Thursday, 16 December 2010

This week's blog is a bit of a follow-on from last week's so I apologise if I repeat myself at all. I seem to be apologising at least once every blog post - think that says a lot about how unsure I am of all this blogging. Anyway...
Bill began the lecture by presenting us with the idea that the technology used in art progresses in a linear fashion, whilst art itself does not. I'm not sure if I agree entirely with this statement because however much art may look back to previous works, it is only to take inspiration for new ideas to form. Surely art itself is always progressing just as much as the technology which is used to create it? There is a very strong possibility that I might have got entirely the wrong end of the stick there.
It would be very difficult for me to write a post based on animation without mentioning the following 

I'm pretty sure that everyone in the entire universe knows what this symbol represents, and if you don't then shame on you. It is, of course, the incredible Pixar! The 'chief creative director' of Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter's career really took off after the production of a short film which was shown to us in the lecture, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B' (1984). I can't say that I was blown away by this short, but this just goes to show how far animation has advanced even in the last 20 years. Bill explained that this film was the first to use motion blur techniques and 'teardrop' animation which meant that the characters were able to bend and move in a realistic manner, unlike previous animations which were much more rigid. 
This really set the wheels in motion to develop more and more techniques which allowed longer and more impressive animations to be made, leading up to the release of the first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story. 
The most significant short which Pixar produced has to be Luxo Jr. (1986). It is difficult for me to say how different this animation must have been to anything similar at the time, but even today it is still impressive to watch how something as insignificant as a desk last can be made into such a lovable and funny character. The president of Pixar Animation studios said about this iconic animation
Luxo Jr. sent shock waves through the entire industry - to all corners of computer and traditional animation. At the time, most traditional artists were afraid of the computer. They did not realise that the computer was merely a different tool in the artist's kit but perceived it as a type of automation that might endanger their jobs. Luckily, this attitude changed dramatically in the early 80s with the use of personal computers in the home. The release of our Luxo Jr. reinforced this opinion turnaround within the professional community

Every last detail in this animation was considered; the way that the light moved as the lamp did, the shadows it cast, the wood grain on the table, even the way in which the cord moved after the lamp has been considered.  It is this attention to detail which we take for granted that really sets Pixar leagues above other animation studios. I remember being absolutely fascinated by the way in which Pixar had managed to make Sully's fur move so realistically in the film Monster's Inc, and the incredibly realistic water in The Incredibles.

Disney were the first to bring this level of detail into their animations, with characters being studied in great depth before the film-making process has even begun. I was really surprised to hear that Bambi  was made in 1942 because to me it seems just as good, if not better, than current Disney animations. Walt Disney's strive for perfection and realism meant that animators spent a year studying and drawing deer and other woodland creatures before production of the film itself. 

The brilliant Walt and the real deer that were studied for Bambi. N'awww.
Whilst researching the processes that Disney used to make such a successful film I found some fantastic pieces of Bambi trivia that I thought I'd share with all of you lovely blog-readers.

  • The animators found it extremely difficult to render in human terms as their eyes are on either side of their head, their mouth does not lend itself to speech and they don't really have a chin. Ultimately, this problem was solved by combining the traits of the deer with a human baby
  • No matter how skilled the animator, the Disney cartoonists could not draw Bambi's father's antlers accurately. This was because of the very complicated perspectives required. To get round this difficulty, a plaster cast was made of some real antlers which were then filmed at all angels. This footage was then rotoscoped onto animation cels. 
  • Bambi was originally meant to return to his mother after she was shot and find her in a pool of blood. The idea was scrapped (thank god) 
  • "Man" the hunter who shoots Bambi's mother was ranked #20 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest heroes and villains - the only character on the list not to appear on screen 
Obviously, anthropomorphism had been used long before Disney arrived on the scene, but I think that it is safe to say that nobody does it in quite the same way. Disney's ability to create characters which have such a huge impact on children and adults alike is second to none, this being the reason why they will never become outdated. 

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