21 September 2016
This blogpost is part of my Theory class where we have to write about contemporary topics we’re discussing during classes.

Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I usually say I’m an animator. My business card and website will tell you the same. This is rather a broad statement, but one that most people will understand or are familiar with.
However I find that there are many distinctions to be made when it comes to animation.

I consider craftsmanship and the knowledge that it brings as the building blocks of any field of work. For animation I think it all starts with the understanding of movement and using this to create something new. As Richard Williams said: “…, if we know and understand all the basics – then we’ve got the tools to create.” [i]

Therefore I’d say animators are true craftsmen. Recreating natural movements is hard enough as it is, but to add convincing movements to a non-existing character is a true skill. Especially when you create a completely new and believable world, like Hayao Miyazaki with Spirited Away. Miyazaki uses and bends these rules to create his own vision, as can be seen in the interesting documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014). This takes almost a kind of religious dedication and many of hours to achieve.

Of course the understanding of movement can be achieved through many different (animation) techniques. Therefore the way you visually tell your story is even more important. What exactly do you need to tell your story or get your message across? Personally I enjoy watching animations (and films) that are visually thought out to the point where every still frame looks as beautiful as the next.

In film the visual aspect is thought out in detail as well, but certain elements are present in a film because they physically exist in a certain way: Whereas animators have more freedom to create every little curve, texture or hair from scratch.

In a reaction on André Bazin, who stresses the ‘onthological truth’ of the photographic image, Edwin Carels said: “In animation, the status of the image is of course entirely different, particularly with cartoons, where every aspect of the image is constructed with no direct indexical relationship to the reality of the outside world.” [ii]

I disagree with this statement, since I believe every image we create is in some way constructed in relationship to the outside world. Be it a film or an animation, it can only be made within a certain context.

If I try to compare animation with film I find it hard to really draw a line between the two media. I am convinced that they are two different disciplines, although I feel there are many similarities. I would say animation is a more constructed vision than film, although both react to our outside world in a unique way. That’s what makes it so exiting to watch and be a part of creating these views on reality.

[i] Williams, R. (2009), The animator’s survival kit, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York

[ii] Carels, E. (2006), The animate! Book: rethinking animation, Fishers: LUX Publications & Arts Council, England