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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No. 109, Fun in the Men's Room

In my film Carry On, now in production at the storyboard and animatic stage, the main character, an Old Man trying to get a large trunk aboard an airliner as carry-on luggage, has to make a wardrobe change. Dragging the trunk into one of the public men's rooms at the airport, he proceeds to open the trunk to get at his clothing.

As I thought about the situation, I realized there was a possibility here for some comic business in the background.

The Old Man, intent on what he is doing, is oblivious of all else around him, but unwittingly he is disturbing the other men in the large restroom.

I knew right away I didn't want to do any gags about farting or anything else scatological, but I did see that I could make something out of the vague discomfort and wariness that many men feel when in a public restroom.

Following are a few drawings showing the development of this short scene. Some of them may not make the final cut, but they illustrate the storyboard artist's exploration of potential comic elements.

First shot.
We see the big trunk being dragged into the men's room. No need to
animate the Old Man here!

Next, a shot of a men's room user, vacantly staring at the wall.  It is
obvious what he is doing.
Go to close up.
Unusual noises wake him up. (The viewer has already heard
these same noises before: it is the Old Man opening the buckles
and catches of his big suitcase.)
He tries to see without turning his head, but... the end he must turn his head.
Wide shot of the room. The Old Man is about to open his case.
Another man gets curious.
With a flourish, the Old Man whips out a heavy overcoat from the open case, startling a man about to leave the restroom.

Some of these images are not final storyboard panels, but I am well on my way to locking this section of storyboard down into precise camera shots and angles.

I'm having fun in the men's room.  How about you?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

No. 108, The Later Books of Preston Blair

"How to Animate Film Cartoons"

In 1980, a second title by Preston Blair appeared from Walter Foster publishing in the same format of large pages as his first one.  This was called How to Animate Film Cartoons, and it included a great deal more in the way of technical tips and tricks for animators than the first one had.

Preston Blair's second, and more in-depth, animation book.

The year 1980 also saw the publication of the amazing Illusion of Life, the huge and comprehensive tome written by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston of the Walt Disney studios.  The year marks the beginning of a surge in book publishing of more serious and in-depth treatments of the animation business and its art and technical aspects.

Preston Blair, veteran of both Disney and MGM cartoons, was in 1980 as ready and able as anyone to provide his own version of this animation insider's lore. Want to know the difference between pose-to-pose and straight ahead animation? Blair can now tell us all about it, and in fact he covers this particular subject in a way that is more clear than the explanations of Thomas and Johnston.

Preston Blair's explanation of poses with extremes, and...

...his demonstration of straight ahead animation.

How about the subject of timing? This all important topic now gets as thorough a treatment in Blair's second book as it was utterly lacking in his first.

How Blair explains secondary actions.

The subject of dialog animation, for which I excoriated him in my review of his earlier work (Post no. 106), now gets the detailed attention it deserves, and so do many of the so-called 12 principles of animation that were first developed and identified at Disney's. Regrettably,  the overly-exaggerated page I criticized is included as well.

A more useful page on dialog animation than in Blair's first book.

In the decades intervening between the publication of the two books, Blair had gone on to become an independent producer of animation, and so he includes information not just about animation itself but also about layout, camera, and the techniques of television limited animation.

In all, the tone is more serious, the explanations more in-depth, and, I think, the expectation of being understood is much higher.  Preston Blair, and others, had discovered a small but avid audience.

"Cartoon Animation"

This book contains all the content of the first two, and more.

The other important publication authored by Blair was the book from 1994 called Cartoon Animation. Still under the Walter Foster imprint, this book measured a much smaller 10 1/4" x 9" but with a hefty 224 pages that included all the material from the first two books rearranged. The only new material was some additional character designs, a few more examples of rough animation from his Hollywood work, and sections on storyboarding and making a finished animation cel, a process that with digitization was soon to become obsolete.

A sample of Blair's outlook on storyboarding.

The main value of this book over the others is its compact format, combining the older books into one handy volume. It is still available and I recommend it for every animator's library.