ACTING FOR ANIMATORS NEWSLETTER
„THANK YOU, INDIA!“
I have been fortunate to take Acting for Animators to many countries, and no trip has been more rewarding — or more difficult to organize — than India. ASIFA/INDIA was my official host, inviting me to be part of the International Animation Day events. Max Howard, Shelley Page and other industry lights took part, and I imagine I speak for them also when I express special thanks to Vani, Amit, Sachin and Prasad, and their associates, from Rhythm & Hues Studios. In addition to their work for the studio, they guide ASIFA/INDIA, which is a labor of love. Animators throughout India are more than lucky to have such talent working on their behalf. Thanks also to Mira at DQ Entertainment, Ritu at Big AIMS, Satyajeet at DSK and to all of the animators that participated in IAD. This three-week trip included four cities, literally thousands of people and required excrutiating organization. It was challenging, expensive and ambitious for the organizers, and I am honored to have been included in your efforts. Animation in India is on the threshold of explosive growth, and it is just plain exciting to be a small part of it.
ACTING FOR ANIMATORS WORKSHOP SCHEDULE
Nov 22 Stockholm, Sweden, http://www.bohmation.org
Jan 18 Oakville, Ontario, Canada, Sheridan Institute of Technology
Feb 2011 Teesside, England, Animex
Mar 2011 Porto, Portugal, Catholic University of Porto
Apr 2011 Ludwigsberg, Germany, Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg
May 2011 Stuttgart, Germany, FMX 2011
„IF THERE WAS JUST ONE THING …“
During the Q&A wrap for one of my recent India workshops, an animator asked a very good question: „If there was just one thing we could do to improve our animation, what would that be?“ „Give your character a destination,“ I replied. It is a simple answer that is backed up by a considerable amount of acting theory, and I want to walk you through it.
Walt Disney correctly observed that „the mind is the pilot“ when it comes to character animation. When he gave Mickey Mouse a brain, he endowed the character with an illusion of life, gave him choices, made him fallible, and set up a value system that would result in emotion with which we humans could empathize. The purpose of movement is destination, and only a thinking creature can have a destination. The locomotive for a passenger train is a dumb thing that is incapable of choosing destination (unless it is The Little Engine that Could). It goes where the engineer and train tracks require it to go. Same with an airplane, a basketball and the car sitting in your driveway.
Any creature that has a brain will move with destination. The big difference between human motivation and that of lower animals is that humans are the only creatures that can know something is bad for them and still do it. A rabbit is incapable of that, being a slave to its instincts. The lower forms of animals are unable to act against their own self interest. A human can weigh the risk of going to jail before robbing the bank.
Let me repeat: The purpose of movement is destination, and all animals have this in common. The higher up the food chain you go, the more options the animal has, that’s all. Humans presently occupy the top spot and can therefore make the biggest mess of things, which is why we have acting and drama in the first place. If we operated the way that do, plays and movies would have no purpose.
Scenes begin in the middle, not at the beginning. If you are given a sequence to animate, remember that the character — I’m presuming a human — has options. Why is he in the sequence? What does he want? Where did he come from before entering this sequence? If he exits, where is he going? There is never a waking moment when a human does not have a destination!
This is, by the way, why robot characters do not evoke empathy. We humans only empathize with emotion. The Iron Giant comes very close to being a dumb mechanical thing when we first see him in the film. The storyteller endowed the Giant with a need to eat, and so his early destinations are purely food-related. That is enough humanity for us to build on when he starts developing values.
One more point: A character plays an action until something happens to make him play a different action. When your character entered the scene, was he on his way somewhere else? Or did he enter specifically in order to deal with the situation you are animating? The audience does not need to know where a character came from or where he is going. It only needs to know that the character has intention. The purpose of movement is destination.
Until next month …