When I go to an animated film in the theater, I try as much as I can to watch objectively – but it NEVER WORKS! I’m always on the edge of my seat, watching the animation as closely as possible for new techniques, and emerging styles. When it’s time to get back to work on my own stuff, normally what occurs is a little bit of a download at the beginning of a shot. I ask myself some brief but important questions – Have I animated something similar to this in the past? If no, have I seen animation that relates to this scene, or has similar dynamics? For instance, I had a shot in Kong where the “V-Rex” snaps at Ann as she swings in the vines. I was getting great direction from my supervisor on that shot, but I wanted to see how close the Velociraptor got to the camera in the kitchen scene in the original “Jurassic Park”. Lo and behold, he get’s RIGHT up in there. I was amazed. My supe was right; we need to get him almost to swallow the camera. It’s great that there is so much animated reference out there now. Anyone learning animation now has all the materials they need to really research any shot.
One does not necessarily have to look for something in a shot to use – it will speak to YOU! It may be a design, it may be a pose, a timing choice, but most animated films leave us inspired to return to our work. Remember: never to copy a shot, only borrow and adapt. Be inspired by others’ work, and take the facet of the animation that has you excited and try to emulate that in your own work. If it is the slapstick style of Ice Age that really excites you, put some really cartoon stretches into your short film, and watch the key smooshes frame-by-frame, to see how to get that hilarious impact. If it is the surprising subtlety in Wall-E’s face that keeps you up at night, then feel free to refer to that film when deciding on what parts of your character design to emphasize for very emotive, minimalist effects. You may discover that Wall-E’s eyesockets were designed in such a way that some extreme “brow” poses can be achieved through very little rotation; why not strive for the same effect in your character’s mouth, or cheeks?
Newton said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” We are all working together to advance the art of animation. By watching and adapting the styles of others, we are all lifting eachother up, and seeing further each day.
Guest Blogger Kenny Roy