Thursday, July 19, 2012

Animation: Story Vs. Drawing

Art, again, by me. With this one, I decided to experiment with a little shading. I don't think it came out too good, but hey, ya gotta learn as an artist, am I right?

In one of my ebooks for the Art Institute, the book on storyboarding, “Prepare To Board! Creating Story And Characters For Animation Features And Shorts”, Nancy Beiman, the book’s author, had this to say in the introduction:

“Some people say that story is the only thing that matters in animated film. I agree. Good animation and good design never saved a bad story. Strong characters can make a weak story tolerable and a good story better, but characters develop within a story context. Each depends upon the other.”

Part of me wants to agree with the whole “story as the only thing that matters in animated film,” and part of me wants to say that is utter bullcrap.

Don’t get me wrong: story is an important part in animation of all kinds. I do love good stories, good characters and good storytelling, but here’s the thing: story is NOT, repeat, NOT the only thing that matters in animated film. Just like good animation and good design never saved a bad story, a good story never saved bad animation and bad design. I refuse to be engaged in a story if they can’t even make the characters OR the backgrounds look appealing in some way! Make the designs as generic as you want, but PLEASE try to put some effort into making it visually pleasing! The world really cannot handle another Delgo!

My personal belief is that both good animation AND good story are essential to the worth of an animated film. Having one without the other is okay, and it can still give some great results, but when they both work, the results are phenomenal.

I’m not one to stick completely with the views of an egotistical, whiny, narrow-minded, has-been animator with rose-tinted nostalgia glasses wielded to his face, but John Kricfalusi’s right: animation and cartoons must be allowed to take advantage of the medium they’re in. Honestly, if John K. ever met this Nancy Beiman lady, there would be a heated argument that would go on for days. 

Hell, I’m sure Bill Plympton would think similarly. I mean, yeah, he does like good storytelling, and he has been trying with each film to get a better, more emotional story, but he’s still heavily rooted in the art of animation itself and as he mentioned in his tutorial book, “Making Toons That Sell Without Selling Out”:

“I’ve been accused of making strange films with weak stories […] There may be some truth in their criticisms, but for me, story isn’t the end-all and be-all in the success of a film.

“How many times have you heard the expression ‘all great films start with a great story’? Talk about clich├ęs! Well, I’m sick and tired of hearing that bull. Sure, there are wonderful films that are great because of the story, but please, give me a break! (P)eople describe great film as ‘cinematic.’ What does it mean? It means it’s a visual experience, something that has nothing to do with words.”

He then goes on to cite several examples to cite his reasoning, and he ended it with this little tidbit:

“If I hear someone use the expression ‘story is everything’ one more time, I’ll stick his or her tongue in my electric pencil sharpener—now that’s cinematic!”

Watch out, Nancy! Bill’s out to subject you to a cruel and unusual (but still really dang funny) punishment!

Dated LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG before it was conceived
The s*** that nightmares are made of
Can anyone tell me what appeal could be found in such lifeless looking garbage?

My brother’s belief is that the Golden Rule of Animation is this: “If it can be easily done in live-action, then there’s no point in animating it.” I agree with that, because animation is capable of so much more than live-action, and yet people over the years have wasted it on rather mundane things. For instance, teen shows that are animated but don’t bother taking advantage of the medium. Klasky-Csupo is guilty of this with As Told By Ginger and Rugrats: All Grown Up, and also with the overly EXTREME kid’s cartoon, Rocket Power. And Hanna-Barbera has made a career on cartoons with mediocre animation that often didn’t take advantage of the medium and what it was capable of.

Like I said, I love good, engaging stories and characters, but I love good animation and design as well. Animation is capable of so much more than people give it credit for. I think both story and animation have a mutual relationship, and they can work off each other really well when handled correctly. This is one thing that I want for future aspiring animators such as myself to understand about story and animation: neither one should be more important than the other. I think when Nancy Beiman states that “each depends upon the other,” I feel this shouldn’t apply to JUST the story and the characters, but the animation and the design as well. Honestly though, why make or work on an animated film if you don’t intend to make animation and design a big priority anyways?