Friday, November 28, 2008

A Forum for Classical Hand-Drawn Animation

Animator Chris Doyle has started a new forum for the discussion of classical hand-drawn animation:

Check it out.  Jump in and participate in the discussion. 

In one discussion related to the post down below about  "A Day for Hand-Drawn Animation" celebration in Turkey,  animator Tahsin Özgür makes a very good distinction about the place of hand-drawn animation:

"Today is Nov. 21st, three days already since the Hand Drawn Animation Day held at Maltepe University in Istanbul.

We called it,  in our quaint Oriental tongue,
 Çizgi Film Bayrami, which clumsily translates as "Line-Film Holiday" or something ... "Line-Film" being what we call this kind of film. English lacks a direct equivalent, and the more generic term "animation" might have even facilitated the CG takeover ("it's all animation, isn't it?") 

Think of our concept of "line film" as closer to the French "dessin animé" ("animated drawing") -  it's French, language of culture, so it probably has more weight in the argument. Which argument?  Why, that hand drawn animation is a distinct art form, and not simply a step on the way towards something else. "

That is a good distinction and I wish the English language had such a term as "Line-Film"  or  "le dessin anime" to denote animated drawings.

I usually try to make the distinction by using the terms "traditional animation" or "classical animation" , or "hand-drawn animation". The one term I do not care for as much , but seems ubiquitous now is "2D Animation" . Animation can be completely CG , but also be 2D (such as vector-based animation in Flash or ToonBoom) .   For better or worse the Academy of Art University has designated our department as the "2D Animation Dept." , so that's the term I have to work with for now.  (hence, I am the Online Coordinator of 2D Animation at AAU ).

But what we're really talking about here is animation that is expressed through drawing.  That's not at all to disparage CG animation or Stop Motion puppet animation, etc.   However,  the ascendancy of CG animation has unfortunately led to the widely held  perception that Tash mentions:   that hand drawn animation is "simply a step on the way towards something else" rather than being a distinct art form in and of itself. 


David McBride said...

simply a step on the way towards something else" rather than being a distinct art form in and of itself.

I had a professor a few years back who explained to me that drawing itself was once looked at as a preparation step towards a painting instead of a finished piece of art.

I feel that this thought process really comes from those who are uneducated in the true art that is animation. The ones who only know that 3D is what's hot right now and that is where they can make the money.

In my short experience in the field I have felt no closer connection to what I am working on than with traditional animation. Let it be known that I enjoy 3D and all other ways of making animation (except MOCAP). I find it very difficult to evoke life using a mouse or even a wacom tablet for that matter. With the pencil and paper there is an unexplainable connection where the flow of life seems to come from the mind through the arm and into the character.

I can't help but feel cheated because of the time in life when I am pursuing a career in hand drawn animation that it appears to be dying out.

David Nethery said...

"Let it be known that I enjoy 3D and all other ways of making animation "

Oh, yes, absolutely. CG animation, Stop-Motion puppets , experimental animation techniques, it's all good.

I think what Tash is getting at (and what I and many others agree with) is that hand-drawn has been put in the unfortunate position of being ghettoized as though it is now some quaint , outdated form of animation , something that developed and flourished for a time , but was simply 'a step on the way to something else' and now that the 'something else' (CG) is here hand-drawn can be discarded.

Fortunately the most successful CG animation studio in the world , Pixar, is full of people who were trained as traditional animators (including of course , John Lasseter) and the strongest words of support for hand-drawn continue to come from Pixar animators (including some who teach for AAU) and from Lasseter himself. There would be no "Princess & the Frog" being made at Disney right now if John Lasseter and Ed Catmull had not insisted on bringing back hand-drawn to Disney when they were installed as the heads of Disney Animation in 2006 . It's taken a few years to get rolling again because the previous regime at Disney had gutted the infrastructure of the traditional animation department. It's been a slow process rebuilding.

So things are looking a bit more hopeful on one level than they were even 4 years ago . If Disney has success with The Princess & the Frog look for other studios to jump on that bandwagon again. When I got into the business in 1984 things were not looking that good . Animation was constantly being pronounced "dead" or dying throughout the 70's and early 80's. Disney wasn't doing much , Bluth had tried to get something going , but was struggling to stay in business , TV animation was still happening at Hanna Barbera and Filmation, but overall things were not too rosy at that time. But suddenly animation was "discovered" again and we had a good run from the late 80's through 2000 ... the entertainment business tends to be cyclical.

Here's something recent from John:

"Q: "was it refreshing to be able to get back to that hand drawn art in The Princess and the Frog?"

Lasseter: I love it. I love the hand drawn animation. And I've always felt like it's such an important part of this studio.

And look, I never ever believed that audiences don't want to watch hand drawn animation. What they don't want to watch is bad movies. Right? It's like 2-D animation became the scapegoat for bad storytelling. And it's one of those things and it's just so — it's about entertaining an audience, that's what it's about. I love new technology but you love to just make it so that the audience is just — if they're aware of the technology or the artistry that's involved, you're not doing a good job as a filmmaker. And that's why I've always been inspired by the new technology and also old technology with the hand drawn animation. I just think it's gorgeous. I mean look at these drawings, it's just gorgeous. And you see The Princess and the Frog and it's just so beautiful and so immersive. And you sit there and go, oh, this is amazing. So, anyway, I'm proud to have this studio be doing cutting edge computer animation — like Bolt with that amazing new background technology — and then to be doing hand drawn animation as well."

David McBride said...

I am glad to hear that traditional animation wasn't always doing well in the past because it gives me confidence that it will pick up again. I hope that The Princess and the Frog does well so that it will spark a new interest into hand drawn animation.

Tim said...

Hey Dave,
Yes, I also have a problem with the term "2-D". All film & TV animation appears on a 2D screen. 3-D (aside from 'stereoscopic' movies) only exists in the CPU, not on the screen. Drawings are just as three dimensional in the mind of the artist. It just takes loner to physically render the character from another direction.
I think the whole 2-D/3-D terminology was an attempt to say "Look! This is better! It has more Ds in it! See? Animation! Now with 50% more D!!"
Lasseter was right. Traditional animation just went through a period of having 30% less story, not less dimension.

LampshadeMan said...

This is very cool sight. And thanks for letting everyone see this stuff not just your students. A great hand drawn animation resource for people who can't afford to go back to school all over again. Not that I am complaining about the first time, I had some great traditional animation teachers.

And to add my 2 cents. I've always preferred the term hand-drawn animation as opposed to traditional or classical. It falsely evokes a sort of superiority to 3d animation with it's "back in the old days when it took lots of manual skill to make an animated movie", it also falsely makes it sound like an old fashion way of doing things that requires too much time to do in the modern technological age.

Stephen Worth said...

The division of topics isn't very well organized. A whole bunch of Disney forums followed by one "and the rest" forum doesn't reflect the artform accurately at all. It would be better to divide the forums by concepts and techniques rather than studios.

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