Project 2 – The occurrence with two heads

Design a character with two heads and then write a 500 word discussion/argument between the two heads on the importance of the notion that animation is either a genre of filmmaking or a collection of techniques or an art form in its own right or just something for kids, etc..

Substantiate the discussion with examples and references to demonstrate your understanding of the discourse and to increase the impact of each position.

Maybe the character could be organising its dvd collection and arguing about where animated movies should go, if they should have their own category or be sorted into genres. in the end they could decide to alphabetise the collection anyway which ends the discussion.

I like the idea of the characters being two geeky/nerdy characters (maybe just one nerdy and one not so much) who are arguing the ‘finer points’ of animation – they won’t quite be citing sources – but we are being asked to develop our understanding of these topics in greater depth and these characters can facilitate that whilst keeping the language in the script natural.

It might be better to look at this character with two heads as really two very different characters who share a body. They are going to be arguing opposing sides of the argument; is animation a genre? is it just for kids?

When we are arguing about genre its probably important to define the word. Genre means kind, or sort. Its a category of literature, music or art and entertainment. Often, works can fit into multiple genres. According to wikipedia genre began as an absolute classification system in ancient Greece. Genre became a tool for people to make sense of the art. So genres are just ways to define things into groups for classification.

Are genres really ‘out there’ in the world, or are they merely the constructions of analysts?

In the film industry animated films are often all clumped together into one genre – even though animations can vary wildly by genre and subgenre.

We might decry this fact, but American animated films are still considered child’s play, a notion that heavily influences who they are aimed at and how they are made.

In an interview on October 27, 1997 Brad Bird (Director/Animator: The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille) talks about how people in the industry only see the disney audience. Disney puts out one kind of movie, and they have good acting, direction and animation. Then someone comes along and does something different, but with poor acting, or directing, or animating; and so they flop and the industry sees this as a different kind of animation being made and the audience not being there for it.

Whenever anybody’s attempted something different, like Cool World, if it doesn’t succeed, they blame the type of film, rather than the quality of the work. And if anybody bothers to look at it, there’s a lot of really bad animation in Cool World, and it’s pretty obvious.                                                                                                               -Brad Bird

He’s goes on to say that he thinks the audience is there – and this interview was a few years ago – i think the evidence is even greater now. But there’s an argument that the other side of the animated Disney coin is the fart jokes and animated obscenities. South Park, Beavis and Butthead, Sausage Party – their audience is teenagers and crude humour.

I think that Brads opinions on whether animation is a genre are summed up perfectly here:

Yeah. But the point [is], animation is not a genre. It is a method of storytelling. People are constantly analyzing it and mis-analysing it as if it is a genre. It isn’t a genre. It can do horror films, it can do adult comedies if it wanted to, it could do fairy tales, it could do science fiction, it could do musicals, it could mystery, it can do anything.

I’m really hard pushed to argue against what hes said here. he makes a good point that we don’t see more than the Disney stuff in the mainstream is because the industry hasn’t taken those risks and made musical animations a success (yet) for example, and thats why it’s so easy to stick animation into a corner and say its ‘just a genre.’

How many truly adult or other breakaway animated films are there that go mainstream?

As much as we may adore the best of Pixar or the best of Dreamworks, they are not truly adult films, but, and this is a statement of content as opposed to a criticism, kids’ films that happen to contain adult themes under the surface.

I believe this is something that may be true – but doesn’t inherently affect the argument of whether animations a genre just if it is treated as one by the industry.Which isn’t just being pedantic, it’s important to note the distinction imo.

You could say that animation is a genre of art perhaps – with music and literature for example. It’s interesting to note that photography and film-making and animation are all brothers born from the same place in a way. Animation is certainly the eldest if you include zoetropes and flipbooks and then even cave paintings with fire used to create motion with the images on the wall. I think if Animation is being called a genre, then this is the only way that term really fits.

Until animation truly diversifies itself, until films like Watership Down, Cool WorldWaking LifeBeowulf, and arguably Rango become at least a little more commonplace, we must unfortunately discuss the financial aspects, if not artistic aspects as well, of animated films as a genre, rather than merely a medium to tell all different kinds of stories in all different kinds of genres.

It may affect how we discuss animations, sort of, but it doesnt change the fact that animation is not merely a genre – objectively. Just because it is told it is all the time doesnt make it so.

In this video about how everything is a remix the guy talks a little bit about genre movies – and expands on how there are subgenres. Like in Horror films there are sub genres of slasher films, zombie, etc. He’s not really talking about genre much, he’s trying to make a point about how movies seem to copy each other, and definitely borrow scenes that makes taking inspiration a bit far. But it’s interesting to note that there are new genre’s appearing even now – especially subgenres – and i would argue that crossovers are getting more mainstream and popular.

So what i’ve learned is Animation can be a genre, but perhaps it’s worth deciding what classification of genre you are on about. Animation belongs in a genre with literature and music. When it comes to trying to wedge it into the film genres – like westerns and sci-fi’s – its becomes somewhat disingenuous as you wouldnt put live-action films in the same place.

The Argument

This Monty Python clip is a great example of two characters having a very silly argument for the sake of it and at the same time boiling an argument down to simple contradiction – simply countering your opposition. For my script it’s important to make some good points, so only one of my characters could be dumb and/or simply opposing the other in spite – but one must make good points and be informed to get information across. Although a ‘difficult’ character being difficult for the sake of it could be really funny.

An argument is a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition. An argument is an intellectual process.

*There’s a Futurama episode where fry gets injured and has to have his head attached to Amy’s body. I just thought it could be interesting, perhaps the character who’s got two heads only has the other had temporarily while their body is repaired – so it’s an inconvenience already for them both which is why they’re so tetchy and argumentative.

Tzvetan Todorov argued that ‘a new genre is always the transformation of one or several old genres’ (cited in Swales 1990, 36). Each new work within a genre has the potential to influence changes within the genre or perhaps the emergence of new sub-genres (which may later blossom into fully-fledged genres)

Today we have genres mashing together into new forms of genres.

Boris Tomashevsky insists that ‘no firm logical classification of genres is possible. Their demarcation is always historical, that is to say, it is correct only for a specific moment of history’ (cited in Bordwell 1989, 147). Some genres are defined only retrospectively, being unrecognized as such by the original producers and audiences.

So people enjoyed media without the need for specific classification, huh. But seriously genre’s are not easily defined – even when you agree movies can be defined by genres – which ones?

Certainly, genres are far from being ideologically neutral. Sonia Livingstone argues, indeed, that ‘different genres are concerned to establish different world views’

Propaganda!

Tony Thwaites and his colleagues note that in many television crime dramas in the tradition of The Saint, Hart to Hart, and Murder, She Wrote, Genteel or well-to-do private investigators work for the wealthy, solving crimes committed by characters whose social traits and behaviour patterns often type them as members of a ‘criminal class’… The villains receive their just rewards not so much because they break the law, but because they are entirely distinct from the law-abiding bourgeoisie. This TV genre thus reproduces a hegemonic ideology about the individual in a class society

This is great because they break down the private investigators genre – where different villains are defeated. It also states the ideology it promotes!

So basically this is why genres are useful – helping analysts to better understand things and compare them – helping us to do the same so that we might produce better art. Genre analysts give context to genres, they can give a historical perspective.

Breaking down genres a little bit again (from An Introduction to Genre Theory, Thomas and Vivian Sobchack on Genres:

  • Fiction and non-Fiction
  • Melodramas – adventure, survival, war, safari, disaster, western, fantasy, horror, science fiction, crime, gangster, detective/private eye, film noir, caper.
  • Comedy – slapstick, romantic, musical, fairy tale, screwball.

Things that should be taken into consideration when thinking about genre:

  • Narrative (plots, predictable situations, sequences, episodes, conflicts and resolution)
  • Stereotypes (characters, roles, personal qualities, goals, behaviours, motivations.)
  • Themes (social, cultural, psychological, professional, political, sexual, morla)
  • Setting (geographical and historical)
  • Iconography
  • Filming style/technique

Also worth thinking about are mood and tone – which feature heavily in some (film noir) and less in others.

So genre can be a pretty complex system by which we classify and compare movies – and animation is very clearly able to be classified just as well as live-action movies.

A- “Yeah except animations just for little kids!”

B- “Are you serious? I mean a lot of animation is made for kids, but its not exclusive for them, and there’s plenty of adult stuff if you know where to look..”

A- “Oh yeah?!”

B- “Gah! Are you seriously trying to say Family guy or Adult Swim arent aimed primarily at a more mature audience?”

A- “Nah its all just fairy tales and magic isnt it?”

B- “You are so INFURIATING!”

A- “Haha, yeah..”

References:

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Project 1- Monologue VS Internal Monologue

Using both 2D and 3D animation techniques create a conflicted character, where what they say and what they think and feel differs wildly. Using body language and facial expression to communicate one thing whilst language and speech says something else.

So this is going to be a character animation at roughly one minute in length at 24FPS (FPS=frames per second). I am planning on using Maya to model and rig a 3D character and then animate it.

Understanding performance and how characters communicate with the audience is a core animation skill and understanding. This project will encourage you to develop subtlety in the way you present your story ideas.

So this animation is all about the character performance.                                                           The character could be speaking out loud and/or in their head but out loud to the audience and their emotions and actions/gestures are the opposite of what they are saying. They don’t obviously have to be conflicted the whole time!! It is more about the changes of emotion and body language and stuff, and making that performance believable and natural. This is my basic understanding of the monologue vs internal monologue anyway. e.g: the character is afraid but they are putting on a brave face, or the character is unafraid but is acting afraid..

So i have to decide who is the character? What are they conflicted about and how am I going to portray that. So here’s some initial thoughts:

Who is the character: The character can be a human, or an animal or anything really. The story may inform the character in some ways, so i’m going to come back to this.

What are they conflicted about: 

Sad but they appear happy – so the character is trying to convince someone (maybe themselves) that things (what things?) are not so bad. This one is sad, obviously, which is not the best really.. on the flip-side a character could be happy their mother in law (or something) is forced to leave early but has to pretend they are really not happy about it while basically jumping for joy! Could be fun..

Confident but they have no idea what they are doing. So convincing someone they can do the thing, but they can’t do the thing, maybe they don’t even want to – that would have to be set up somehow, but they have to act like they aren’t worried about what will happen if they cant get out of doing the thing – could be trying to talk their way out of it somehow. I’m not sure about this one right now..

A character (a dog) being told off for something – maybe eating food they weren’t supposed to. They are happy about what they did but must act like they are sorry and did something wrong (conflicted feelings) when really they are happy. The owner (a voice off screen) notices and berates the dog who actually ends up being upset – but then the owner breaks and ends up offering to give the dog a big dinner after they go for a WALK!!! to which the dog is overjoyed literally jumping up and down.

Some lonely person, who pretends to be happy and whatever to people that he comes across but finds that difficult. This ones a bit depressing even with a happy ending so probably not going to really explore this as a stand alone idea..

Friendly but really menacing – so i’m actually thinking about a spider for this one. A spider who catches a fly in its web and then proceeds to be friendly to the fly as it captures and wraps and then sucks the blood of the fly. Saying things like “oh look a friend for me! we’re going to be such. good. friendsss” so there would be a menacing tone on the last three words and a pause between them. I imagine the spider giving away its true feelings towards the ends of its sentences, which would give the audience a clue that the spider is not a good guy – remember to be subtle as well, not just blatant though. The fly could believe the spider at first, or want to, but realises it is not getting away and tries to make a break for it at the end when its too late. This is two characters though rather than one, which the brief asks for.. But i like the idea and i can imagine the cobweb set being really fun to model in 3D..

Scared but they appear fearless – with this they would be giving away their fear a lot and having to make themselves not scared. I’m thinking of a character lost in the woods trying not to break down ‘Blair Witch style’ but jumping and shrieking at various woodland nighttime noises (an owls hoot,a  twig snapping, etc..) Lots of atmosphere and potentially a really cool set – imagine it set in the limbo forest or something like that..

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*Note the fading layers of trees and background in Limbo. (It’s kinda like shadow puppet art..) I like the mood in this game, which or course is aided by the music and atmospheric sounds, but also the design of the characters and locations.

limbo-apk-2

I could make my animation in this sort of style in Maya in 3D and make it appear to be 2D – but be able to make interesting camera movements and set-ups easily. Would have to think about how many details the character would have; in Limbo the character only has their eyes picked out, but it think at least a mouth as well for mine so that i can convey more feelings using more than just body language or whatever. The characters eyes can become larger when afraid as well for example. Anyway..

With a lost in the woods character, they could have gone into the woods as an adventure of their own volition. So at the beginning they are happy and sure of themselves, but quickly and steadily they are more and more afraid and unhappy about the situation. So its not just one or two conflicting emotions or feelings, its really many. Maybe the character is introduced and its light and happy, then a quick cut to night and its darker, and the character reacts and realises abruptly and ‘jumps’ after – shows shock. Then they would be slower and more careful – opposed to their original confident walk. They could be afraid of noises and shadows, maybe a scary figure which turns out to be nothing, making the character relax – and then a final jump scare? Maybe the character could be left at the end with eyes moving in around them and the shadows closing and they pull themselves together one last time then right just turn and run screaming from camera? I’m going to have to give this idea more thought to flesh out the idea fully.

Anyway here’s some videos of characters and stuff:

The first character seems conflicted, shes happy for the guy behind the camera but seems to be hiding her true feelings..

There’s a couple of fantastic moments in this clip from the feature film Rango starring Johnny Depp, where his chameleon character pretends to be tough when met with a scary big badguy! The subtle facial expressions are fantastic, especially when he is shocked at his own brave-but-stupid actions.

In this clip from the animated feature Tangled, Flynn manipulates Rapunzel and pretends to be doing her a favour when really he’s just trying to get his satchel back. He’s a bit smug, and very sure of himself, so he’s not trying very hard but he’s acting one way and thinking another. When he says “Oh bother…” he acts like he is upset and disappointed, but he is really – very obviously – not actually upset. A lot of this is really conveyed through the tone in his voice though – and the audience already knowing what he’s up to.. but its a good study for characters displaying emotions, especially Rapunzel going through a roller coaster of emotions in this clip! 😛

The above video breaks down the process that someone went through when they were creating an animation for the 11 second club (i think the sound is out of sync but still interesting going from a very simple sketched storyboard to key frames to a more finished animation – although i don’t like the style that the final 3D animation has..)

Another 11 second club progression animation, but the sound is in sync this time! 😛 The character is making some food, stirring the pot, seasoning it and then tasting it – he’s involved in a  task and hes also talking to an unseen audience. The finished animation looks really pretty good as well, compared to the last one anyway.

This is a video from youtuber ‘Every frame a Painting’ about the lateral tracking shot (like a 2d video game) and he talks about its use in movies. I’m just putting this in here because i really like these videos and a reminder that with my animation i could use the lateral tracking shot but would want to use lots of other shots as well. He says that its not easy to make this shot intimate, so its good for starting a scene or tracking a character moving or running along.

In this video youtuber ‘Channel Criswell’ studies and talks about the Movie ‘Her’ starring Joaquin Phoenix. He says the out of depth/focused background creates a disconnect between the character and its environment, although this is somewhat of a theme in the movie. I could still use this idea to help isolate the character in moments of fear/sadness and bring the background more into focus when they feel safer or happier. Its an idea anyway. It can be a minor tonal shift, something subtle that the audience doesn’t even notice.

I really like the style used in this 2005 Australian animation. The photo-realistic backgrounds and the shadow characters are really interesting, although its not a consistent style and sometimes i don’t think it works that effectively there are some really great designs and shots in this little film. Sometimes it just looks so simple and you don’t get too intimate with the characters – they never gain more detail or convey much emotion on their blank faces – not good for character animation really! The effective shots are when they are pulled out in a long-shot when they are travelling for example.

The animation production style was essentially ‘anymation’, using anything that served the purpose. Scenes featuring characters were composed out of a variety of materials, including card cut-outs which were then scanned and manipulated in Adobe Photoshop, and also various found objects. The backgrounds are actually 2D, consisting of many layers to simulate 3D. These background layers were later selectively blurred in the compositing application, to simulate distant views. Certain sequences (notably those featuring airships) are entirely computer-rendered 3D scenes using an assemblage of parts from a variety of commercial 3D models of vehicles and ships in the Despona 3DS Max series, textured and animated using 3DS Max. The final product consists of all of these elements brought together using the compositing program Combustion (software). Combustion added the particle effects for smoke and similar, while cloud layers in certain scenes were rendered using Maya.

 

This short animation has some great 2D falling leaves, thought id stick it in here, in my animation i might do some 2D stuff over the top of the 3D as in the brief it does say to use 2D AND 3D in your animation. Its something to think about anyway..

‘Coda’ by youtuber ‘and maps and plans’ is a 2D animation about a man who dies. I really like the style, the leaves and bushes in the park. Also when the body id surrounded at the beginning i was thinking about my character lost in the woods – a shot from above them with shadows around them, reflecting how they feel – small and enclosed by outside forces/scary things!

The tale of three Brothers, a 3D animation that looks inspired by shadow puppets – similar to what i was imagining for my animation.

I like the extreme window we get at the beginning of this video with the title. That is all.

A video about the Oscar winning short ‘Paperman’ and how it used 2D and 3D animation techniques:

This behind-the-scenes featurette demonstrates some of the techniques used to combine 2D animation and 3D animation. The technique uses traditional hand drawn 2D animation by carrying the information with the 3D CG using a program dubbed “Meander” created by Eric Daniels.

Note from 2012:

2D animation has, for some time now, taken a backseat to 3D computer graphics but John Kahrs has stated that although he does not believe they are ready to do a feature length film using the technique that it is a direction that they are eventually going to move toward and that Disney believes there is a strong future ahead for this

Ratatouille Progression reel. This is just interesting and Ratatouille is the best! 😀

I wanted to post this video by Ross Plaskow because i could potentially model something in 3D and then add the 2D face over the top- utilising both animation techniques. I’m not sure of the technique but i really like the look of using recorded footage and then animating onto it – maybe this is not the project for it but its worth a look. I just find this guys stuff so funny..

Anyway I’ve got nine weeks to complete this animation in, so i’m going to rough out a plan of what i’m going to do each week.

week1

Research!! Styles and ideas.                                                                                                                       Come up with ideas and a story!                                                                                                                   Finalise ideas for Monday – create pitch.

week2

Present Pitch Monday!                                                                                                                       Finalise story -create storyboard – finalise scenes and timing and everything.                         Character design – finish!!

week3

Record dialogue and sounds.                                                                                                                         Model character and set.                                                                                                                                 Begin animating scenes.

week4

animating..

week5

animating..

week6

animating..

week7

animating..

week8

Finish animating..                                                                                                                                             Begin Editing..

week9

Finishing up stuff and making everything perfect.                                                                                Start the next project…

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So anyway that’s a loose plan right now – its obviously not exactly fleshed out – as i decide how many scenes there are and how they are broken up i can fill it in with more detail. But i want to be animating asap. There’s potentially 6 weeks of animating here, so that’s 10 seconds a week which is 240 frames per second. But modelling and rigging a character (and the set) in Maya could take me longer than i have put in my plan – which would push everything back. Its something to aim for anyway..