Voices 2/28/17-Teen animator talks about the keys to the art form
The art of animation and cartooning has been around for decades, so it's only natural that it has developed into an incredible art form.
There are five types of animation. The first is traditional, hand-drawn cel animation - like a flip book. Traditional cartooning, like Peter Pan, requires an incredible amount of drawing consistency. Otherwise the animation looks jumpy and disconnected.
I recently completed my first traditional animation. It took me a couple weeks to complete what was essentially a 30-page flip book.
The second kind is 2-D vector-based animation. This would be your Saturday morning cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. This 2-D animation also allows greater stylization of characters. Prince Phillip looks quite different from Danny Phantom.
The third kind is 3-D computer animation, seen in movies like "Frozen." It is also used for special effects, making movies like "The Avengers" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" possible because it can be integrated with live action footage.
This is the type of animation I want to study, bringing to life the fantastical.
The fourth type of animation is motion graphics, essentially a moving logo. It's often used in advertising, and seen often.
The fifth kind of animation is one of the oldest and most specialized: stop motion and claymation. This creates a very specific style, such as in "The Boxtrolls." It requires the construction of every character, prop and environment. The figures are then set up on stages and carefully photographed again and again, to eventually make a sort of sculpture flip book.
Animation of any kind takes extensive understanding of movements, allowing artists to breathe life into their animations - literally. Characters look strange if they aren't breathing and blinking like real people do. Then they have to tackle motions like walking (people bob in a figure-8 motion when walking) or talking (watch someone's lips and tongue move and imagine drawing that a frame at a time).
Animators and cartoonists require the skills of classic artists in the drawing of expressions and backgrounds. Many observe people, animals and buildings to understand how to properly portray them.
This is especially important when creating characters, because each person moves in a distinct way. Animators will often use people's real-life quirks to make their characters more realistic. Disney animator Shiyoon Kim has said he used his little brother's habit of pulling out his chair leg with his foot for Hiro in "Big Hero 6" because it was something he had never seen anyone but a preteen boy do.
In any project, there is a team of five to 100 animators working on everything from the concept sketches, to the rough animation, to the final touch-ups, according to Aaron Blaise, an animator for Disney and an Oscar nominee for best animated feature film.
Every animated film begins with concept sketches, which undergo hundreds of revisions. The characters are then set in a storyboard, basically a handdrawn comic strip of the film. Animators then practice drawing the characters, testing them in simple movements like walking, talking or sitting in a chair.
Then work on the film can begin. Animated films usually take years to complete, according to Bruce Kuei and Doug Dooley, two Pixar artists, on Youngzine.org.
But what does it take to become an animator? It takes practice to develop drawing skills, and then familiarization with computer software or materials used. Most animation majors are required to take classes in creative writing or script writing, and sometimes computer programming, according to The New York Film Academy (nyfa.edu). Some take art classes at places like the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.
Berks Catholic doesn't offer an animation class, but we have art courses and a film and media class. Schuylkill Valley is one of the few high schools to offer courses in animation.
I think colleges prefer that students wait to take specialized classes until they are out of high school, for the same reasons that they require a certain number of years in math, science, history and literature.
I just applied as an animation major, and found that many art schools look only for strong foundational skills. Many said they'll teach students how to use the best computer programs, but they can't teach someone who doesn't have a handle on basic human anatomy. But they also appreciate students who challenge themselves to work with motion-based artwork.
Animators and cartoonists are like a sculptor or painter, with the storytelling skills of a writer. The world is full of stories that can only be told through motion, just waiting for dedicated artists to bring them to life.
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