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

Monday, March 18, 2013

No. 34, Problem Six: Fox Bites Nose (Part 2)

The Most Creative Step

Animation is a strange artform.  The process of production is so complicated, and the road to the final result so long, that it seems that the ember of inspiration might darken and grow cold before the animator ever gets to the end.  It is miraculous that an animator can hold and keep alive in her or his imagination that glowing spark through all the tedious stages it must endure: the timing calculations, the planning of layers, the process of construction and refinement of drawings, the endless adjustments and revisions.

And yet, we do.  It is the thrill of making it work, of making it seem to be alive, despite all the technical encumbrance, that keeps us going on to the end.

This post describes as best I can one of the high points of the journey.  This is the magic moment in the process when the animator sits at his drawing board and makes the key drawings upon which all else depends.

As we discussed in Part 1, my first attempt for this scene was wrongheaded in just about every way, and it was largely because I tried to handle the three characters separately from one another.  This was okay for the first part of the scene, described in Problem Five, where the woman is watching as the man lowers the fox down from atop his head.  After that it was a failure because the three characters were acting in concert and they needed to be regarded as one combined entity, rather than as separate elements.

At this time I have made sixteen new drawings spanning the entire scene.  The first eight depict the woman's behavior during the action covered in Problem Five, as the man reaches up and lifts down the fox.

The last eight drawings show all three characters together, as the fox bites and holds onto the woman's nose and she and the man react to that.

Let's look at the drawings.
Dwg 1.  She has been watching the thing on her husband's head turn into a fox.

(Drawing 2, formerly in this position, has been removed, to be replaced by Breakdown Drawing 65.)

Dwg 3.  The peak drawing of the take.
Dwg 4.  Hold drawing at end of take.
Dwg 5.  As the fox is lowered down, she pulls back out of the way.
Dwg 6.  Now she leans in for a closer look.
Dwg 7.  She turns to look at her husband.  Her head is on a separate layer here.
Dwg 8.  She turns back to the fox and tickles him under his chin, and then...
Dwg 9.  He snaps his jaws closed on her long nose.  She winces in pain.
Dwg 10.  Reflexively, she starts to jerk away.
Dwg 11.  But the fox hangs on.
Dwg 12.  The peak extreme of her action.
Dwg 13.  Realizing she must not resist, she yields to the fox.
Dwg 14.  Coming down, she looks to her bewildered husband...
Dwg 15.  ...who turns his attention to the fox.
Dwg 16.  Now they are at stalemate.
Note that these drawings are by no means evenly spaced throughout the scene.  They are the storytelling drawings.  Where there is more going on, there is need for more drawings.  Here, drawings 9 through 15 cover just 64 frames of time--a little more than 2 1/2 seconds, because that is where the violent action is.  In fact, drawings 9, 10, 11 and 12 are consecutive; there will be no inbetweens added there.  It may be unusual to consider them all as key drawings, but they were key to my understanding of the movement, and as I felt their structure so strongly, I thought it necessary to do them all at this time.  It was a tricky section that had to  be proved out, and I deemed them essential.

In Part 3, we will look at the pencil test/animatic of all this movement together.

Next: Pinning Down the Timing

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