles that aren't constructed with three dimensions in mind. I tried to find the heirarchy of the anime character Yoko Littner, and came out wondering, "Who draws this shit?!" The character designs of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Teen Titans, which I used to absolutely adore, are also pretty flat. Maybe because they were television, full three-dimensionality was out of the question. (Avatar was at least a major step up design-wise from Teen Titans.)

Speaking of John K. and getting ahead of myself, that's what I really should be doing: working on my construction. I printed out the first fifteen pages of Preston Blair's brilliant animation book and have yet to do my homework.

Must. Stop. Procrastinating.

It certainly doesn't help at all that I lack passion for anything. Martin Scorsese, in his master class at Cannes, says you must be passionate, you must be crazy and obsessive if you want to make a film, let alone a great one. I have lots to work on this summer (also including jazz piano practice, writing, reading, wu-wei, this blog, friends, movies, etc., etc., etc...).

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