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20 thoughts on “Week 12 Discussion Animation”
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On page 139 of Art In Motion it talks about the limitation of puppets but also how Trnka sees this limitation as a way to force creativity. I have heard this before in from a professor here and I have to admit I was skeptical at first, but I think now I agree with this thought. I have another class where I am to do a final project and there are really no limitations. My first problem is that I have no idea where to start, but I feel that I am more likely to chose something simple and easy because I have no limitations. To go along with this idea, just recently I was working on an edit for a video and we came across an issue that needed to be taken care of, something was in a shot that wasn’t supposed to be. Now at this point we couldn’t re shoot the footage, so using what I had I was forced to think more creatively to come up with a solution.
On a different note, an earlier passage about the differences and similarities of stop motion and live action reminded me of a film I’ve seen once. This film falls in a category like La basse cour because it is shot on a stand but uses 3 dimensional objects. The film is called the Owl Who Married a Goose and it is shot on a backlit stand using sand. I feel that the style of the film is very interesting and really exemplifies the range of animation. This film also works well in conjunction with Paul Wells’ article about orthodox and experimental animation because of it’s style. Due to the fact that it’s created with sand, the images morph from one to the next but it still tells a narrative and follows other aspects of orthodox animation. According to his article, I feel that this would fall in the developmental animation bracket.
Within the Furniss reading I was perplexed to her comments that puppets aren’t a fixture of animation but instead closer to live action. You are still taking an inanimate object and replicating human or natural moments.
The theory in the reading regarding the uncanny objects seems to be rather dated. I presume most people do not think that the inanimate objects that are bought to life via animation are real. I think especially in the digital age many are taught to question everything and not take things as truth.
From an artist point of view I can’t see how stop motion or Claymation in particular is cost effective. The Michael Frierson reading comments how it was lower cost than the studio productions of Hanna-Barbera. I would speculate like many artist Clokey wasn’t paying himself a honest wage per hour worked on series.
I tend to believe in some cases the associated toys from productions are actually what make them iconic. I can remember having rubber Gumby and Pokey toys growing up, but I can’t tell you anything the show itself. I think the same can’t be said with many of the cartoons or animations of the 1980s, Heman, Carebears, GI Joe, Transformers.
I agree with Furniss in regards to puppets not being a fixture of animation but closer to live action. I have created a few stop motion shorts using inanimate objects and trying to replicate human or natural movements with those objects can sometimes seem almost IMPOSSIBLE! Puppets can be filmed easily in live action because although they are inanimate objects, their movements can be fluid. For example, some of my FAVORITE puppetry, Sesame Street and even Bear in the Big Blue House. As well, stop motion or clay mation might be cost effective but it is timely. In many studio productions, what is so costly is having to pay so many people to produce cels. For example, Warner Bros. had many people working on different parts of each cel. I do though agree with your comment about the toys from productions. Go to Wal-Mart or Target when a “block buster” animated film is coming out and there is merchandise for that movie EVERYWHERE! Toys, clothes, health and beauty supplies, food, beverages, etc.
I found that Michael Frierson’s article to be extremely helpful in understanding the background behind Gumby and what helped it become such a successful show. In particular, I was really interested in reading about how Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, was influenced by spirituality and by the montage theories of his mentor Slavko Vorkapich. Unlike the other animated programs reaching popularity around that time, which were limited cel animations, Gumby utilized full animation and three dimensional puppet stop motion animation. This added visual depth to the series as well as the sometime entrancing fluidity. In addition, Clokey employed many elements in Gumby which harked back to the type of montage that Vorkapich developed and taught to Clokey. These camera and clay movements also added to the visual dynamism of the series.
Despite the exiciting camera movements and full animation fluidity, however, Gumby was a simplistic series at it hearts, in its pacing, message, and set design. Gumby’s pacing, Frierson notes, was much slower than other animated series at the time. It did not rely on the “cynicism and violence” that “classic Hollywood cartoons” employed. Gumby instead focused on simplistic moral messages of kindness, acceptance, and responsibility, morals that carried over from Clokey’s faith. Frierson writes that, “Special Effects were usually simple and occasionally obvious to the point of shattering illusions.” Still, the usage of recognizable children’s toys added to the whimsy (and branding) to Gumby, and spoke to the increasingly connected fields of animation, networks, and toy advertising which Frierson described as really picking up with the introduction of Mickey Mouse Club House prior to Gumby.
Interested in the Clokey’s art film described in the Frierson piece, I decided to watch Gumbasia. The film was very fascinating, and I definitely saw the influence of Vorkapich’s montage theories in its execution. Like many experimental animation films, Frierson notes that Clokey intended to focus on abstract forms and their movement to music. Clokey said in regard to his film, “I wanted to avoid as much as possible the distraction of recognizable forms in Gumbasia.” What I feel is interesting to note, however, is that Clokey does include a stick figure with a smiley face toward the end of the film. While quite the recognizable form, this stick figure can be interpreted as a literal friendly wink to the audience for watching the film. Gumbasia’s usage of movement in both clay and camera, transformations, and various textures and numbers of subjects makes it visually stimulating, sometimes to the point of motion sickness.
I agree with you that I appreciate Frierson stating how Claymation came to 1950s television because producers were experimenting with low costs to get as many viewers as possible. I figured the “Gumby” series was made in clay so the figures would look like something a child made, but I never considered if cost was a factor in making that decision. I was also drawn to Art Clokey’s spiritual interests beyond his Christianity. I watched “Gumbasia” on a cheap DVD collection a few years ago. At the time, I thought it was a cheaply made short that was probably just used as filler. I don’t remember any particular shapes or designs other than a blob in front of a green screen with shapes. In short, nothing really caught my eye. Maybe I would like it more now.
I think that claymation is the quintessential example of animation as a transformative narrative/image-making device. When animating with drawings the animator is still separated from the product because he/she has to both create the imagery or the substrate, as well as transforming it to make it interesting to the viewer. A clay animator does not neccessarily create the substrate in the same way; the clay is in front of him/her. the clay is an object that inhabits the same physical space that he/she does. He/she does not have to think about the origin of the visual stimuli, so the transformation is more natural.
Clay is also expressive in a way that drawn animations are not. Clay will show the hand of the animator, or lack therof (think smooth surfaces). Clay will actually do the stretching, inflating, shrinking, segmenting, twisting, mangling, etc. that 2D animators impose upon their animated imagery. Think about the flattening that happens to Wile E Coyote when an Acme safe falls on him and the accordion shape that his body makes when he crawls from under it, and now think about how these kinds of things also happen to Gumby. In Gumby’s case we relate to it a little more because gumby is a three dimensional object just like we are.
Clay also allows for the animator to be more experimental in terms of mixing media. While clay is already prepared for the animator in terms of texture (malleability) and color, he/she can begin to think about mixing colors to create swirls or a new color altogether. Also with clay, pre-made objects can be placed inside the soft material, or used to interact with the clay characters of environments; think about all of the objects that Gumby interacts with that are not clay.
When I say Clay, I also include all of the of soft mediums that can be used in the same way, such as wax. I think that Fischinger’s wax animations operate in the same transformative way even though they are 2D; it is certainly possible that he could be considered one of the progenitors of claymation.
I think that Clay animation is a underrated art form and it is going extinct. I feel that Clay animation allows animators to do more with their artwork. And far as it going extinct, that last clay animation i saw was a short on Disney called Shaun the Sheep and I remember the Wallace and Gromit films. Since we are in the time of digital art I think that doing art on computers is becoming more convenient, so Clay animation is not as popular anymore.
It was interesting for Furniss to go through and explore the development of stop-motion animation as an almost experimental style of animation mainly because of its lack of popularity in comparison to 2D. Unlike most experimental animation, many stop-motion animations still follow orthodox storytelling and characterization such as in “Wallace and Gromit” and “Nightmare Before Christmas”. But at the same time, the medium allows for experimental animation metamorphosis, acknowledging that models such as Gumby are made of clay and therefore can flatten, melt, and reshape themselves to continue the otherwise seemingly traditional narrative. However, as in 2D animation with the “Disneyfication” process, if the chapter was able to further explore stop-motion’s progression and its increase in popularity, one would see a similar effect.
Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride” films play less with the medium and more with the design of the characters within an environment that, while engaging in certain basic laws of science as our world does, still does not strictly adhere to all of reality’s typical conventions. Mushu in “Mulan” can turn from a decoration to a living dragon that then struggles to carry heavy stone as one within the realistic world should, but at the same time can be crushed by that stone, flattened, and then returned to his original healthy form with ease because he is animated. In much the same way, stop-animation as characters such as the deceased Emily in “Corpse Bride” interacts with the world as if she needs to adhere to the laws of gravity and the limited movement of her bones and skin as opposed to the malleable material her figure is actually composed of. Yet her skeletal hand can break off at her wrist to dance across piano keys and her head can be home to a worm despite the implication of her lacking any organs that would usually be needed for her body’s continued function. Tim Burton’s stop-motion work in particular also sees a strong Disney influence through the addition of musical numbers.
Maureen Furniss also mentions how, unlike 2D animation, stop-motion animation presents the unique feeling of uncanniness. Figures and objects, whether sculpted or pre-made, with depth and physical weight move and exhibit often human behaviors despite our brains telling us that these things should be inanimate. It allows for this particular style of animation to lend itself to the horror genre, which finds itself often rooted in the science-fiction classic “Frankenstein” through the reanimation of dead flesh. Unfortunately, because this edition doesn’t cover anything quite as recent as what I had hoped, Furniss does not address how mainstream stop-motion animation has recently realized both these effects in the film “Coraline”. “Coraline” would have been an interesting theatrical-release stop-motion animation to look into considering that, as Furniss discusses in the book, it takes advantage of the uncanniness of its medium and the horror of some of its objects – in this particular case buttons. While seemingly marketed for children due to today’s assumption that animation is intended for kids, “Coraline” renders a dark interpretation of the popular childhood fantasy of discovering a fantasy world to escape from reality. To become apart of this seemingly perfect world, one must give up their eyes to be replaced with buttons, an apparently innocent real-world object that evolves into something far more twisted.
I’d like to branch off your comment about the uncanny. It’s something I hadn’t previously considered about Claymation. Furniss states that miniature backgrounds often look like miniatures rather than real locations, but audiences accept them as real because they accept the world in which the story takes place. She cites “Wallace and Gromit” shorts as her example. I grew up watching “Wallace and Gromit”, so I tried to think of any instances when the set felt fake. Actually, the first thing that came to mind was not animated stories but live action ones: the films of David Lynch. Lynch has very unnatural, stage-like sets in his films. This setting worked best for his series “Rabbits”, in which anthropomorphic rabbits inhabit an apartment-like setting. When I first saw one of the shorts, I assumed it was stop-motion animation, but it turned out to be humans walking around in rabbit costumes.
Stop motion animation has three major categories. Pixilation, which uses human actors but breaks the movements down frame by frame, manipulation of ready-made or create objects like action figures or dolls, and clay animation, which is often called Claymation.
Claymation enjoyed a revival of popularity as a medium for television animation in the 1950s, particularly after the success of the show Gumby. Clay animation, uses oil based plasticine modeling clay, rather than water based ceramic clay because water based clay dries out to fast, was popular as a medium for television animation because it is a relatively low cost medium compared to other forms of animation.
Gumby was created by animator Art Clokey, and it was different from traditional animation of the time in both medium and content. Gumby’s clay animation aesthetic was different from the traditional 2D cel style animation that was common at the time. Because it exists in real, three dimensional space, and uses real, 3 dimensional objects, clay animation has a surface texture and a naturalistic interaction of light, shadow, and space that is very difficult if not impossible to reproduce with 2D animation. Additionally, Clokey felt that people, and children in particular, responded so well to Gumby because of the nature of the material itself. Clokey felt that clay had a resonance with the collective, ancestral memory as a fundamental part of the earth itself.
In addition to be technically different from traditional animation style of its day, Gumby also had a different kind of content. Clokey disliked the cynicism and violence that was so common in animation of his day. He created a character who was always morally upstanding and represented an untainted innocence and goodness. Gumby solved conflicts through kindness and understanding, never through violence.
The first reading we had to read this week discussed stop motion animation. It went into detail about the different techniques used to bring the films to life. Examples are foam latex puppets with wire armatures for films like a Nightmare Before Christmas. Or simply even clay for the likes of Wallace and Gromit. It was interesting because I had never thought about how they move the clay without leaving fingerprints . So getting an Insight on that was very interesting.
The second reading was the one I found a little bit dear to me because it was something I watched when in childhood. Gumby was one of the first stop motion shows it was unique because it used everyday appliances to make the world he lived in. After a few years of success complications in the studio led to Gumby being cancelled but coincidentally due to a recurring sketch by comedian Eddie Murphy on SNL, Gumby gained popularity again with video games I believe another show and a movie. I remember being little and at my grandma’s house watching the Gumby movie. It was something I used to do a lot when my grandma was alive so reading about it now it’s kind of bittersweet
In “Clay Animation and the Early Days of Television: The Gumby Series,” Michael Frierson talks about Art Clokey’s relationship to the television system. Channels like ABC challenged the power of big studio-system entities like Paramount, and as a result, film studios tried to entice audiences with technical innovations. This era, arriving around the end of the 40’s, saw a widespread implementation of “Cinerama, Cinemascope, Vistavision, and 3-D.” More color films came out at this time as well. These changes add to how modern Americans view the 1950’s: Full of technology and color, but televised theatrical cartoons also arose from this studio panic. Cartoons on television remain an integral part of American culture.
Gumby comes as a reaction to cartoons on television. Studios syndicated their well-known theatrical shorts, but they, as Frierson puts it, became far too well known. There existed a demand for original cartoon content on television. Shows like Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and Huckleberry Hound filled such a demand. Gumby was able to join the market due to its low budget. In addition to a low “cost per minute,” Gumby found the admiration of a certain studio executive — Sam Engel, who helped get Gumby on air. The show continued running until the termination of then-NBC network resident Pat Weaver, who produced the show as a “pet project.”
Gumby acted as a catalyst for its creator, Art Clokey, who was a spiritual man. He juggled many religions over the course of his career, yet Gumby is able to represent none of them fully. Instead, the show praises each religion’s base, common denominator: innocence, purity, and being a good person. The show saw a revival in the 80’s, wherein Eddie Murphy spoofed the aging show on Saturday Night Live. Moreover, budding animators who grew up on Gumby came to promenance, ensuring the legacy of Gumby and the legacy of his message. Clokey made the show as a response to violent gags in traditional cartoons. Hopefully, future stop-motion animators may pass on that theme.
With the comparison of stop motion and clay animation to live cinema, I couldn’t help but notice all the similarities. The sets, the angles, camera placement, all of it is the same except for the objects being scaled down in size. The Wallace and Gromit movies and shorts for instance, are all made with miniatures, which just blows my mind that they can create this entire seemingly alive world with a set no bigger than ten, fifteen feet at the most. It gets easier to tell the more stop motion you watch that it’s using miniatures. I wonder if one day they’ll ever use bigger, more life-sized clay objects and what effects that would have on the appearance, you could probably get a lot more detailed.
It blows my mind how long it takes to film and animate in stop motion. In the chapter, Borthwick and Hutchinson said that it can take up to three hours for five seconds of film. I never really appreciated or acknowledged the fact that it could possibly take so long. But it makes sense now, especially after trying my own stop motion animation where it took over twenty minutes to make a five second video, and it wasn’t even clay, it was drawing, which I’d say is a lot simpler than working with miniatures.
One other thing that I find mind boggling is the mouth pieces they use for words, whether its a consonant, vowel or face expression that they put in the face of the character. I had always assumed they had just messed with the mouth with a pencil or something until it looked okay enough, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. But what might give most people a head ache, I can actually see myself doing stop motion animation like this as I like to get into the finer details of projects and once I get in the zone, it’s hard to come back until I feel like I’ve done a good enough job. I’m looking forward to learning and trying out different stop motion techniques.
I to have found myself in astonishment the more I learn about stop motion and claymations. The time and pure dedication spent on these major motion projects is very scary to think about. You don’t know if it will be successful and earn back all the money you put into the work. As a kid or non cinema, art, or design major, you go and see a movie like that and just see it as the screen before your eyes. Not the materials, hours of sculpting, moving, framing, planning and not to mention the reshoots as well. I also feel like the industry is moving more towards CGI films over stop motion because of impatience and time constraints to get films out faster. CGI almost looks just as clay-ish as stop motion, but also cartoonish, so it doesn’t matter to most audiences. I wish stop motion had a wider range of support from general audiences, then maybe those types of films would be made more often.
The thing I found interesting in the Furniss readings actually was a very small mention of Jim Henson’s work with the Muppets. Now, I’ve always been fond of the Muppets, but it annoyed me how the intricate work of Henson’s puppetry is mentioned off-hand in these writings. Later on, Furniss mentions the use of stop-motion in The Empire Strikes Back, despite ignoring the much bigger achievement of Yoda’s puppetry in it.
Thus, when going in on the revolutionary nature of Gumby, I have to wonder why Sesame Street isn’t mentioned either. Gumby may have debuted ten years earlier, but Sesame Street actively revolutionized children’s television in a much bigger way than Gumby, and is still around today. I have to wonder if there’s a bias against puppetry as animation. Typically, it’s hard to remember that puppets are animation since they’re life-like, but they can be used in innovative ways just as much, if not more than, stop motion animation.
Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police is a movie that uses puppets (or rather marionettes) inspired by Thunderbirds. It’s a hard R-rated musical that continuously does creative events with the marionettes. It is not mentioned in the readings either, but to be fair, it came out in 2004, so it might be a tad recent. That said, I don’t believe items of media such as The Muppets, Labyrinth, or Sesame Street should be glossed over by Furniss, as I’d argue they have more cultural influence on the current state of animation than Gumby or other stop-motion animations of the past.
Puppetry always seems to be a controversial issue in animation that splits people to two sides. Since there are some grey areas in what animation is, I think it sometimes comes down to personal views. Some people consider animation to be a frame by frame process, in which case would exclude puppetry. But how can puppetry not be animation when you are physically animating something to give a sense of life to it? Puppetry aims to create the same illusion as any animation.
I find it fairly odd that puppetry isn’t mentioned. I mean, sure its not drawn or morphed, but it’s still movement of “inanimate” objects to create some sort of comprehensible vision. It’s really unfortunate though that puppetry doesn’t at least get recognized because of the huge achievements with Sesame Street, Jim Henson, and like you mentioned, the puppetry with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back.
Stop motion animation to me seems one of the most complicated and difficult forms of animation. one of the hardest thing for me to grasp is how to effectively build a puppet or claymation figure that is able to move realistically but still stand on it’s own two feet? thinking about the malleability of clay i can only imagine how difficult it must be to effectively get certain shots. like trying to balance a figure in mid stride only balancing on one leg for long enough to photograph the frame. even simpler things such as keeping the sculpt in place as minor changes are made to face or mouth. also comparatively to cel animation, there must be a physical object that has to move as opposed to just having to draw an object. one of the most amazing things is watching older animations that use every day objects like food or toys and imagining the difficulty there must have been in order to make them stand and move fluidly.
the Gumby article is a particularly interesting one in the fact that Gumby as a show and an animation are not the most well done things in animation, especially the first series from 1956. it is rough, uses every day objects as set, it had a quick production time, and some episodes themselves are filled with errors all over the place. even though there were so many issues it still became an extremely popular show on television. I think some of the success of the show lies in the merchandising aspect and the aspect of Gumby’s childhood innocence. the fact that children could watch a show that was somewhat easy to grasp and understand allowed for the show to cater to younger people. even the simplicity of the animation seems like it was something easier for children could grasp compared to a complicated live action show that contains a lot of unspoken dialogue. and on top of this the ability that a child could own their own little Gumby toy created a deeper connection between something that they could see with a personality and life on television.
It is also interesting to see that one of the factors of the resurgence of Gumby is Eddie Murphy’s Gumby impersonation on Saturday Night Live. watching some of the old SNL sketches i see more of a catering towards an older crowd. i believe that showing Gumby on SNL most likely sparked some childhood memories of older audiences. then these older individuals could in turn show their children Gumby which made a new generation of people want to watch the television show. A lot of different factors made Gumby a success and i could see another Resurgence in Gumby to happen again.
After working on my final project this semester and reading the article on Gumby it really makes me respect any claymation animator. It is truly a labor of love. Not only does it look beautiful when the project is finished but it takes a tremendous amount of patience and time. What I really got out of this reading is that this type of work is very appealing to the youth because they relate to the clay. I never really thought about this point before but I can understand it. As a matter of fact it makes perfect sense. This reading has really widened my horizon of stop motion animation and made me think about the audience I am animating for and the materials I am using for the animation. What fascinates me about animation is that you can use any medium and bring it to life. It doesn’t matter if it is dirt, a piece of metal, glass, or a leaf from a tree, you can animate anything. In certain cases specific mediums are chosen for their relevance to the subject matter of the animation and to help enhance the story telling experience.
This weeks discussion was a eye opener that I a huge fan of stop motion and Claymation. My favorite tv show growing up and even now was created with stop motion. The first handful of seasons used stop motion animation. The creators were taking pictures of each and every frame and each and every frame was completely different from the other. The time and dedication took to create each episode is 10x more time heavy then the alternative version south park does today with digital animation. With south park they would cut up pieces of paper and cardboard and make the background and body and facial expressions. Another form of stop motion that I find fascinating is Claymation.
Some of my all time favorite movies as a child growing up was created with Claymation and did not know. The Nightmare before Christmas is and will be my all time favorite childhood film. In class you showed us behind the scences of the creation of the film. I was in shock in the process. I knew the work was tedious but the work process was insane. It was mind bloggling to see that each character had over 200 heads with different facial experssions. Someone would have to switch pieces frame by frame. Do let anyone trip and fall they could lose a whole day worth of work probably more.
Looking at Claymation now and comparing it to a different time frame it shows the technological and creative leap. At home I looked at the classic of rudalph the rednose reindeer and comparing to the movie Anomalisa. Anomalisa seem light years away from the red nose even though its only decades. Well if you think about it decades in the media world really seems like light years. The Christmas movie animation was not as clear. The movement of the characters was not fluid it was a lot of lag movements. Compared to Anomalisa the movement seemed realistic as if there was a real person in the clay. Speaking on realism Anomalisa facial structure seemed damn near real. Some times I would forget that it is an animation. The facial expressions and lip sync is perfect but on the other hand rudalph seems that the mouth of characters was not catching the words at the right time.
I think Anomalisa is a door opener for adult animation using Claymation. Going back in the semester we talked about disneyfication and how it took time for people to see animation as more than a kids medium. Because of this film I see more animation creators using Claymation methods in creating adult films like Robot Chicken.