Thursday, April 16, 2009

Animation is...

Tuesday's class focused on genre. Since the thrust of the class is on narrative concepts, the categorization of stories by similar traits or tropes particularly illuminating (I hope -it is for me anyway).

Let the Right One In, for instance, has more in common with Marty than it does with The Lost Boys. That similarity brings out a deeper meaning to both films.

In the past, I would bring up animation. "Animation" must be a genre, right. Like Westerns it gets its own tiny section in the video store. That's fair enough, as much as "Cinemascope", "3D", or "Odorama" can also be group together.

And that grouping hints at what animation "is" what distinguishes animation and sets it apart.

Tissa David tells of when she came to New York in 1957 (I've forgotten the exact year, it could have been '58, not earlier, not later). She had seen the animated sections of The Four Poster while living in Paris (after escaping Budapest on foot shortly before the Uprising). From these clips she decided that she would go to New York to animate for UPA.

Two issues with that plan: she didn't speak English, and women were not hired as animators in 1957.

She shows up at the 666 Fifth Avenue studio with her portfolio, and they're ready to usher her out when someone says "Grim Natwick just fired another kid, so he needs an assistant." They are introduced, and as Tissa said, Grim must have taken pity on her and said that he could speak a little German, and she could speak a little German so they could communicate that way (although neither knew more than 100 words) he'd give a shot on one condition.

Grim said she had to answer one question: "What is animation?". Stumbling in pidgeon English, Tissa replied, "Animation is, is animation."

He took a step back, laughed, and said "I've been asking people that question for the past 30 years and that's the best answer I've gotten yet".

An indisputably true answer, but a little vague for definition purpose. The "Animation" section is like a "Silent Film" section. The pictures are grouped by technical similarities.

Animation, like 3D or Cinemascope, is a process. That's what defines it -not happy-go-lucky mice or singing princesses or wacky buddy journeys. This definition comes even clearer when the other section of cartoons films in the video store is discovered -"Anime". These are films which, for the most part, share stylistic and narrative tendencies. Grouping these together, and in their subsets, gives a deeper understanding of the individual films.

1 comment:

Liesje Kraai said...

Excellent! You beat me by a day. Now I can link to this in tomorrow's post...