Friday, September 17, 2010

_How to Create Animation_, by Cawley and Korkis

Well first off, Guess who's exhibiting this weekend at ArtsFest? Sadly, I will not be able to attend in person, but if you're in the area and you want to own the original painting, "Support the Gulf", go check it out.

Second off (?), I really ought to wait until we get better art than this crappy little screenshot, but after five generations we finally have an honest-to-Arceus "Raptor Pokemon".

On to the topic. You may, if you like, consider this to be an addendum to Don Bluth Month.

When I was but a lass, I had read a few books about animation, it's history, and how it is produced. I had read Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck's standard-bearing Of Mice and Magic, Charles Solomon's lavishly illustrated (and enormous) Enchanted Drawings, and the dueling studio histories, Disney's Art of Animation and That's All Folks! These are all wonderful books, but none of them really take you into the trenches -- or drafting tables rather. None of them really tell you the history of animation from the animators' point of view.

I was in my undergrad college library when this weird little book caught my eye:

That's really not the best cover art in the world, is it? But look at that list of contributors! How to Create Animation is a one-of-a-kind book, because it it made up almost entirely of interviews with animation artists.

Co-author John Cawley has been kind enough to post these interviews on his website, which is excellent of him, as some of the history revealed in this book is indispensable. (Note that not every interview from the book is posted online. You will have to dig up a hard copy for Bob Clampett, Jack Hannah, Chuck Jones, and Bill Scott. Also, the online version has no illustrations.) Some of the advice is very good too -- but the world of animation is very different from the way it was in 1990, when the book was published.

So that means, in this book, Glen Keane is
JUST starting to design the character of Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" and is just starting to kick around ideas for "Aladdin". Most of the animators from Disney are JUST getting over the hangover they woke up with after "Roger Rabbit" and "Little Mermaid". The future couldn't be brighter for Sullivan/Bluth Studio, and television animation, especially on Saturday mornings, is unstoppable.

Suffice it to say, there are a few Funny Aneurysms in this book. The very worst might be Chris Buck talking enthusiastically about the new series he is working on based off Brad Bird's "Amazing Stories" short, "Family Dog". (For those not in the know, "Family Dog" was, prior to "Father of the Pride", the single most epic failure in the world of prime-time television animation.  Hardly remember either of these?  Exactly.)

It's always fun to read the history of a medium right from the mouths of the people who lived it. Some highlights from the book, including revelations that surprised me:

* I've never met anyone who didn't like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". Yet almost all of the artists who worked on it cannot stand the movie! It's either because they thought Roger himself was annoying or because the movie was so hard to work on -- the book reveals that the film was in development limbo since 1983 at least. But what's also strange is the fact that a few artists who did not work on "Roger Rabbit" dislike it too, either because of Roger himself being annoying or because it "doesn't respect animation history" (what?) Especially odd, because this is probably THE movie that kick-started the new appreciation of classic animated shorts.

* On that note, if animators who started work in the 70's have a Purgatory, Filmation is it.
EVERYONE seems to have started out there. I guess you have to start somewhere, but yikes!

* It's often the unsung heroes and artists I never heard of who have the best stories in this book. Consider freelance animator Mark Kausler, who has probably got the most interesting resume imaginable, having worked at almost every studio. Or, Bob Givens, who started out working on "Snow White" and, by the time this book was written, wound up on... "Garfield and Friends"...

* If nothing else, this book proves that
NOBODY saw the CGI revolution coming. Pixar gets one offhand mention in the introduction as a small studio that makes interesting little shorts and commercials and such.

But even with this last reveal in mind, the animators still have one indisputable piece of advice that they all agree upon: You need to learn how to draw. There's no getting around that. Take some life drawing classes, go outside and sketch, train your eyes to see.

All in all, this is a fascinating book and I wish the authors would consider creating an updated version. My only real complaint: boy do I wish one woman, at all, had been interviewed.


So I just caught up on some podcasts and guess who got a mention towards the end of this episode of the lovely "Science... Sort-Of"?


Art of the Day! Speaking of Sketchbooks...

8.19.10 Sketchbook Page


Albertonykus said...

A proper raptor pokemon, yippee!

cultistofvertigo said...

Pidgeot could kick that thing's ass anyday.

Also, there's only 256 real pokemon. They jumped the... shark pokemon name in the GBA games.

But there were always 256 pokemon from the beginning.

Trish said...

^ There's a part of me that agrees with you and a part of me that agrees with this: