Wednesday, October 7, 2009

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.

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