Practitioners Report – Unit 12 1.1, 1.2

Introduction

In order to expand my knowledge on my specialist area I will be conducting research into animators. I will look at one early practitioner and one contemporary practitioner of animation. By doing this I hope to advance my knowledge of animation techniques and processes, as well as how they were applied to develop popular work. This knowledge will aid me in the future as I work on my Final Major Project, which will likely incorporate some form of animation.

Early Practitioner of animation: Walt Disney

The early practitioner of animation I will be researching is Walt Disney, this man had an incomparable impact on the animation industry as a whole, and has made a lasting impact on cartoons and films made to this date. Walt Disney took his first step into the animation industry by getting a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio. Later, during an animation job at an advertising company he began experimenting with animation techniques. He experimented with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation and decided to open his own animation business (Walt Disney Biography, 2015). The video below displays this technique, as well as other processes necessary to the development of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Cel Animation can be seen in the video, it is the process of drawing on a transparent sheet which is placed atop the last frame of animation, this allows the artist to move the character an appropriate amount from their previous position. This allows for natural, flowing motions of characters which can be seen in all of Walt Disney’s cartoons.

After the rough drawings of each frame of motion the scenes are checked over to see if they are smoothly animated without any issues. If they are then they move onto the next step and redraw the frames in ink using tracing, and then fill them in with colour. The scenes which the characters are portrayed in are painted in watercolour, folowing this step the coloured ink cels of the characters are overlayed on the watercolour background and photographed individually until the final scenes are completed. That is a basic overview of how the characters go from simple sketches to fully coloured animations in beautiful scenes.

Following his advertising job, Walt made a deal with a local Kansas City theater to screen his early cartoons. Following huge success Walt was able to acquire his own studio, called Laugh-O-Grams, the same name he used for his early cartoons. A few years later after having begun the Disney Brother’s Studio in Hollywood, Walt made the iconic cartoon Steamboat Willie, which was notable for being one of the first cartoons to ever incorporate audio and was the first to introduce the iconic character’s Mickey Mouse and Minnie. This was an important step forward for cartoons as a whole due to it’s incredible popularity which lead to the future cartoons from Disney such as Silly Symphonies in 1929, which featured the characters; Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto (Walt Disney Biography, 2015).

The character design of Mickey Mouse is relatively straightforward, as seen in the drawing above the design starts with a circle for the head with a line to establish perspective and a pear shape for the body. Perspective is also added by the difference in the sizes of the eyes, which are either side of the centre line. The overall design of Mickey Mouse is very rounded, which makes an easy-to-animate and child-friendly character. The colours were initially a simple black and white due to the technological limitations of the time, however even with these limitations the character design is still impactful due to the shading techniques and use of white-space. Advancing on from here we can see a newer iteration of Mickey which incorporates colour, the only colours added are a pale peach tone, yellow and red. The bright tones of red and yellow are contrasting and draw attention to the character, they are also bright colours which will appeal to the young demographic which Mickey is marketed to nowadays.

Contemporary Practitioner of animation: Mariel Cartwright

The contemporary practitioner of animation I will be researching is Mariel Cartwright, she is a 2D animator who has worked on a wide variety of popular game titles. These titles include Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: The Game, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and perhaps most notably Skullgirls where she worked as the lead animator. She is currently working as lead animator, art director and head of story on the title Indivisible, which was a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Mariel’s journey into the animation industry began when she went to CalArts for character animation, she had initially tried to switch over to 3D toward the end as she thought it would help her get more jobs, however she was fortunate enough to work as a 2D animator over many projects. One such project was Skullgirls, which was an indie project lead by Alex Ahad and Mike Zaimont. As the lead animator Mariel worked with Jonathan Kim, splitting the animation work between them. The two of them made the rough animations of the characters’ movesets and then assigned these roughs to the animation team to have them finished and cleaned up. In the video below Mariel discusses many processes of animation used when developing Skullgirls.

The first point mentioned is how the silhouette of a character is important for how easily a viewer can understand what the character is doing, this is especially fundamental in a fighting game as both players have to be actively, quickly analysing what each character is doing. Having a strong silhouette to differentiate between character motions makes these quick observations far easier and results in a more appealing product. The next point refers to anticipation, the technique of giving a character a moment of windup as they begin their move, this helps make a move appear much more powerful. Richmond (2010) mentions how anticipation helps to “prepare the audience for the coming action” and that it “gives the sense that the character is thinking about what they’re doing”.  Another point discussed it the followthrough of motion, this is essentially any motion which is caused by the main action of the character, Richmond (2010) uses the animation depicted below as a good example of followthrough as the cape trails behind the movement of the character’s arm.

The next animation technique Mariel mentions is the creation of smears, these are the frames which appear on their own as blurred motion, but serve to add to the appearence of quick motion. This ties closely the technique of “breaking the body” which she mentions later, both of these processes can be used to make the overall animation appear smoother and more refined. In the video Animation Bootcamp: Overwatch: How A Hero Is Mei’d (2016) many examples of animation techniques are shown which Mariel also uses when animating, the interesting part about these techniques is that they aren’t applied to 3D animations as often as they are seen in a 2D format. This is because 3D models are typically fixed proportions, so breaking the rig of a model temporarily to add to the impact of a movement would be unconventional.

Another technique mentioned both by this video and Mariel’s presentation is overshoot, this is the technique of adding one or two frames of animation where the character is positioned slightly past where they are about to end up. This adds an impact to a motion as they don’t just abruptly stop, which makes them appear to move more realistically. Mariel applies this technique in Skullgirls, the technique is especially effective here as it is a fighting game, which means many of the motions have enough speed that slightly overshooting will help add a lot of impact.

When developing characters Mariel states that she uses Photoshop, both to draw the designs and to animate, though she also says “it’s really not made for animating”.  An example of a character from Skullgirls would be Ms. Fortune (pictured above), even at a glance the pose of the character causes it to have a very striking silhouette. The low, forward-leaning stance suggests an aggressive character, with the sharp ears, tail and claws helping to further suggest that the character is threatening. Overall the design is quite dark, continuing the idea that they are a threat. This is contrasted by the lighter tones in their design, such as the white hair, the blue of the eyes and top as well as the yellow bell. These bright aspects of the design contrast the more threatening aspects of the design, this juxtaposition suggests that they are a capable fighter, but may not have a dark or serious personality.

Here is an infographic which compares the processes, techniques and materials used by Walt Disney and Mariel Cartwright:Infographic.png

 

Evaluation and Reflection

Overall I found this task to be a valuable way of practicing research techniques, it also helped me expand my knowledge regarding animation techniques and processes. In particular I found out information about the techniques used by Walt Disney and his co-workers to develop the earliest cartoons. I also researched animation techniques used by Mariel Cartwright, whilst looking into this I also researched their application in other modern games, such as Overwatch. Whilst looking at these animation techniques I also considered the visual design of a character that each had developed, looking in particular at how colour and shape convey meaning. The skills I have been researching will be very relevant to my Final Major Project, will most likely involve some form of animation.

 

References:

Biography.com Editors. (2015) Walt Disney Biography. Available at: http://www.biography.com/people/walt-disney-9275533#video-gallery (Accessed: 20/02/2017).

puntadeleste (2006) How Walt Disney Cartoons are made. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhfp6Z8z1cI (Accessed: 20/02/2017).

Lisa O’Connor (2016) Steamboat Willie http://www.eyesonthescreen.co.uk/comedy/steamboat-willie-1928/ (Accessed: 22/02/2017)

Latest Models Of Mickey. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/cnavarrogomes/comics-characters-design-etc/ (Accessed: 20/02/2017).

Mickey Mouse. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Mouse (Accessed: 20/02/2017).

Ubisoft. (2010) Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: The Game [Video game].

Wayforward Technologies (2016) Shantae: Half-Genie Hero [Video game].

Reverge Labs. (2012) Skullgirls [Video game]. Marvelous.

Lab Zero Games. (2018) Indivisible [Video game]. 505 Games.

Blizzard Entertainment. (2016) Overwatch [Video game]. Blizzard Entertainment.

Cartwright, M. (2017) Mariel Kinuko Cartwright. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marielcartwright (Accessed: 21/02/2017).

Miller, P. (2017) Interview With Mariel Cartwright, Skullgirls Lead Animator. Available at: https://shoryuken.com/2013/10/09/interview-with-mariel-cartwright-skullgirls-lead-animator/ (Accessed: 21/02/2017).

Richmond. (2010) Darkstalkers and the Twelve Principles of Animation. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20161013140311/http:/art-eater.com/2010/07/test-1-darkstalkers/ (Accessed: 21/02/2017).

David Gibson (2016) Animation Bootcamp: Overwatch: How A Hero Is Mei’d. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHevkQIZL2M (Accessed: 21/02/2017).

(2010) Mariel Cartwright. Art director, lead animator (Indivisible, Skullgirls). Available at: https://usesthis.com/interviews/mariel.cartwright/ (Accessed: 21/02/2017).

Ms. Fortune (2012) Mariel Cartwright. Available at: http://skullgirls.wikia.com/wiki/Ms._Fortune/Move_List (Accessed: 22/02/2017)

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