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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

No. 157, Plus Your Drawings!


I am using the word plus as a verb here, meaning to improve upon.  As a writer, I am a big believer in the second draft and the third draft. Parts of the first draft may survive intact, but many times a second and third draft will lead you to a better result.

In the same way, a second or third attempt at a pose drawing in your animation may yield a more forceful, more concise and more effective pose than you started with. At Disney, even the best animator sometimes would go to a colleague if they felt a drawing needed "plussing." At Warner Bros, a storyboard by one team would be reviewed by all the other teams, with a rule that all comments had to be positive suggestions--suggestions for plussing--rather than being just negative and destructive.

Let's look at an example from some animation work that is on my board right now.

I am doing some little scenes that are reaction shots by characters who are watching the Old Man who is ahead of them in the security line at the airport.  One of these is a man who, when driving, would be changing lanes constantly in an effort to get ahead somehow, even though each change of lane advances him only one car-length at a time: an impatient person, to say the least. Anything that slows him down,  makes him angry.

Incidentally, there are three short scenes of this character in this one sequence, and I am animating them as a group so that I will be consistent with him. I recommend this because if you do one reaction shot and then come back a month later to do another such shot, you may not get the same take on his character. All the scenes with him are short and take place in the same one or two minutes of screen time, so it makes sense to handle them as one.

Here are the two storyboard panels illustrating his first scene, where he ostentatiously looks at his watch.

Panel 1: The impatient guy stares resentfully at the old man.

Panel 2: He swings his arm up and glares at his watch.

Panel 1 translated onto the animation board almost line for line, but rather than tracing it I did redraw it freehand because, often, improvements occur to me as I draw.  Here is the animation pose.

Animation pose 1.  Virtually the same as in the storyboard.

Panel 2 is a different matter. I thought I could plus it. I was not quite happy with the tilt of his head, so I reimagined it.

Animation pose 2, version 1. Not quite saying what I want.
This drawing did not please me overall. The eyes were better than in the storyboard, I thought, but the drawing lacked the force of panel 2 from the storyboard. The forearm and hand are scaled a little smaller relative to the head, and that is likely part of the problem.

So, time for another attempt. Sometimes I erase and do the correction on the same sheet of paper, but  this seemed major; I didn't want to be influenced by the ghost image of the erased drawing.

Here is the next version.

Animation pose 2, the second attempt.

Better? Yeah, I think so too! I tilted his head more, and I brought his forearm and fist closer to the "camera", which shows off his monster chronograph watch. The guy is steamed!

This is all a part of teaching yourself to be self-critical. Soon I am going to do a whole post about being properly critical of your own work. Wait for it!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

No. 156, Another Rope Trick

This is the same rope seen dropping to the ground in Post No. 153, Rope Trick.

Now the rope or cord is being tied by the old man to the handle of his trunk; he will drag the trunk by this means through the long corridors of the airport terminal.

I wanted to show a complicated sort of knot without really going through all the actual mechanics of tying that knot. But I thought it would be funny to start out as if it were a how-to, like an animated page from a Boy Scout manual, then show a flurry of movement that is impossible to follow, and slow down again as I show the knot being drawn tight.

Here's the result.

Friday, April 13, 2018

No. 155, Stan Green, Animator, Part Two

In my last blog post, No. 154, I spoke of my excitement at meeting and getting to do some animation work with Stan Green, animator and principal assistant to the great Milt Kahl.  I remember being quite excited, sitting at my board with a stack of Stan Green's animation drawings--just extremes and breakdowns--in my hands, with all the inbetweens yet to be done by me.

Stan Green placeholder image. Anyone got a photo of him?

There were the drawings to go by, of course. They were delicate and bold at the same time, but very sure in there execution. I seem to remember blue pencil under the graphite, very loose compared to the precise black lines that had been laid down over them. There was just one character, a man who talks expansively about something (the product or service being advertised, I have no idea what.)

And it was full animation--oh, yes!--straight from a Disney veteran.

As I have said in other posts, I was self-taught, having learned everything I knew about animation either from books or from experience.  I had never even worked with another animator who knew more about it than I did. What did I know at that time? It might be easier to tell you what I didn't know.

I knew the 12 Principals, but there were some I did not fully understand. I didn't know much about timing. I didn't know you should not try to show more than one thing at a time. I didn't know how to think deeply enough about a scene before starting to animate it; thus, I often did things over, or things came out flat, and I didn't know why.

But as an inbetweener? Oh yeah. I could do literal inbetweens in my sleep, following arcs of movement and keeping the mass the same, and I understood the spacing charts. yet there were things there I had never seen before--little marginal thumbnails of an eye closing and opening for drawings 21, 23, 25 and 27, for example. Or a notation sketch about how an arm should look as it was being raised.

I believe that working on this sequence raised my aesthetic standards, too, as I tried to get my own drawings to the same level as those of Stan Green.  I worked through the assignment with confidence, and when I turned it in, he flipped through it and said, "Yeah.  I can work with this."

Of course I don't know what he really might have thought, but just to know it was acceptable seemed like high praise.

Stan had plans to teach a course in animation film making, which I believe never got off the ground. My further hope of getting more animation lore out of him directly was not realized either.  Like a lot of experts, he was not a natural teacher and we ended up only hearing some amusing anecdotes about his experiences with Milt Kahl. A year or two later, I learned that he had died.

Still, I value the experience of being his inbetweener for that one brief moment in time.