steamboatmouse: (The Sword in the Stone)
SOMEONE asked me if I would ever do reviews for shorts, such as the ones nominated for an Oscar this year, and the answer is absolutely yes. Shorts are so incredibly important, much more than people realize. A film gives you ninety minutes to tell a fully story and introduce all your characters, but a short often gives you less than ten. It's a way for new, rising animators and storytellers to show their talent without going as far as making a full feature film.

Lavatory Lovestory is one of my favorites out of the bunch, and for a very simple reason - it's simple. The story is easy to follow, there is no dialogue, the characters are nothing more than a few lines, and everything except the flowers is either black or white. Despite being created in Russia, the story is something that anyone can understand without the need of dialogue. A woman in a bleak lavatory-cleaning life dreams of finding love and happiness, and suddenly finds bright flowers in her coin jar from an anonymous admirer. Simple as that.

Films such as this are important for two reasons: 1) it shows Europe's and Asia's recent rise in animation, particularly in 2D work, and 2) it shows that animation does not require complicated designs or effects to tell a solid story.

France is definitely showing an animation boom, especially with the release of Persepolis and other shorts that followed. Russia has created much of their own work over the past seven decades, but has remained overall unknown. Hopefully Lavatory Lovestory will open that up, including to the rest of Asia and Europe as well.

In addition to that, existing Eurasian animation definitely aims to have both a young audience and a mature audience. The main character looks like a middle-aged woman, who is surrounded by middle-aged men. The American and British notion is that animation can only be geared towards children - a notion that is both irritating and entirely false. While the story seems like one found in a child's story - boy and girl fall in love at first sight - all the characters are obviously adults. And yet, there's no reason why a younger audience would not enjoy or not understand this short. Simplicity can go a long way.

You can watch Lavatory Lovestory HERE.
steamboatmouse: (Sleeping Beauty)
IT'S a long, tiresome, and repetitive fight in the animation field, and one that many people are already sick of. And yet, at the same time, it's a topic that very few people know about when it comes to discussing it more deeply. Many who do talk about it know nothing about the process of making an animated film. Even some people interested in or working in the animation industry know very little. Thus, we have all this build-up on the idea that 2D animation is not only just dead, but gone, forgotten, and entirely useless for animators now.

This is entirely untrue, and I guarantee you all the workers in Pixar will say the same. We've entered an age where everything can be easily accessed and portable. A copy of Maya on your laptop is convenient to carry around, while carrying a camera, scanner, paper, pencils, erasers, lightbox, and peg bar is not so easy. But this is where we get the problem - people generally think 3D is easier to do, while 2D only takes longer and costs much more.

In many ways, 3D can be easier to animate in, but this is an area often incorrectly talked about. It is more than just getting the computer to do the movements for you. Putting too much faith in the computer's ability to animate will leave actions stiff, robotic, and overall looking lifeless. Sure, 3D is supposed to look more realistic, but nothing looks more realistic in life than believable actions and movements. Pixar's John Lasseter studied the old Disney techniques religiously for the ability to make characters seem realistic through their acting. The medium does not matter.

Mike Disa couldn't have said it better: "The people who are in 3D animation now, if they don’t get very familiar with 2D animation techniques—proportion stretch, spacing, timing, silhouette, that kind of stuff—they won’t have jobs in five years. Knowing the software won’t be enough. That doesn’t mean that a 3D animator needs to know how to draw—not at all. But they need to know classic 2D animation techniques well enough to translate....And what’s going to happen is, they’re not going to work. They’re going to end up doing effects. They’re going to end up doing particles and stuff."

Animators are actors showing expression through art. The techno-savvy young animators polishing their modeling and layout skills will likely find themselves doing nothing but effects for the rest of their days if they don't take time to try out ways of expressing personality and thought.

This, however, is only the petty side of the argument. It is no longer about medium used; that is not important. So what is?

"Story, story, story," is what animator John Canemaker says. "A story well-told can be done with flip books."

Paper and pencil, computer, cut-outs, clay, whatever - nothing grabs the audience better than a good, solid story. WALL-E required thousands of hand-drawn storyboards before it got even close to the computer. What's been adding to this 2D-3D stigma is the rise in studios like Pixar and Dreamworks while Disney's 2D films went on a sudden downhill slope in the new century. With Disney's 2D department faltering in delivery, people immediately assume that 2D has lost its luster if even the original king of 2D animated movies can't keep up. DreamWorks had a brief shot at it with The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, and Sinbad - and then quickly made up for all their losses by releasing Shrek (El Dorado, for example, only made half of what it cost to make).

Here is where we enter the biggest problem. Disney's early 2000 movies lacked much in story while DreamWorks and Pixar sped ahead with fresh 3D films. The idea started up that there was no longer a market for 2D, thus making 2D films almost completely scarce from the movie screen. 3D takes advantage of this extra space, grabbing lots of techno-savvy youth to fill in the new career slots to quickly pump out 3D films, regardless of whether or not they understand what makes an animated film great.

The one thing they forgot to include was storytellers: writers, artists, and animators who know exactly what it takes to truly grab the audience.

So let's end this idea that 2D animation is dead, or else all future animation will look dead as well. There is room for all forms of animation, but how that animation is told, not drawn or modeled, is the deciding factor on its success and impact.

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A journal on a young animation student's thoughts on animated films, shorts, and the industry above it.

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