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, March 31, 2018

No. 154, Stan Green: Animator, Part One

Who Was Stan Green?

I have long wanted to do a blog post on Stan Green because the brief time I knew him had rather a profound effect on me. But as always when I do a post, I like to have some pictures or graphic images of some kind with which to enhance the words. In Stan Green's case, this has been a considerable problem. 

In the first place, I don't personally have any pictures of him or by him. I have no images from the one television commercial on which I assisted him. In the second place, the internet has been little help. He does have a listing in the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) but there is nothing biographical or anecdotal, just the chronological listing of his screen work, which ranges from doing layouts for The Lone Ranger animated show in the mid 60s to his period at Disney feature films.

What he is best known for amid the animation industry is having been key assistant to Milt Kahl for the last period of that man's animating career, working with him through Robin Hood (1973) and The Rescuers (1977). He is known to have done much of the animation of the great Kahl villainess Madame Medusa.

When he retired from Disney, he moved with his wife up to Newport, Oregon, and took some work animating locally in Portland, where I lived and worked at the time.

My partners and I had been doing some work with a company called AN/FX, and that is how we ran into Stan Green. The animation technology then (about 1980) was still artwork to film to video tape if you were producing for television. In those days, it was also pencil drawings to Xeroxed cels but the painting was still done by hand. AN/FX had a new state-of-the-art rostrum camera of which they were justly proud.

Stan was hired by the owner of the company to design a character and do full character animation for a TV commercial. Stan required assistants for inbetweening, and so my friend Don Wallace and I were contacted.

I talked to Stan personally only a few times. The important thing to me was, that he handed out his scenes for inbetweening, and I got to do a big chunk of it.  I never learned so much, so fast as during those few days.

More about this next time...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

No. 153, Rope Trick

Make It Interesting!

Sometimes, if you are on a severe deadline or your client or employer cares more about speed and quantity than artistry, you will have to animate a scene in the simplest possible way and be done with it. But when you have the time, try to make it interesting, whatever it is.

If you are working on your own project, as I am, then in my opinion there is no excuse for not giving it your best.

I have a simple little example from my film in progress, Carry On. Closeup of a man's feet and legs. One end of a thin rope drops to the ground. That's it! Not much of a scene, and one might be tempted to do it in the flattest way possible so you can get on to the walks and dialog scenes: the fun stuff, right?

But what if this rope scene could be made interesting? Frankly, I wasn't sure at first that that was possible. Here are the storyboard panels.

Panel 1. 

Panel 2. The rope drops.

Panel 3. The rope at rest on the ground.

How to approach a problem like this? Because if your approach is wrong, and it doesn't look right, then you will have something much worse than if it is merely boring or routine; you will have created something that may distract the viewer from the moment; which may destroy the viewer's engagement in your story and her suspension of disbelief.

Took me a couple of false starts before I got it right. I don't mind admitting this since, after all, this blog is largely about making mistakes and then fixing them. But as the drawings were so simple, there was not much wasted time and effort.

Following are a couple of rejected solutions. (Where else but on Acme Punched do you get to see the rejected work?)

At the beginning I had visualized that the falling rope would be uncoiling as it drops. Now I saw that after hitting the ground, the rope might coil up again until it reached its limit (where the unseen hand above is still holding onto one end.)

That worked well, but if you notice, I have also added in something else--a wave that moves back up the rope to the higher end, spending the last bit of energy of the movement, a good example of the principle of follow-through.

Following is a clearer look at the action, with only one layer visible.

Remember, even the simplest things can be animated in an interesting way, if only you look carefully enough.