Search For Treasures

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Great Animation: What Is It?

Hello again dear readers. I know I've been gone awhile, but not that many people read my blog, and why should people since there are so many others that much more knowledgeable about the subjects I talk about out there.

Okay, sorry about the self-pity. Now onto today's subject.

Ever since I decided to become an animator and working towards that goal, I have looked over many animation blogs (just look at the side of this page to see how many I look over), and reading over their articles, a thought keeps popping back into my mind...

What, in fact, does make great animation?

I've heard one argument after another by many different sources, such as Michael Barrier, Bob Jaques, John Kricfalusi, and Michael Sporn.

Michael Barrier, when discussing Milt Kahl and his work, had this to say:

"Those characters, and others that Kahl designed and animated later, have what seems to me not real warmth but a calculated appeal whose artificiality Kahl's beautiful drawings can't quite conceal."

"Ironically, it is "sincerity," that Disney shibboleth, that is most conspicuously lacking in Kahl's work."

What exactly is "sincerity"? Does it exactly equal good animation. Isn't good draftsmanship enough. Can an animator be a horrible draftsman, but if he/she has "sincerity", can they make great animation. I have actually heard that said about legendary animators Art Babbitt and Ed Love, although I can't remember where.

He also had an interesting statement he wrote about Don Bluth animation-style, which happened to appear in his review of the 2002 Disney flick Treasure Planet:

"It is the kind of animation that results when animators try to achieve the vaunted Disney "sincerity"—that is, animation in which the characters really seem to believe in what they're doing—by having the characters behave as if they know that they're appearing in a film.

What's involved is not mere staginess, the usual mugging or playing to the audience. In Bluth animation, the characters are not entertaining hams, or, even less, ironically self-aware; instead, they are as painfully awkward as adolescents on a first date. The characters' insistent self-awareness is what makes Bluth animation so uncomfortably distinctive."

These criticisms leave me wondering how one would leap to that conclusion. Those are pretty harsh words for Mr. Bluth and his disciples. I guess that these criticisms are the result of how one feels while watching it.

Here's a quote from Max Fleischer about how he thinks animation should be: “If it can be done in real life, it’s not animation”.

If that's the case, then the work of his studio would reign supreme, seeing as how everything in their films could never be done in real life. Have you ever seen a woman with a phallic nose transform into a frying pan , complete with two eggs. Or how about a chicken coop morphing into a demonic face while chasing a chicken thief.

John Kricfalusi and Thad Komorowski have similar ideas. While they do differ about specifics (and the fact that they hate each other guts), they both believe in animation that is fun and entertaining, such as the work of Irv Spence in the Tom and Jerry series or Rod Scribner's work for Clampett.

Animation director Michael Sporn has this to say about great animation:

"My preference will always go to the flawed yet emotional animation."

The layfolk often see that quality animation means smooth full animation, like one would get from a feature film.

I guess the ultimate answer to this question is it's open to interpretation. I guess great animation is what you want it to be. My personal preference is animation that has specific facial and body expressions. This allows you to know what the character is all about. I would like to read what you readers have to say about this. Drop a line in the comments.

Until then, Happy Trails.

4 comments:

J.R. Spumkin said...

Great animation and what makes it comes definitely differently to the viewer. One can say that the animation in "We're Back" (from Universal Studios) is good, while I can tell you to get the hell out of my house for spreading such blasphemy (I've done it before).

I agree with Michael Sporn's love of "flawed yet emotional animation", and I love John Kricfalusi's preference of fun animation. And at the same time, I could sit through a couple of Pixar Movies and 90's Disney flicks. That's my preference, and I consider that good animation.

To me, well animated characters should have some specific expressions and movements that make them different, instead of watching a freaking android with a celebrity's voice and no individuality whatsoever. That's my thing.

(P.S. I read Mr. Thad Komorowski's blog. Are cartoon critics really that tough to please?)

Weirdo said...

"(P.S. I read Mr. Thad Komorowski's blog. Are cartoon critics really that tough to please?)"

Apparently they are. If you think Thad is bad, read some of Mike Matei's comments. Harsh words spun out of a crass mouth.

I would definitely have to agree with your idea of good animation. I too can't stand these celebrity-voiced android fests. Thanks for commenting.

J.R. Spumkin said...

I'm glad I could comment. It's been long overdue, but thanks for finding all the Disney interviews. Always an interesting thing to watch.

It seems that among all these critics, I can't help but feel a sense of hypocrisy. I read your post on John K.'s calling adult superhero comic fans "retarded." Smooth talk from someone collecting kid's toys. And Thad, just from reading his post on "Up", is kind of a...um...douchebag, if I may be so inclined as to say so. And if this Mike Matei guy's any worse, then screw it.

Not that I hate John K. or anything. Just, be sure to practice what ya preach, John.

Weirdo said...

Yeah, Thad K. can sound like a bit of a douchebag, but I guess that stems from his passion of the artform. That doesn't excuse him from his harsh comments though.