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Animator. Dutch. 1/3 of Pegbarians.

Martijn Calkhoven @Pyrowman

32, Male

Student, Animator

Utrecht School of Arts

the Netherlands

Joined on 9/19/05

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Using Your Medium

Posted by Pyrowman - September 10th, 2012

Before I start my textual rambling, I'd like you to watch these animations:

You might dislike this animation for it's simplicity, or you might love it for it. Or perhaps you don't really care. Maybe you saw a underlying message, satirical or political. Personally, I think it's brilliant.

Obviously, I'm trying to create a contrast and I might have gone a bit overboard, but I think The Proud Family is a perfect example for what I'm about to explain. You don't have to watch part 2, though.

At the beginning of development of my latest animated short film, Antumbra, my teacher showed us Lapsus. Like some of you, not all my classmates could appreciate it. They thought it was too simple and short, on which my teach responded: "It's incredibly simple, yes, but for such a simple animation, it tells a grand story! It's impossible to recreate this story in live-action, 3D or anything. This animation makes use of it's medium."
Ever since that day, I've been looking at animation in a different way. Not that I have drastically shifted my preferences, but now I have a better way to define it. It's like suddenly remembering the name of an old classmate, or the origin of that strange smell in your kitchen.
Now, let's look at The Proud Family. It's an animated sitcom, really. Same cast, same artwork, same jokes. The sitcom concept really fits an animated series for a commercial network, since you can reuse everything. But, because of it's 'sitcomness' this series could easily be translated to a live-action series. It does not make use of the medium.
Animators tell their story visually. Most independent animated short films don't have dialogue, especially in Europe. In Lapsus, the story is told by the nun's physical struggle between the white and black realm, while dialogue leads the narrative in The Proud Family. If you'd close your eyes while paying the video, you'd still be able to make sense of the story, just by listening to the audio.

There is no right or wrong in this case. People enjoy both worlds, which is fine. However, as an animator, I feel I should use my medium wisely, make animations worthy of their name. Sometimes it means discovering a small visual gag and creating a whole story around it, or trying to tell a story by only using a certain array of shapes. Let the colours speak, not the mouth.

Comments (4)

They didn't like it? It's funny, what else does it need?

People think too much about art...

Here's an example of what your teacher was trying to say that isn't completely slow and boring:
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkykBaUxGB8">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkykBaUxGB8</a>

Also 3D isn't a medium.
You're ON TO SOMETHING here, but I think you've missed the real point. The things you're talking about are like goofy lil gimmicks. It's something you can only do in cartoons, technically, but it's not what cartoons are good for or best at.
What you should read, buddy, is JohnK's blog on &quot;specific acting&quot;. John Kricfalusi loved cartoons for the sake of expressing thoughts and emotions through the shapes of the characters.
<a href="http://johnkstuff.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/specific%20acting?updated-max=2011-10-21T16:37:00-07:00&amp;max-results=20&amp;start=2&amp;by-date=false">http://johnkstuff.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/
specific%20acting?updated-max=2011-10-21T16:37 :00-07:00&amp;max-results=20&amp;start=2&amp;b y-date=false</a>
He knows cartoons can be WAY better at this than anything else, and would twist n squeeze dudes into pictures that speak a thousand words. He's a big fan of classic actors who are the closest thing to this in real life.
He HATES cartoons that don't take advantage of it, and it's like &quot;why did you bother animating this if everyone's gonna be so stilted?&quot;
So yeah: You'll like reading about that.

I do not share the same idea as John Kricfalusi about cartoons and animation. It's about expressing thoughts and emotions like he said, but I'm not going to twist and squeeze characters or making dumb faces or doing a visual gag just to remember you that you are watching an animation.

If an animation can also be translated easily to a live action, that doesn't mean its bad. It's not about using the medium correctly, It's about conveying your message correctly. That is the purpose of doing an animation.

Art can be done however somebody wants to do art. Like you said, there's no right or wrong. Writing and acting are both forms of art, as well as animation. There's nothing inherently WRONG about fusing the worlds, and I don't really see it as &quot;not taking full advantage of the medium&quot;, but perhaps it's more &quot;not putting the medium in the spotlight, with no other mediums featured in the project.&quot;

Picking The Proud Family is a bit of an unfair choice, since if I remember right, that show was pretty mediocre. As it would be expected to be, since it was a cartoon pumped out for the sake of generating income like a lot of commercial network shows, entertaining children with the type of basic dribble a child would have no deep critique of, and was potentially conceived when some concerned rights-obsessed fellow said &quot;Hm. This station needs more black.&quot;

I'm not attacking your view on it though, I do like your idea, and I think there are some artists on here that fuse the varied arts with ways that deeply explore all of them, especially with some really weird and crazy animation styles coming about. I just think you should be careful not to come off as basically saying &quot;Fuck writers and actors, they're just weighing glorious animation down.&quot;

Some artists or animators will focus on one specific field, opting out of bringing in other elements, and some really beautiful things have come from that. Also, some really pretentious things with relatively poor production quality, which the author tries to justify by basically saying &quot;You just don't get the beauty, man.&quot; It really goes all ways. Art comes down to simply doing what you like to do, and always improving with your skill of the task.