August 16th, 2019

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RefPack029: How Does Experimental Animation Apply To Character Animation?

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REFPACK 029
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Every other month, members of Animation Resources are given access to an exclusive Members Only Reference Pack. These downloadable files are high resolution e-books on a variety of educational subjects and rare cartoons from the collection of Animation Resources in DVD quality. Our current Reference Pack has just been released. If you are a member, click through the link to access the MEMBERS ONLY DOWNLOAD PAGE. If you aren’t a member yet, please JOIN ANIMATION RESOURCES. It’s well worth it.


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Len Lye

Five Films By Len Lye
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Tusalava (1929) / Kaleidoscoper (1935) / Rainbow Dance (1936) / Doing The Lambeth Walk (1939) / Musical Poster No. 1 (1940)

Len Lye was a revolutionary figure, not only in the history of animation, but of fine art as well. His work explored motion through experimental film and kinetic sculpture. It is well worth taking a few moments to read the Len Lye Wikipedia Page if you aren’t familiar with him. But there are some personal points I need to make about these films to get across their context to you.

Len Lye

Whenever we post experimental films on Animation Resources, inevitably I am asked how any of this relates to what character animators do. Artists will say that abstract animation is interesting, but they don’t see how it applies to their own work. Nothing can be further from the truth. Animation is more than just creating characters and telling stories. Comics and illustration have characters and stories, but the thing that makes animation unique is the element of time. Len Lye strips away all of the narrative and figurative elements and focuses entirely on rhythm and the visual representation of music. Few other animated films are as concentrated when it comes to this kind of unity of sound and image. Lye was essentially distilling animation down to the one thing that makes the medium totally unique.

The technique is drop dead simple and direct… Lye painted directly on blank rolls of film with colored dyes and created layers of movement in an optical printer. But that is just the surface. It goes much deeper than that. The planning required to achieve this complete synthesis of sound and motion required incredible concentration. Think about it a moment… Lye was breaking down the soundtrack into its individual voices and rhythms and representing all that on exposure sheets frame by frame. How did he do that? What did Lye’s notes and plans look like before he began work? I really don’t know, but the level of detail and the abstract thinking involved is staggering.

Len Lye

Too often, animators slug their exposure sheets according to the length of the dialogue and how long it takes to perform an action, with no thought given to pacing or rhythm. Len Lye is operating on a much more sophisticated level. He represents complex syncopated Latin and jazz rhythms visually with abstract shapes that move. The technique of painting little doodles of shapes on film gives it a deceptively simple appearance, but the planning going on under the hood must have required fourth dimensional thinking. Imagine if instead of the action in an animated film happening at a normal pace dictated by the speed the voice actor performs the dialogue, the animator creates a rhythmic pattern for the action that merges the character’s performance with the beats and accents in the music… Are you beginning to understand the importance of these films now?

Len Lye

In the past, animation was planned out to a musical beat. The music established the pace of the footsteps and the rhythm of the action. The way this was achieved was by analyzing the voices in the music and breaking down the rhythms frame by frame. When Len Lye’s and Norman McLaren’s films first were shown, traditional animators sat up and took notice. They were greatly impressed by how these seemingly simple little films effortlessly accomplished amazingly complex things that the Hollywood animators struggled to do in their character animation. When I was first becoming interested in animation in the early 1980s, there was a Len Lye retrospective where many of his films were screened for the first time. I attended the screening and was amazed to look around the audience… it was a virtual who’s who of animators from Disney, Warner Bros, MGM and every other major animation studio. These great animators thought there was something to learn from these films. You should too.

REFPACK029: 5 Films By Len Lye
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Len LyeLen LyeLen Lye


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Posted by Stephen Worth @ 12:00 pm

August 15th, 2019

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Illustration: Artzybasheff’s Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie
Plowman, plowman, what of thy hands?

Recently, Danish political cartoons have created a firestorm of controversy all over the world. It shouldn’t be surprising that cartoons can evoke this sort of uproar; after all, back in the late 1800s Thomas Nast’s caricatures brought down Boss Tweed, and in the 1970s, Herb Block was a major thorn in Nixon’s side.

World War II was a prime era for political cartoonists. Passions ran high, and the whole world was at stake. Artists like Arthur Szyk and Boris Artzybasheff crystalized the passions and horrors of war in a way that speaks to us across the decades. Here is a selection of illustrations on the theme of war from Boris Artzybasheff’s book As I See.

In his introduction to the chapter entitled "Diablerie", Artzybasheff writes:

"Let’s sing hosannas to men this day, for theirs is the triumph of wit! In their long search for better tools and weapons, men at last have found the way of locking a pinch of cosmic force in a sheath of silver-white metal… as well as the means for making it go boom. Any time they wish, or think they must, men can touch off an orgasmic flash, making the oceans boil and seethe with fire, making the soil rise up in crimson dust… Perhaps after the cloud drifts thrice around it, the earth will emerge once more free of living things… In the hush of night this comely planet will go on waltzing in its ordained orbit until God awakens from His sleep and resolves it back to the primordial elements.

I try to shake this thought off; it may be that a healthy planet should have no more life upon it than a well-kept dog has fleas; but what posesses the flea to concoct its own flea powder?"

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie
The Headless Horseman

Artzybasheff Diablerie
In Pursuit of Zeros

Artzybasheff Diablerie
Jet Propulsion: V-One

Artzybasheff Diablerie
Radio Propaganda

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie
The Pied Piper of Berchtesgaden

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Artzybasheff Diablerie
The Balance of Power

Artzybasheff Diablerie
The Triumph of Wit

Artzybasheff Diablerie
The Witches’ Sabbath

Many people who read this blog aren’t aware that Animation Resources isn’t just a website… it is much more than that. We are archiving these images at high resolution for the use of students, artists and researchers. As an example, here is an image of Hitler’s eye from the image above at the full resolution of our archival scan…

Artzybasheff Diablerie

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

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Posted by admin @ 10:19 am

August 14th, 2019

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Illustration: Mary Blair’s Baby’s House

Mary Blair Baby's House

Earlier, we featured Mary Blair’s Golden Book "Little Verses". Today, we feature her long out-of-print book, "Baby’s House".

Many thanks to my friend Mike Fontanelli for sharing this with us.

Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House
Mary Blair Baby's House

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

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Posted by admin @ 12:33 pm