Introduction to Animation Fundamentals!

We started off today’s lesson by discussing iconic animated films and what they have in common, we also spoke about what type of animation they’re classed under. For example:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney’s first animated feature film premiered in 1937 (worldwide release 1938). This is an example of ‘traditional’ animation as it makes use of the technique ‘cel animation’ in which you would use celluloid sheets to paint on each frame and overlapping them onto a background and props.
  • Chicken Run, by Aardman Animations released in 2000, this film is also classed as traditional animation, as it makes use of a technique called stop-motion, in which you move props and puppets/dolls and take pictures of each movement to simulate movement (not to be confused with pixilation).
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas, by Walt Disney Animation and envisioned by Tim Burton in 1993, like Chicken Run, this film is also classed under traditional as it’s stop-motion.
  • Toy Story by Disney Pixar in 1995, this was the first feature-length computer-animated film as it was animated and rendered using computer software as opposed to traditional techniques (not including storyboards and animatics). This was a new thing at the time and it still holds up today, we class this as ‘digital’ animation.
  • Beauty and the Beast, by Walt Disney Animation, one of the third greats to come from Disney’s Renaissance Era. This film was the most interesting to talk about, as for the most part it was indeed traditionally animated (through cels), we also learned it makes use of digital techniques also, making it a hybrid of the both. We call this ‘tradigital’ animation. We can see this in effect here:

While they’re dancing together in the ballroom, we can see some fluid and impressive camera moments that would be very hard to pull off traditionally, we can see that the animators had rendered the ballroom with computer software to make this sequence possible.

History of Animation:
Next, we discussed some of the pioneers of animation, and a bit about animation itself.
What is persistence of vision? This refers to the phenomenon where the retina retains an image for a brief split-second after the image was actually seen.

The average fps (frames per second) count for animations are typically 24fps, however in Eastern countries like Japan, its typically around 11fps.

  • Eadweard Muybridge (fascinated by movement, studied and simulated and is known for ‘Horses in Movement 1879)
  • The Lumiere Brothers (brought out the the cinematographe *”writing in movement”* in 1895. Cinema comes from the greek word ‘kinema’ meaning movement.
  • George Melies begins experimenting with cinematographe
  • The Lumiere brothers saw no commercial use in cinema
  • J. Stuart Blackton began exploring the ideas of illustration in front of camera
  • Edwin S. Porter implements ideas we now refer to as ‘stop-motion’
  • Emile Cohl – Fantasmagore, also first animated drawings on paper
  • Windsor McKay – first introduction of central character dinosaur film 1911 with Gertie (also made The Sinking of the Lucetania)
  • Audio in films began to emerge in 1923, known as ‘talkies’ (talking pictures) The first feature being ‘The Jazz Singer’ in 1922
  • Other features include ‘Steamboat Willie’ designed by Ub Iwerks who was famous for creating 700 drawings a day (this was a planned and inventive use of sync sound, Disney later became known for their style of “Illusion of Life”
  • Fleischer Brothers were successful in utilising the singing and dancing (and speaking) Betty Boop, her dancing was made from rotoscope ‘Betty Boop Hula Dance’, 1932
  • Disney also made use of rotoscoping for dancing sequences, a notable example being Snow White
  • Otto Mesmer, Felix the Cat, popular for metamorphosis, example Halloween 1927 (although this doesn’t utilise sync sound)
  • Lotte Reiniger made use of the cut out animation style, she told traditional tales or fables with this style, an example being ‘Adventure of Prince Achmed’ in 1926
  • Oskar Fischinger made abstract musical animations, ages before computer animation and music videos. A good example from his work being ‘Spirals’ also from 1926
  • Len Lye started creating adverts for the Post Office during the 1930s (which was then called the GPO), he made use of highly experimental animation techniques, they would be screened in cinemas before the feature film. This was when animation started being used for more than just entertainment, but for educational and commercial use too. This is known as ‘Motion Graphics’. Reiniger made Nivea’s first advert also, titled ‘The Secrets of Marquise’ in 1922
  • During WW2, most makers of animation became involved in producing propganda films, such as Warner Brothers, this was successful due to its surreal humour style and that they would make politically aware films (example being the Bugs Bunny bomb short)
  • Halas and Bachelor also made propaganda films over in the UK, they’re more well known for an animated adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
  • Norman McLaren and Grierson on the National film board in Canada, famous for ‘Neighbours’, in 1952 making use of the technique called pixillation.
  • Ray Harryhausen, often referred to as the ‘father of modern visual effects’, he created the rear projector and is also known for ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ in 1963. He also filmed a live action film to then animate in the visual effects
  • Animation on TV also became more of a thing, with shows such as ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘The Jetsons’ produced by Hanna-Barbera, these shows had a smaller budget so they could release more than one episode, this resulted in limited animation styles and repeated backgrounds. (The first animated TV series in the UK was ‘Rhubarb n’ Custard’ Bob Godfreg
  • In the 1980s, Disney’s Tron released and was the commercially successful use of CGI, introduced the idea of CGI to the masses, it also proved technical limitations do not matter as long as the style is good.
  • Pixar began working with universities to develop new CGI models.

Examples to watch:
MTV – Take On Me, an animated music video (uses rotoscopes)
Dire Straits – Money For Nothing (3D Modelling)
Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel by Aardman and Brothers Quay
Yuri Norstein – Tale of Tales (utilised cut out animation but in a different way)

The Visualisation of Sound:

For this, I have decided to use a short film titled ‘Ruben Leaves’ in which our central character is haunted by his compulsive thoughts.
The loud daunting sounds of the real life help accentuate the mood he is currently in and helps the viewer relate to the character.

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