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

Friday, August 30, 2019

No. 194: Richard Williams, 1933-2019

Richard Williams Passes

It was with shock that I read of the death of Richard Williams last week, just after I had posted about him (No. 193: Page One-eleven). He was 86 years old, but that doesn't lessen the regret I felt for his absence from the 2D animation world; he loomed larger than anyone in his reverence and enthusiasm for drawn animation, and for all that he did to try to sustain it and make it into a noble art.

We have his great book, The Animator's Survival Kit, and we have the instructional DVD collection that he created afterwards, and we have all his films and drawings to treasure and learn from, and though I am given to understand that he could be difficult to work with, he made a great positive impact on animators around the world. His work will continue to inspire and stimulate for decades to come, I am sure.

Richard Williams as he looked in his early forties.
What we don't have is the completed feature film that he had dedicated so much of his life to, the ill-fated The Thief and the Cobbler, which was taken out of his hands and then "completed" by a crew that had no sense of what the project could be. Yet still, the incomplete version (The Thief Recobbled) that we do have is a marvel to see.

As I have said, I was privileged to attend the first of his Master Classes, and I got to experience his charisma and his dedication first hand. A great raconteur, he entertained us with hilarious imitations of such animation personalities as Milt Kahl and Grim Natwick while at the same time impressing us with the lore he had learned at the feet of those two and as many other of the aging golden age animators as he could muster. Before they passed away, he hired and learned all he could from Ken Harris, Art Babbitt and Abe Levitow, and then he scribed it all down for us in his clear and detailed way, for he was not only a great designer and artist and animator, he was a great teacher as well.
A couple of pages from my personal notebook made during the
Animation Master Class in 1995.

Richard Williams has died, but his legacy remains for now and for the future.

Friday, August 16, 2019

No. 193: Page One-Eleven

My Page in Richard Williams' Book...Maybe

I have referred fondly to Richard Williams' book The Animator's Survival Kit, published in 2001, and I even believe I may take credit for a small bit of it.

Years ago, a friend and I attended the first ever of Richard Williams' Animation Master Class workshops. This was held in Vancouver, BC, November 9, 10 and 11 of 1995. These classes were the basis for the book, or helped work out the ideas to be included in the book;  I am not sure which.  But he was already calling his class "the Animator's Survival Kit" at this time.

It was perhaps on the second day, when we had been talking about animating walks.  There was a bathroom break, and I walked up to Dick and said, "If you are animating a walk cycle, should you animate the character in one place on the page, as for use with a scrolling background?  Or should you walk him across the page?"

Most of what I knew about animation I had learned from books, and from studying animated films directly, so for years I had done walk cycles with the character holding his place on the page and his feet slipping backward, as if I were standing alongside a treadmill where the character was walking.

How walks are often displayed in books on animation.
From "Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons", by Robert B. Heath.
Another example, this time by Preston Blair in his well-known book.
From "Animation", by Preston Blair, published by Walter T. Foster.

This is how they were usually portrayed in animation books, often with registration marks over each image, so that they could all be lined up, one perfectly superimposed over the next. In some ways this was easier to do, with the body and head just bobbing up and down.  In fact, for a long time I don't believe it occurred to me to do it otherwise. But recently I had realized that perhaps you could get a better feel for the forward movement by letting the character actually step forward across the page, and so I had posed this question to Richard Williams.

There was a pause of several seconds before he answered decisively, "Walk him across the page."

That's all I can tell you about his thought process, or whether or not he had already intended to say something about this. But I can tell you that when the book was published, there it was, on page 111: " doing these walks--take a few steps across the page or screen--don't try to work out a cycle walking in place with the feet sliding back, etc." 

Here is a copy of the actual entry:

From page 111 of "The Animator's Survival Kit", by Richard Williams,
published by Faber and Faber, 2001.

But more important than whether I was an influence on Richard Williams is the fact that he is right: walking the character across the page is the best way to get the movement right. The other might sometimes work, but it can also look as phony as running in place does compared to actually running over a distance, and getting the feel of the mass and weight moving forward will help you achieve a convincing walk (or run, or sneak or other gait.)

The walk cycle, drawn spread out across the page.

And here's something of my own I want to add: it is important in doing any walk cycle in this way to create a copy of drawing 1 at the end, so that you have a drawing to link into.  Thus if you have a 16 drawing walk cycle, create also a drawing 17 which is a tracing of drawing 1 except that it will be positioned at the end of the second step, where the cycle repeats. This will be a working drawing and never to be photographed, but I think you will find it indispensable.

With a copy of drawing 1 in the new position, you will have
something to animate into.