Animation Theory

What is Animation?

Is animation a genre? A technique? A mode of film? An Art form?

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Norman McLaren says

“Animation is not the art of drawings that move,
but rather the art of movements that are drawn. What
happens between
each frame is more important than what happens on each
frame.”
For McLaren the art of animation is the creation of movement of paper, the manipulation of clay, the adjustment of a model.
Animators of the Zagreb School developed the definition by stressing the aesthetic and philosophic aspects.
They believe, animation is “to give life and soul to a design, not through the copying but through the transformation of reality .” (Hollyoway, 1972)
Zagreb School perceived animation as a non-realist form ; they wanted to transform reality and resist the kind of animation created by the Disney Studio.
John Halas (1912-1995) was an influential Hungarian animator. He started his own career in 1934, and two years later moved to England where later, with his wife Joy Batchelor,founded Halas and Batchelor animation studio in 1940. Their best-known film, Animal Farm (1954), was the first full-length animated film made in Great Britain.
John Halas pointed out, “If it is the live-action film’s job to present physical reality, animated film is concerned with metaphysical reality—not how things look, but what they mean.”
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Czech Surrealist animator, Jan Svankmajer perceives animation as liberating, unique and potentially contentious:
“Animation enables me to give magical powers to things.
In my films, I move many objects, real objects. Suddenly, everyday contact with things which people are used to acquires a new dimension and in this way casts a doubt over reality. In other words, I use animation as a means of subversion.”
(Wells, 1998:11 )
Walt Disney says “The first duty of the cartoon is not to duplicate real action or things as they actually happen—but to give a caricature of life and action… to bring to life dream fantasies and imaginative fantasies that we have all thought of [based on] a foundation
of fact.” (Disney, quoted in Barrier, 1999: 142)
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In the digital era, we still know animation when we see it, even in its specific incarnation as a computer-generated phenomenon, and sometimes, even when it is at its most photo-realistic.
Animation is still the art of the impossible, and whether it be the fertile imaginings of independent filmmakers represented in vivid symbolic images of inner states or the seamless interventions of visual effects animators producing spectacle in major movies, animation remains the most versatile and autonomous from of artistic expression.
it is still the case that animation mostly uses artificially created and previously conceived movement instead of transferring movement from the natural world.
(Well, 2012, 231)
It is important to recognise that animation is essentially based on stylisation and abstraction to some degree, even in its most apparently photo-realistic form.
John Halas suggested that animation’s key characteristics are:
•Symbolisation of objects and human beings
•Picturing the invisible
•Penetration
•Selection, exaggeration and transformation
•Showing the past and predicting the future
•Controlling speed and time
(Halas and Wells, 2006: 160)
COMMERCIAL AND EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION
Commercial Animation
Developmental Animation
Experimental Animation
configuration
—————————————————
—————
abstraction
specific continuity
———————————————
specific non-continuity
narrative form
—————————————————
——-
interpretive form
evolution of content
——————————————
evolution of materiality
unity of style
—————————————————
————
multiple styles
absence of artist
————————————————
presence of the artist
dynamics of dialogue
—————————————-
dynamics of musicality
(Wells, 1998, 36)
Configuration: most cartoons featured ‘figures’. Specific continuity: it has a logical continuity, which is achieved by prioritising character and context.
Narrative form: most often based on character conflict and chase sequences.
Evolution of content: it prioritise the content, concentrating specifically on
constructing character, determining comic moments and evolving the self-contained narrative.
Unity of style: the formal properties tend to remain consistent.
Absence of artist: prioritises narrative, character and style; a studio “style” is
more important than individual artist style.
Dynamics of dialogue: character and plot is often by key aspects of dialogue.
Abstraction: either redefines “the body” or resists using it as an illustrative image.
Specific non-continuity: rejects logical and linear continuity and prioritises illogical, irrational and sometimes multiple continuities. Interpretive form: resists telling stories; resists depicting conventional forms and exterior world. It is often a subjective work exploring the interior world.
Evolution of materiality: concentrates on its very materiality (the forms, colours, shapes and textures).
Multiple styles: combines and mixes different modes of animation to facilitate the multiplicity of personal visions that an artist may wish to incorporate in a film and to
create new effects.
Presence of the artist: draws attention to the relationship between the artist and the work.
Dynamics of musicality: has a strong relationship to music.
ABSOLUTE CINEMA IN EUROPE
After Impressionism in the early twentieth century, paintings strove ever more to capture life itself, leaving static representation to photography.
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• In the early 20th century, cinema was a new phenomenon ignored by
the mainstream art circle, but cinema offered movement.
•The new artistic currents (Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism) were
all based on a plastic concept of movement—the new mode of painting
tries to express optical effects or psychological concepts of action.
Capable of moving, of rendering mobile any object, animation was the medium closest to the purposes of these artists. From there to film, the steps was short.
•Walter Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye
Walter Ruttmann
(1887-1941)
•He said “after the war, that it made no sense to paint any more, unless the painting
could be set in motion.”
• In the spring of 1921, Walter Ruttann showed his short film Lightplay Opus Iin Frankford. This is thought to be the first screening of an abstract animated film in the world, as a new art—the vision-music of films.
•He sees music as a painterly movement form, just as other people might perceive it as an emotional experience or a law of harmony, technically continues the tradition of the animated film in order to find an immediate expression for his vision. His technical production procedure is very painstaking: with seemingly microscopic exactness, the painter must produce a series of many thousands of drawings and then colour them. This continuing pictorial sequence, like music—that is the bridging element between the two—is basically an element of eurhythmy, moving form whose rhythm fulfils itself according to the laws of harmony of the presented symphony.
•(from Berliner Tagblatt, April 21,1921)
Walter Ruttmann
(1887-1941)
•He said “after the war, that it made no sense to paint any more, unless the painting
could be set in motion.”
•In the spring of 1921, Walter Ruttann showed his short film Lightplay Opus Iin Frankford. This is thought to be the first screening of an abstract animated film in the world, as a new art—the vision-music of films.
•He sees music as a painterly movement form, just as other people might perceive it
as an emotional experience or a law of harmony, technically continues the tradition of
the animated film in order to find an immediate expression for his vision. His technical production procedure is very painstaking: with seemingly microscopic exactness, the painter must produce a series of many thousands of drawings and then colour them. This continuing pictorial sequence, like music—that is the bridging element between the two—is basically an element of eurhythmy, moving form whose rhythm fulfils itself according to the laws of harmony of the presented symphony.
•(fromBerliner Tagblatt, April 21,1921)
Len Lye (1901–1980)
•Len Lye was born in New Zealand in 1901, and made most of his animation films in England from 1928 to 1938.
•His first camera-less film is A Colour Box (1935 ) It is considered to be the first animation film painted directly on film and shown to general audience.
•He says, “… I also made Trade Tattoo, which combined several techniques of animation. There would be three ways of following the rhythm, besides jump-cutting, which is an ordinary way. There would be the vibration pattern of a very formal pattern like stippling, or cross-hatching, which I had very geometrically designed, and would be superimposed over the live action. You’d have the internal movement within the scene, such as a man’s hand waving, which would have a rhythm and you could jump-cut that, make his hand wag faster or slower, and you could jump-cut the ends of the scene. You could make these visual accents synchronize with your sound accents. And this way you got a very tight lie-in of visual imagery with sounds and rhythms.”
•(by Len Lye, “Talking about Film”, from Film Culture, 1963 and 1967)
•FROM EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION TO COMMERCIAL ANIMATION
Skeleton Dance (Disney, 1929, 5 min) & Nightmare before Christmas (Disney, 1993, 76 min)
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Feeling from Mountain and Water
(Te Wei, 1988, 19 min)
&
Kung Fu Panda
(Dreamwork, 2008, 76 min, 95 min)
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Luxo Jr. (Pixar, 1986, 2 min), Red’s Dream
(Pixar, 1987, 4 min), Tin Toy (Pixar, 1988, 5 min)
& Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
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•FROM EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION TO COMMERCIAL ANIMATION
Geri’s Game
(Pixar, 1997, 5 min)
& Toy Story 2
(Pixar, 1999, 92 min)
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