PREFACE

Animation is a compact medium, its strength is its conciseness. It ís like a fruitcake, embracing many wonderful things in a tight space, and like a fruitcake it can be very nutty.The animated picture goes beyond the scope of live-action films and television, there is no other graphic art that so stretches the imagination to get a laugh, display an abstraction, explain a method or sell a product. It is the ultimate fantasy medium twisting time and distorting shapes. Yet even as it amuses and soothes it also describes and instructs. It is a magnificent form for expressing ideas. It is also fun to do, and you don't have to like fruitcake to do it.

When I was asked to teach animation, after years of working in the field, I found there were few texts available to guide serious students. Animation, The Whole Story is the result of hundreds of hours of instruction in various classes. As an animator turned teacher, I discovered that student's difficulties with drawing, animating and the creation of stories were exactly those that I had also grappled with. My classes are derived from my personal experience in approaching typical problems, and these encounters have become the basis of this book.

Animators are honest people who take their work very seriously, they know you can't fake it, and they know you can't talk it. To get good results takes long, hard, careful effort. To arrive at a point where you know what works and what doesn't requires experience. Traditionally, individuals learned animation by working in one or more studios under the pressure of deadlines, in the presence of intractable artists who were not always free with their advice.

When I started in the field I was fortunate to be able to work with veteran animator Irving Spector. "Spec," only too happy to take a break from his own tasks, welcomed the opportunity to offer guidance. He was a writer as well as an animator and his work was full of invention. There was little evidence of struggle in his drawings of characters and the worlds they inhabited. I was all of 19 and he, 15 years my senior, had put in considerable time at studios in Hollywood and New York. He understood my clashes with the complexities of the medium and that it would take time and patience for me to achieve my goals. His response was, "When you're 32, you'll know how to do it." My purpose in this book is to tell the whole story of animation for people truly interested in this medium, to help fill the gaps in information - no matter what their age.

Basically, to learn animation, do animation. Cast yourself in the roles of director, writer, animator and camera operator. Decide the events that will become a story, and create the characters that will act in it. Choose the technique you're most comfortable with, be it drawing on paper, cels, clear movie film, or using cut-outs, clay, sand, puppets or computers.

Whichever direction you take, you' ll find that drawing is basic to animation. From the creation of storyboards to the designing of characters and settings, from the planning of special effects to the preliminary plotting of computer images, the pencil is the foremost tool. To draw, you must first learn to see, to observe how people and things look and then to quickly get your impressions on paper.

Drawing, though, is but a means to an end. Pictures on the screen move in time, and unlike pages in a book, are not meant to be studied individually. This matter of time relates very definitely to the spaces between the drawings and their duration in a sequence. It is the soul of animation, and it is their respect for timing that casts animators in the role of actors.

But, before there is any animation there must be a story. How do dislocated ideas and gags become a series of smooth, flowing scenes? It happens in the making of a storyboard, a method used by animators around the world, in which small sketches are arranged, rearranged, discarded or changed before any animation is begun. With a storyboard, a continuity is formed and a progression of actions and events is given a structure. Once the storyboard is complete, the characters and locations are detailed in pencil or on a computer. Though computer animation is a much used technique, it is briefly touched on in this book. With the speedy changes and upgrading in that sphere, everything written about it is obsolete before the ink is dry. Yet, computer animators who lack an understanding of traditional methods are poorly prepared, no matter how many programs they've mastered.

To that end an international historyof the medium is included, a chronicle of the many attempt to bring pictures to life. It tells of the beginnings of animation, the arrival of studios, the introduction of characters, styles and techniques, and the opportunities for animators in today's merry-go-round of film, television. computer and internet creations. It ís all in the mix, like a fruitcake, and like a story.

Here is the story of animation and what makes it move.        H. B.
 

 

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© Howard Beckerman 2004