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, February 25, 2019

No. 181, Film Review: Saludos Amigos

Looking through Andreas Dejas' The Nine Old Men, I found myself marveling once again over Wooly Reitherman's gaucho Goofy sequence.  A selection of drawings from this piece was also included in The Illusion of Life by Thomas and Johnston, and I have often gazed admiringly upon these wonderful, hyperactive constructions at which Reitherman was so good.

© Disney Corporation

This was a segment in the 1942 release Saludos Amigos, the result of a good will tour of Central  and South America by Disney and a select team of artists. (I believe there was also some motivation to try to cultivate new foreign distribution markets after the loss to fascist powers of much of the continental European markets.) I thought I would see if Saludos  was available on YouTube, and I succeeded; in fact, I found a real animator's special. Some wouldn't like it because it is 1) recorded in Spanish with 2)  tinny sound quality and 3) takes up only a third of the YouTube screen and 4)  is cropped from its original aspect ratio. Put it up at full screen, though, and the image is clean and clear. If you are just studying the animation, you probably won't care much about the vocal sound track anyway. The URL for this is here.

The four animated sequences are each prefaced with some grainy, blown-up 16mm live-action footage of the South American countries being visited, sometimes showing Walt Disney and some of his staff observing or interacting in front of the camera. Like so much of the newsreel footage shot in the 40s and 50s, any sound you hear has been added in post production, including singing and sound effects. Also, just about everything has been speeded up, probably just for the simple reason that it was shot at 16 frames per second and run in theaters at 24.

But the film includes not only the Wooly Reitherman animation of Goofy, but also an amazing sequence featuring Donald Duck and a cartoon llama that were animated principally by Milt Kahl.

© Disney Corporation

There is also a pleasant and cute story about a mail plane named Pedro, an early example of Disney's anthropomorphic vehicles that include Susie the Little Blue Coupe and the Cars movies.

© Disney Corporation

Least interesting of the four cartoon segments is the one called Aquarela do Brasil. This introduces the parrot character Jose Carioca to Donald Duck, and it is competent animation that only suffers by comparison with the livelier and more dynamic animation of Donald and Jose, along with a third character called Panchito, in the later release The Three Caballeros, with design and animation by the great Ward Kimball.

© Disney Corporation

The film is there to study or just enjoy. Remember that the YouTube settings menu features a choice of speeds, including .25 (25 percent), which is a rate of 6 to 7 frames per second and allows you to appreciate all the individual drawings.

I recommend that you spend some time with Saludos Amigos and enjoy some of the best comic animation that ever came out of the Disney studios.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

No. 180, A Little Applause for Myself

A Woman Clapping Her Hands

As I have stated before, a good animation cycle is hard to get right.  Why? Because, since it repeats and repeats and repeats, if there is anything at all wrong about it, that will be noticed.  And it won't only be noticed by your fellow animators; it will be noticed by EVERYBODY.

"Everybody" won't be able to say why it is wrong, of course, but they will see it and be distracted and unconvinced by it, and when that happens it takes something away from the illusion you have built. You can't let that happen.

I have another scene here with the two TSA-type security guards, a man and a woman, whom you may remember from posts 174, 175 and 176.  This is a final shot for them. The situation is that when the Old Man succeeds in getting his trunk up onto the table with the X-ray conveyor, many people who have been watching break out into spontaneous applause.

In the scene here, we cut to see that one of the most enthusiastic in her clapping is the woman guard who had been so suspicious of the Old Man earlier.  Smiling, she looks over at her partner while continuing to clap.

Here is the storyboard panel for Scene 5-56.

Originally requiring only a single panel, I have now added
the woman turning her head toward her partner.
But I have had a surprisingly hard time getting the clapping cycle right. For once, Dick Williams advice was not a help.  He discusses clapping hands on pages 242 and 243 of his book (The Animator's Survival Kit), but it is a hammer-and-anvil sort of clapping, where one hand holds more-or-less still while the other hand does most of the movement. 

What I have here is a light sort of applause clapping, like in the gallery of a golf championship, with both hands moving about equally. Also it should be noted that the clapping is a kind of secondary action, with the primary action being the woman's head as she turns to grin at the man, so the clapping must not distract from that.

Anyway, after three tries and even resorting to making reference footage of myself clapping--something I try to avoid doing--I finally got a good result.

First, here are all the character layers together.

Composite of 3 layers: 1) the man plus the woman's body,
2) the woman's head, and 3) clapping hands and arms.
Now the clapping cycle, which continues throughout the scene until fadeout.

Monday, February 4, 2019

No. 179, Stop Motion as Pencil Test Software

Poor Pencil Test Images

For a long time I have been unhappy about the quality of my pencil test videos. Instead of being in easy-to-view black on white they have been a disappointing grey on grey.

This is the kind of greyed-out image I have been getting in my pencil tests.

I have determined that this is not the fault of my software, the now "legacy" Toki Line Test, but of the cameras I have been using. For the camera to connect to my Mac, it has to have a USB plug, and the two cameras I have been using have no adjustment controls; the only way I have been able to work with the contrast, brightness and other settings is through the Toki Line Test control sliders, which have been inadequate.

I have tried directly hooking up my Iphone cam but the software (and the Mac) do not recognize the phone cam as a camera source.

In my last posting to this blog, No. 178, I talked about downloading the app Stop Motion for making stop-motion animation. I wondered: could this work for my pencil tests as well? I was encouraged to note that any movies made in Stop Motion could be imported directly to You Tube or to Instagram.

I then purchased my own tripod (an inexpensive one designed for making selfies) and found that I could remove from it the phone clamp, which sported a universal camera screw mount that is used for mounting most cameras onto any tripod or other stabilizing support. Since my vertical camera stand uses that same mounting system, it was easy to now mount my Iphone in place.
The Iphone as pencil test camera.

Shooting a frame.

Now the image is sharp and in high contrast--success! The frames per second are variable, and also are the number of frames per click. There is an incremental zoom feature, too.

The only thing I don't know how to do is to show multiple layers.  That might be done by shooting the tests over a backlighted board, like the animation drawing disk itself.  But for simple tests of timing, this seems to be a very good solution.

Here is a sample test with this system. There is a little glitch at the end where the camera got bumped, but you can readily see the improvement in quality.

In time I may go back and re-shoot some of the pencil tests already posted.  At any rate my future output will be much easier to watch.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

No. 178, A Little Stop Motion Fun

Stop Motion Inspiration

Just a week ago, while visiting our nephew and niece, I entertained their almost seven-year-old daughter by drawing and inking a picture of her favorite doll.  She did a lovely job of coloring it, as you can see here.

This young lady is home-schooled, and I got to telling her parents how I had once taught a stop-motion animation class to a group of home-schooled children near where I live.

Stop-motion? What's that? they wanted to know. Most lay people do not have the words to describe the different genres of animation--hand drawn, stop motion, clay animation (a form of stop motion, of course), paint-on-film, CGI--even if they do discern that there are differences.  I explained that I had got the kids in my class to bring in toy cars and other toys that they wanted to see animated, and I shot the tabletop with my Macbook Pro using my pencil test software. I just operated the shutter; the students did all the animation. We had a lot of spectacular car crashes on that tabletop.

I hadn't ever looked for stop-motion apps to get, but I did so that day, and I found that there were several. We chose to download one called, simply, Stop Motion, or Stop Motion Studio if you got all the features. By the next morning my nephew had gone out and purchased a little tripod with a phone mount on it to hold the camera steady.  I did one little demo for my great niece, using her dollhouse for a set, and voila! She was hooked.

I hear she is busy making stop-motion films herself now, with perhaps a little help from her mom and dad. It was inspiring to me to see her enthusiasm for bringing her toys to life in motion--for being an animator!

 I also had another inspiration that pertained to my own work.  But that is the topic of my next post.