Archive for the ‘membership’ Category

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Curation and Creativity: Work In Progress

I’m going to chat for a minute about some of our work in progress at Animation Resources…

Curation

The other day, I was talking with a friend about what was important about what we do at the Animation Archive, and he said that the collection was the most important thing. We’ve amassed a huge archive of digitized films and scanned artwork. But I disagreed. Google search has a massive collection too, as does archive.org. The thing that sets us apart is CURATION.

You can have all the treasures in the world, but if you aren’t putting them into context, they’re just specimens in jars of formaldehyde sitting on a dusty shelf. Great objects exist all over. Museums and warehouses are full of them. The trick is to put them to use for a purpose. That takes a deeper understanding. With every Reference Pack and article we share with our followers, Animation Resources is encouraging and supporting our members to engage in that sort of self study and application of principles.

Creative Process

The job of Animation Resources is to bring “the good stuff” to working artists, so they can analyze it, process it, and apply the fundamentals they uncover to their own work. Learning to be creative is a process like any other constructive process, but a lot of artists have never stopped to think of how they go about it. I was chatting with a great artist about this once, and he swore up and down that creativity couldn’t be learned, either you have it or you don’t. I started listing off the ways that you foster and develop creativity. As I listed them, he replied, “I do that.” “I do that.” “I do that.” He thought he had been born creative, but he was actually born doing the things that make a person creative. He was working to become more creative without even knowing it.

Curation is a similar process. Part of it is straightforward research. That’s the easy part. There are lots of librarians and historians who can catalog and document. It’s easy to look at the surface and say, “Disney made ‘Brave Little Tailor’ in 1938.” but that is just a statement of fact, not real understanding. The more difficult and intuitive part of research is discerning the connections between things that reveal the universal truth beneath. Yeah, I know… that sounds “hippy-dippy” and I apologize for that. But it’s the easiest way to describe it. The products of human creativity have cultural differences, and technique is dependent on technology. This makes them all look different. However once you dig beneath the surface, you start to see the invisible connections that make up the way humanity thinks, feels and creates. There are patterns that we all follow. If you want to be an artist, you may express those patterns and choices without even knowing it.

Tenggren and Dulac
Tenggren and Dulac
Connections: Tenggren, Dulac and Japanese Woodcut

Lately, with COVID rapidly shrinking in the distance behind us, I’ve dived into several projects that are all linked, but the connections weren’t initially obvious. I’ve got a long list of projects on my “to-do list” that I haven’t gotten around to developing yet. One of those was investigating international animation. I read the Bendazzi book from cover to cover and it excited me about these films, but I had no way of accessing them. When a batch of Russian DVDs turned up on the greatest archive known to man— eBay— I jumped on it. It was a collection of over 75 DVDs of rare Russian animation. I started digitizing them and I was blown away at the diversity and quality of the work. Their approach to the art form is unique and pure. There’s so much to learn from these films! I’ve begun sharing the riches of the Eastern block in the Reference Packs.

Russian Animation

Russian animation led me to thinking about the other great culture for animation— anime. I’m familiar with the usual suspects… “Akira”, “Kimba the White Lion”, the feature films by Miyazaki and others. But I never felt that Animation Resources needed to focus on that. It’s all readily available, and most animation students today know all about those films. But Animation Resources’ treasurer, JoJo Baptista showed me that there’s a lot more to Japanese animation than just the films we all know. Together, we started researching early Japanese animation. I discovered that before animation became standardized and institutionalized in Japan, there was a wide range of styles and ideas. I traced the history of animated features in Japan from the WWII propaganda film, “Momotaro’s Sea Eagles” through the 1960s, while JoJo focused on early television animation. He discovered some rarely seen series that are models of expressive economy. These TV programs addressed and solved the problem of how to keep limited animation lively- the same problem that independent internet animators face. We’ll be sharing that in upcoming Reference Packs as well.

Early Anime

My research into the early history of Japanese animation led me down a rabbit hole similar to one I explored early on in the Animation Archive Project. Back in the mid 2000s I started tracing the lineage of Western cartooning backwards step by step, from the golden age cartoon films to newspaper comics to the earliest sequential cartoons to caricature magazines to British printmakers to woodblock carvers and ultimately all the way back to Leonardo daVinci’s grotesque caricatures. I learned that animation was just a part of the story. The history of Western cartooning is a continuum that extends back far beyond Winsor McCay. I discovered that on the other side of the globe, in near complete isolation, the same thing was happening in Japan. I’m now in the process of tracing anime back to manga to ukiyo-e and perhaps its earliest origins in Chinese painting. That research is just getting started.

Hans Holbein Dance of Death

Those who have read my article on “Dances of Death” (included in the ebooks in our sample reference pack: https://animationresources.org/join-us-sample-reference-pack/) know the similarities I’ve found between late 15th century woodblock artists like Holbein and Durer and modern commercial cartooning. The EXACT same aspects are shared by Japanese woodcuts known as ukiyo-e or “The Floating World”. And the Japanese woodcuts led to manga, just as woodcuts led to comics. And you already know where comics and manga led!

This has been a very long post, and perhaps only a few have read this far. But Animation Resources has never been aimed at the typical followers of social media. 99% of the people who see and share our posts are just reacting to a pretty picture. That’s fine, but that isn’t why Animation Resources exists. Our real target audience is the small specialized number of creative artists who are actively analyzing and making the connections in their head to develop and hone their own creativity. If that describes you, I want to let you know that I’ll be sharing more about these projects in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open. Come along on the journey with us.

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

Now Is The Time!

Membership Dues

Animation Resources is growing. As we grow, we provide more and more valuable self-study material to our members, and our Membership Dues need grow to support the bandwidth and expenses required to provide those resources. We plan to raise the dues across the board in a little over a month. If you are currently a member, this doesn’t affect you. Your dues will always remain the same as long as you maintain your membership. That is our way of thanking the people who helped us grow. But if you aren’t a member yet and you’ve been considering joining, NOW IS THE TIME.

When you think about it, our membership dues are one of the biggest bargains in animation. Breaking down our annual General Membership rate of $85 into months, that is only about $7 a month… You probably spend more than that for lunch! But Animation Resources’ Reference Packs stay with you much longer that a burger and fries. We’re working to help you grow as an artist by sharing education and inspiration curated by professional animators. Isn’t your creativity worth nourishing too?

If you join today, your dues rate will remain the same for as long as you’re a member. If you wait until after our dues go up, you will pay more, not just this year, but every year from now on. It just doesn’t make sense to wait. General Membership is just $85 a year, and it’s $60 a year if you are a full time student or educator. If you would rather pay quarterly, the rate is currently $25 for three months. All of these will be increasing in a month or so, so don’t delay. Once you join, your dues will never increase. That is our promise to you for your continued support.

Every year people spend tens of thousands of dollars on a college education. Animation Resources helps you expand and continue that education for only $85 a year. Don’t you owe it to yourself to invest in yourself? Join today…

CLICK to Join Animation Resources Today

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Friday, April 30th, 2021

NEW REFPACK FEATURE: Slapstick Analysis


REFPACK 039
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April-May 2021

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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.

Slapstick Analysis

Chuck Jones cited Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd as the film makers he most admired. At the Disney Studios, animators were trained in action analysis classes, studying slapstick comedies frame by frame. These films are like textbooks for animators, packed with techniques for staging, timing and gag construction. Since many of these films are difficult to find today in formats that allow easy still frame study, in the coming year we will share a slapstick film in every RefPack, so you can build a library of these important films to study.

DVD QUALITY VIDEO:
Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton: A Hard Act To Follow ep01
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Kevin Brownlow & David Gill / 1987

As we have mentioned before, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, many great documentaries on film history were produced in Great Britain. One of the best of these was a three part series titled, "Buster Keaton- A Hard Act To Follow". Over the next few Reference Packs, we will presenting this whole series, starting this time with episode one.

Buster Keaton

Normally in these introductions, I provide a brief history of the featured artists and attempt to explain their place in history. Since this series is a biography of Keaton, I’m freed from that duty and I can go straight to explaining how this particular film maker is important for animators to study.

I will say this about Keaton’s historical context… Many young artists look upon films made before Star Wars as "old fashioned", and that isn’t entirely unjustified. A lot of elements in older films do feel irrelevant to our modern lifestyle. Rotary telephones, suits and fedoras, daily newspapers and milk bottles on the porch every morning… all these things have become dusty memories from the past. Black & white movies seem even further in the past, to the point where we think of entire periods of American history as being in black & white. Silent films seem even further removed from modern reality… Keystone Cops, Model Ts with a crank in front, trolley cars and general stores filled with wooden barrels of basic supplies. Even though these were common sights at the time these films were being made, they can feel like a whole different world to modern viewers. Not so with Keaton.


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Buster Keaton

Keaton’s universe is timeless. Many of his films were period pieces and were removed in time from the audiences who saw them on first release. Several of his best films were set in the era of the Civil War, with incredible attention to detail when it came to the historical accuracy of sets, props and costumes. Yet even though the films accurately depict life 150 years ago, it is still easy for a 21st century viewer to become totally immersed in the story and characters… more so than other comedians like the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin or Laurel & Hardy. Why is this? The reason is Keaton himself. His character is an understated personality, but it is the kind of character that all kinds of audiences immediately feel empathy with. While Harold Lloyd played the quintessential "everyman" representing the 1920s, Keaton was a timeless "everyman".

Buster Keaton

Keaton’s feature films are essential viewing. The General, Sherlock Jr, Steamboat Bill Jr, Our Hospitality, The Navigator— every one is a masterpiece. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Keaton’s early comedy shorts with Fatty Arbuckle can be harder to find to view, but they represent a model for perfect comedy teamwork, with two geniuses working at the peak of their creativity in tandem. And the early solo Buster Keaton shorts are fascinating early glimpses of the heights Keaton would scale in just a few short years. As an animator, you owe it to yourself to search out these films and study them. There’s a wealth of information in them to inspire and inform film makers of all types.

Buster Keaton

First of all, Keaton was a master of comedy. His youth in Vaudeville trained him how to walk funny, how to fall funny, how to elicit laughs, milk them, and build to a topper gag that leaves the audience satisfied. His films are genuinely funny.

His sense of timing was flawless. When he made his films, the cameraman was instructed to crank the camera at various speeds, depending on the type of scene he was photographing. A romantic scene would be over cranked a bit, to make the action a little slower and more dreamy. An action scene would be under cranked so it would play a little faster on the screen. When the film was edited and ready to release, Keaton would determine the perfect frame rate and paste notes on the film cans for the projectionist instructing them about the proper speed to run it through the projector. The General, Keaton’s epic film about the Civil War, carried a note to project it at 26 frames per second, which was faster than the standard film speed of 24 fps. It isn’t always presented this way, but when it is, the film achieves a heightened reality, leaning towards the look of video. When the faster frame rate is combined with the meticulously researched set and costume design, and the massive power of the authentic locomotive used in the film, it really gives you a sense that you are transported back into the 1860s.


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Buster Keaton

Even though Keaton’s films are structurally as tight as a drum, he didn’t shoot using scripts, only a brief outline of the intended action and overall narrative. When he constructed sets and brought his crew together, they improvised on the spot, taking detailed notes on continuity so they could tie it all together at the end, even if they didn’t know the details of what the ending would be yet.

The staging in his films are worthy of study as well. Shots are always perfectly composed in a way that clearly contains the action, without needing improvised camera movements to keep it in frame. It’s a model of straightforward simplicity, which is imperative for comedy, because If it looks complicated, it probably won’t be funny. Keaton succeeds in making the most complex shots feel simple. It’s difficult to conceive of how some of the chase scenes were constructed. They fit together so perfectly! It must have been a challenge for Keaton to break the sequences down into individual scenes shot on different days… and then cut them into continuity and have them fit together so perfectly. There are sequences in Sherlock Jr. that I’ve studied many times and still have no idea of how they were planned out and executed.

Buster Keaton

If you have never seen a Buster Keaton film before, this documentary will give you a taste of what you’ve been missing. If like me, you have studied all of his films over and over many times, you will learn new things about Keaton and his creative process that you didn’t know before. Please take the time to sit down and carefully watch this program, and I hope will make the effort to seek out Keaton films to study. It’s a rare opportunity to sit at the feet of a master, and even though these films were made a century ago, "A Hard Act To Follow" allows you to do just that.

REFPACK039: A Hard Act To Follow ep01
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MP4 Video File / SD / 53:10 / 1.74 GB Download


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Not A Member Yet? Want A Free Sample?

Check out this SAMPLE REFERENCE PACK! It will give you a taste of what Animation Resources members get to download every other month!

Sample RefPack

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