Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why Is The Best Animation Unrelated To The Plotline?

The plot line can make an animated film stagnant at times, requiring less movement and less time experimenting with new techniques. The goal of the artist is to maintain both a good story line and include innovative animation techniques. However that is not always met well by the distributors and executives of animated networks and corporations, who are more focused on an audience marketed hybrid product that it tries to sell with a certain message relevant to current social views in today's society.

That is too commercial for me. An artist should be able to explore themes outside of their time period in terms of themes and style. The stylization and animation of today's cartoons could acceptably act like its from the thirties or forties which is when the greatest technical achievements were made in animation. Which were made under the contribution of several talented companies not necessarily focused on money first hand.

The balance between the plot line and innovative animation was met perfectly to me in my opinion by the works of Fleischer, MGM, and Warner Brothers Termite Terrace. These companies influence is not seen anymore especially with today's newer generations of artists not meeting the same standards of what they accomplished.

I generally see a lot of the industries younger artists and animators using influences mainly from Anime and Graphic Novels when creativity can be explored much further than that. With Fleischer before the Hayes Code they weren't trying to over do the visuals or plot they just made some the best work of their time and in many ways of all time as purely artists. They made money by selling these wonderful artistic pieces to theatrical operations. It was without a certain business proposition controlling the whole situation. Like most animated projects are controlled by now.

For what Fleischer did the same thing goes for MGM and Termite Terrace who also pushed animation to the furthest realm of imagination its ever been pushed in its whole history. The companies did this with their artistic take on the world looking at musical and contemporary influences also the artists offered innovations from themselves. I feel that the industry is not going the right direction with young animation graduates.

These are the places that the new crop of young artists/animators are taught in.

1.CAL Arts: You essentially are taught how to do things the Disney way with character development, animation study etc. you are essentially brainwashed from knowing any other way of animation. It is set up to recruit new Disney animators but most of them wind up working at other companies but are still under this schools impression.

2.Art Institutes: They use mainstream influences, conventional themes and teachers and they have repeated this for years. Artists are taught under a certain agenda and are not able to explore their own creative side.

3.Self Taught: Its not necessarily a bad thing. I'm mostly self taught. Though have you ever spent your entire drawing life copying a certain style and not looking at art as a whole. Some of you look at popular Anime, or shallow network cartoons as examples both of which are overrated it has the wrong impression on young artists who haven't explored the diverse world of art.

This makes me worried. The world of animation doesn't seem to be as inspired as its former self. I'm a young artist trying to break into the industry and have these worries.

Animation should be executed like so first create a plot line that influences the visual style. Then you have the visual style somehow interact with the world around it and not just focusing on the plot line.

Young artists need a wide variety of influences which is the problem these days their not getting enough of that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Theory On The Death Of Animation

Like many eras of animation the most devastating moment in animation history where artists weren't allowed to be artists, started around the late sixties. Though there is no official beginning to this period, it had been building up in the industry for years before it finally hit the industry hard.

For example it can be traced back to companies making cheaper alternative low-budget animated productions for alternative markets instead of top quality animation focused on families like Disney's approach. This began before television. It began in the forties when Disney was still the dominant animation provider and forced other companies financially to make lower budget animations while they ran the show. This is because in my opinion Disney had isolated certain technologies and top quality staff from other studios from using.

With Walt's power and influence he also took control of the mainstream market in animation especially with the family market that he kept to himself. This drove other companies away from those markets. The ultimate fate for these companies under Disney is that they were either driven out of business or had to re-organize to make smaller more affordable productions. This would eventually lead to companies moving into more risque and mature themed animated productions and with more consistently lower budgets as the interest to invest in animation had died during this period.

This made Disney the only company with a top quality output through dirty business and abducting talented artists from other companies. Though when Disney became to over focused on detail and the technical levels of animation instead of story, character depth and a tight plot line the company became less focused on producing an overall attractive product. This drove audiences away to the smaller animated production houses who were making money through television. Like Hannah-Barbera's and Flimations television output and several other studios that began catering to television there is a huge list of them.

This is when the theatrical animated operations of the Golden Age of Hollywood were slowly disappearing from the screen and instead appearing on television in the early sixties. The Disney company was losing credibility in this period and even before Walt's death the empire his artists and financiers built was starting to go through a dark uncertain period financially that they wouldn't recover from for the next twenty five years.

When Disney died the leading animation company lost direction this left other companies with no major influence or leader and allowed them to go without direction in the industry. Like going into the industries of the adult animation market or cheap television market or making less wholesome cartoons, because Disney was in control of that market. Because of that the companies decided on alternative approaches.

The death of animation, although building up for a time , finally became official in the late sixties. If I had to point out a certain year I would say 1968, with the social changes with America in a hostile political, social, and economic environment. Also The Jungle Book the previous year being the last mainstream commercial success before this dark period.

Though in the process of this you still had true artists at heart working in the industry that would eventually resurrect animation as a mainstream art form. Richard Williams, the National Film Board of Canada's host of animators, and even to a lesser extent Hannah-Barbera,was encouraging interest in the animation industry. Overall what prevailed in the beginning of the "Renaissance" of animation was a group of core artists trying to produce essentially good work.

Stylization/Creativity in Animation: Its Ups and Downs

Many animation historians believe that stylized animation began in the 1940's with UPA. This is obviously false, the basis of animation at the turn of the century was caricature artists and cartoonists with their own distinct styles such as J.Stuart Blackton, Emile Cohl, Winsor Mccay, Lotte Reiniger, and the most famous of these was Max Fleischer who to my disgust has been overshadowed by Disney.

The early years of animation were filled with experiments and artists with their own styles, though Disney came along with his own business ideology and ruined everything. He was essentially according to his artists and animators a wannabe live-action film producer and could only settle for the world of animation. As he tried to have his cartoon characters imitate live-action and to be as lifelike as possible limiting the possibilities in animation.

When he took over the market in the thirties artistic freedom and stylized animation in the industry became for a time dormant and non-existent. Because Walt made animation as a "wholesome" family business. Then the industry made a mistake by following Disney as the example to make money. Fleischer and other companies should have continued to make their films with their own distinct style and not follow Disneys footsteps just for commercial credibility.

True artists which Disney abducted from other companies were dissatisfied with Disneys business direction and as a result started a strike in 1941. Within a couple of more years some of them started UPA. Many artists left Disney branched out to other companies which were more in touch with how a true artist works.

Disney eventually caved in to these companies that made stylized characters and animations when modern art influences and stylization became a staple in mainstream cartoons. He started making his artists copy these companies in the fifties and sixties. Yet the studio never had the attractive story lines, and made you look at the films more for their technical levels of detail and animation.

Fleischer, UPA and Warner Brothers Termite Terrace however knew how to make good story lines and maybe not as visually technical as Disney but who cares about visuals as a first priority its still a priority just not essentially the most important. I don't like when professional artists put visuals ahead of the writing, the writing is the basis to a good visual. My advice is the story you tell creates a certain visual and artistic style. So when creating a visual story I first think of the storyline then find out what visual the story calls for. My stories have a certain theme as a result it asks for a certain visual, usually I want the artistic visuals with unlimited possibilities. So my imagination can stretch as far as I can take it that's the thought process of any artist.

Bottom line is that animation is an artists domain and shouldn't be corrupted by business like entities like Disney. While artistic freedom under Disney's stronghold was oppressed you had companies like UPA, MGM, and Termite Terrace still keeping Disney at bay from turning animation into an exclusive business operation.

In this modern world we still deal with what Disney started in the form of hybrid cartoon shows, and merchandised animated features. However as long as today's current artists break against the fray in mainstream animation and continue in the tradition of true animation greats than I wouldn't say that the second death of animation is upon us. Which I had been anticipating because I haven't seen to much innovation in art and animation these days considering that most animations these days are for some commercial purpose.

I am a supporter of capitalism just in moderation. I cant stand it being controlled by a certain force Disney is just one of many examples of this. I honestly think that animation should be moderated between profitability but still maintaining the artistic genius. The aforementioned companies of Fleischer, UPA, MGM, and Termite Terrace are all examples of that artistic and commercial achievement.