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For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Saturday, May 20, 2017

No. 131, Any Resemblance is Coincidental

There used to be a disclaimer appended to many movies and TV shows: "Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental." There were variations, but the intent was to indemnify a company from the possibility of a lawsuit; if resemblance to a living person was suspected, this statement was supposed to categorically protect the author or film makers.

A couple of weeks ago, at the time of organized demonstrations against climate change denial, I saw this photograph of a renowned ninety-seven year old scientist named Eddy Fischer, a past winner of the Nobel Prize.

Photo by Alan Berner and The Seattle Times
Of course, I was struck by Mr. Fischer's resemblance to my Old Man character in Carry On, my animated film now in production. But I hereby deny that the Old Man's uncanny resemblance to an old man named Eddy Fischer is anything other than coincidence.


Still, despite Mr. Fischer having some hair and a back that is not deformed, it is an amazing resemblance, don't you think?



Monday, May 15, 2017

No. 130, Staying on Model

"Staying on model" is a subject that comes nowadays under the heading of THINGS-A-2D- ANIMATOR-STILL-HAS-TO-WORRY-ABOUT-BUT-WHICH-A-3D-ANIMATOR-NEVER-EVEN- HAS-TO-THINK-ABOUT.

The cgi animator working in 3D has his or her model already done. It need only be manipulated, distorted, posed. It will always look like itself, no matter who is working the sliders.

The 2D computer animator using 2D puppets with replaceable parts likewise seldom has to actually draw anything original, once its whole set of parts has been created.

But for us die-hard animators whose images are hand-drawn and unique, it remains a big deal. At one time in the Hollywood-style studios, the problem was one of trying to get all the animators who might be working on the same character to draw alike. This was harder than you may imagine because the personalities and idiosyncracies of artists conspire to make them not draw all the same.
So detailed model sheets were devised and handed out to all concerned, and everyone was encouraged to follow the specifications closely. If you couldn't do it, you were put into the story or effects department--some place where character drawing precision was not quite so important--or you got out of the business of studio animation.

And to a great extent, this system did work. It got to be that the general public was unaware that  one scene had been animated by Ben Washam, for example, and the next by Ken Harris, followed by another one by Washam.  Today, experts or geeks like me can sometimes spot certain scenes as being by a particular animator, for the reason that the animator in question might have what poker players call "tells", being in this case something in their drawing, posing or timing that gives away their identity to the alert scholar.

The Warner's director Chuck Jones, in my opinion, had the on-model situation best in hand because he produced a profusion of pose drawings in his own style for his animators to work from. They were good poses, brilliantly drawn, and so all the scenes in the cartoons he directed tended to look like Chuck Jones cartoons, unmistakably.

An independent animator like me, answering only to myself, may worry about drawing consistency, or may decide that it does not matter.

To me, it does matter. And when I found that my drawings were drifting off model, I did something about it that I remember having done before. I scaled my model sheet to the exact scale of the character in the scene I was doing.

If the character on your model sheet stands 4 inches high on that paper, and the character in your scene would be 9 inches high at full length--your scene might be a medium closeup just showing the character from the waist up--and if you try to just scale the image up as you draw, you may get into trouble. You may get the head right but the shoulders too small. You may easily get the nose too long or the chin too big.  A model sheet copied to the right scale can save you from unwanted distortion and inconsistency.

An array of model sheets scaled up in 10% increments at each step.


Even in a studio where the animator receives a layout with the character drawn in, having your model sheet sized to the proper scale will be helpful. Most copiers can take your image up or down in increments of 1%.

Try it!



Friday, May 12, 2017

No. 129, Working Hard at Animation!

I have been busy since my last post as I start to do animation from my A list: the scenes that are the most challenging and or the most important in my film. (See post no. 124 for a description of the A-
B-C system of animation triage.)

Right out of the gate, I had a success.  It is the scene described in post no. 126 of the old man catching and pocketing a business card, then strutting off. I planned it right, the drawing and timing went well, and it came out as good as I had imagined it should.

I felt righteous, as if I really knew my business. Everything from then on, I thought, was going to be easy, professional, attractive, and I would gain the admiration of everyone who knew anything about animation, as well as all those who didn't.

And yet...

Example of an erased, re-numbered, re-drawn, re-positioned and taped, and throughly battered drawing.

Nope. Hasn't turned out that way. The very next scene I chose to work on has been a challenge. It sounds simple; the Old Man is pulling on a pair of gloves.  But of course the trick is not in just animating it but, as always, to do it in an entertaining and believable way.

But don't get me wrong! I am not defeated in this; I am just having to work harder than I anticipated. But I have always acknowledged that animation--good animation--is a challenge. Really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Anything worth doing ought to be hard, make you sweat, make you think.

So I have been: erasing, re-drawing, re-timing from my pencil tests, cutting and repositioning drawings with tape. This is all the unglamorous but necessary work of animating when you want (and have time) to keep after a thing until it is right.

Next: Staying On Model

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

No. 128, Animatic Private Viewiings

Preview Audience

People's reactions to my animatic are diverse.

Some creative arts are commonly accomplished more-or-less alone. Painters, poets, novelists and composers, for example, often work by themselves, showing little or nothing to anyone until a work is finished. And even filmed animation, developed though it was as an assembly line process involving many hands and minds, can now be completed by oneself.

If one wishes for approval of the public, however, it may be a good idea at some point to get opinions other than one's own. In animation, an obvious opportunity for that comes at the completion of the animatic--the filmed, timed-out storyboard, preferably with sound. It still must be explained to some that: no, this is not the finished film; the characters will eventually not just slide along or pop from pose to pose, but will actually move. They will be, you know, animated. (Believe me, I have had to go through this explanation more than once.)

So with my animatic of Carry On at hand, I selected a small group of friends and invited them to a private site on You Tube to have a look at it. They were requested to give me any feedback that occurred to them. All of them knew the difference between a storyboard and actual animation, so I didn't have to explain that. All of them enjoy good animation.

Four of them have themselves done animation at one level or another. Two of the others are illustrators, and the last one has an artistic background and a keen critical mind. In addition to this "official" survey, I have had the opinions of my wife and a few other friends who have seen it.

The results are not all in yet, but they are interesting. Basically, they are all over the place; there is very little consensus on any one element as being wrong or confusing or overplayed or underplayed. Everyone liked parts of it, and most liked most of it. One person hated a certain character and another cited that character as particularly effective--that kind of thing. Several had their own suggestions about how they would do this or that differently, but so far, no two individuals came out against the same thing.

Well, except for once. It's that character I just mentioned. One reviewer found it extremely offensive culturally, and another said she just didn't like the character but could not quite say why; she just really, really disliked it. This set off a serious alarm in my brain, despite the fact that two other of the reviewers liked that same character a lot.

My following is small but it is world-wide, a statistical fact that brings me some satisfaction. I do not want to be culturally offensive. And so, that character will get a serious make-over. I have already worked out how to do that. It will cause me some trouble and work, but I won't consider not doing it.

I expect to have more to say about this review process in a later post.

In other news...

Beginning on March 18, this blog suddenly has experienced an amazing surge in daily page views, from an average of between 10 and 20 per day to between 150 and 250 page views per day.  This increase continues unabated as of today, April 11.

Of course I love this, but...what is going on? Is something now being counted that wasn't included before? Is my blog required reading for some animation school?  Or what?

I would like to know.  If anyone reading this has any ideas, I would enjoy hearing them.





Thursday, April 6, 2017

No. 127, A Worthy 2D Kickstarter Project

Quentin Blake's "Clown: Thrown Away"





There is a little 2D animated film that wants to be made which deserves support. Clown: Thrown Away, based upon a children's picture book by Sir Quentin Blake, is now up on Kickstarter with only 24 days remaining in which to make their quota. I have been asked to do what I can to publicize the project and encourage everyone to subscribe and make it happen.

On Kickstarter, unlike some other crowd-funding sites, it is all-or-nothing; either their stated goal gets pledged by the deadline, or else no funds are collected and they are back at zero.

This is an exciting and worthwhile production for a number of reasons. First, the charm of the style. The illustrator and author, Quentin Blake, well known for illustrating his own books as well as the stories of Raold Dahl, renders his cartoons in a loose watercolor and ink style that the producers intend to translate onto the screen. This is a difficult idea but will be exceedingly charming if they can bring it off, and there is every reason to think that they can.

This is line art from the film's storyboard; the animation has barely begun.


Second, the story is all in mime, which makes it universal, not dependent on language or translation no matter where it is shown.

And the story is also a universally appealing one, of courage and organization, sadness and joy, and of bravery and optimism.

Here is the link to the Kickstarter page:  www.letsmakeclown.com

Support 2D animation by supporting this project, and please spread the word now!

*   *   *   *   *
Update, May 15, 2017
I am sorry to report that this Kickstarter effort failed. Having only raised pledges amounting to about a third of the stated goal, the project was withdrawn. Unfortunately, due to the vast number of projects vying on the Kickstarter website for attention and money, many worthy projects, even those having obvious appeal and well-thought-out pitch videos and donor enticements,  do not get fully funded--which, on Kickstarter, means they do not get funded at all.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

No. 126, Storyboard into Animation, Part 3

The Pencil Test

Last time (post No. 125) I showed you key drawings from my animation of a scene of the Old Man, along with the storyboard panels upon which they were based.

Now I have finished the pencil test, and you can see where that has taken me.



It is indescribably exciting to take a storyboard concept and breathe life into it, with all the timing and nuances that give it personality. For me, it is the height of creativity, the addictive moment of the animation process that makes all the rest of the work with its endless calculations and tedium worthwhile. It is what the animator lives for.

A New Movement?

Watching this pencil test, it occurred to me that I may have invented something new, or perhaps I am the first to put a name to it: I would call it a Double Anticipation.

This is something I observed in the tai chi classes that I attend. Our instructor teaches a sinuous and slow-moving tai chi called the Yang style. Properly performed, the movements actually give an illusion of a slow motion video.

In most animation, we are taught that when beginning any major movement, one begins with an anticipation--usually a movement in the opposite direction from the major movement--and then makes the main movement. This is based on observation of everyday actions of ordinary humans and animals and also serves to signal to the viewer what is about to happen. As animators, we all use this principle all the time, and it works quite well. It is a shifting of weight, a gathering of energy.

But suppose the tai chi performer intends to move to the left, for example. His first movement is not to the right but toward the left, the major intended direction. This is usually to shift the weight onto the forward foot and off the rear foot so that the rear foot can be turned to an angle that will best support the movement. Only then does the tai chi practitioner bring his or her weight back onto that foot, shifting balance to the right as in a classic anticipation.

Here in my pencil test I have given the Old Man a double anticipation before he walks off. I really don't know if my tai chi placed the idea into my subconscious, or if it just helped me to recognize and classify what I have animated. 

A note on looping YouTube movies: Did you know that if you control-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) the lower righthand corner of a YouTube movie, you can select an option to loop the Movie? Very useful for viewing short animation pieces!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

No. 125, Storyboard into Animation, Part 2

I have mentioned before how the animator as storyboard artist might often put more into the storyboard than an artist who does not animate would do. But when it gets into actual animation, that animator will then go deeper still.

Things occur to the animator as she or he contemplates and then works on a scene--things that will not have been thought of.


Take the first two storyboard  drawings from the scene we have chosen. They show the Old Man having caught the card out of the air, then inserting the card into his breast pocket.

But let's look at everything that that will entail in my animation.

He catches the card.

He looks at his pocket.

He aims the card.

He inserts the card into the pocket.

The finger comes up to tap it in.

He taps it all the way in.


 Could this have been done more directly? Might I not have just used the two basic poses from the storyboard and been done with it?  Of course I could have done.

But that is basically the difference between full animation and TV animation. The proponent of full animation always is asking himself, "How can this be improved?  How can it be made interesting?"

Naturally, as one working on my own personal animation project, I have the freedom to indulge myself. There is not much 2D animation being done today that permits such extravagant expenditure of drawings, time and money. Only in CGI animation will you find such lavish attention to this kind of nuance.

Special Note: You will see from the framing of this scene in the storyboard that the legs and feet will not be included in the shot. But I have drawn them in because the Old Man will turn and walk out of the frame, and so I need to know where his weight is and what his stance is. Even standing with his feet in one place as in these drawings, he is still balancing and shifting his weight about, so it is important to draw him right down to the ground if possible.


Next: The Pencil Test for the Whole Scene--wait for it!!