Thursday, January 01, 2009

Disney Principles 6c - Staging 3 - Make your poses read well

The posts on staging so far have had to do with the storyboard and layout artists' jobs. The big picture of each scene - composing the background and characters together.


The layout artist won't draw every character pose that makes up the animator's performance. The animator has to take the layout and background and then in turn - stage each and every one of his poses so that the whole performance of the character is easy to see.


Control The Audience's Attention With Clear Posing
It's the animator's job to control the audience, to make sure the viewer's eye doesn't wander around the screen wondering what is happening. A good animator knows which parts of every action are the most important and forces he viewer to take notice of them and catch the meaning that the animator intended. This requires great skills and drawing tools.

Here's what Frank and Ollie have to say about that:


Staging for Animators - making the poses read.






The ingredients of a good Silhouette are :

LINE OF ACTION:



The general overall pose of the the character tells you the direction of the character which in turn can tell you many other things-his attitude, what he is doing, which character is leading the action...

NEGATIVE SHAPES:



The negative shapes within your pose tell you what the character is doing.

HIERARCHY OF DIRECTION:



Some part of your pose is more important than the rest of the pose. Maybe a character is pointing. Then you have to make that part of your sillo more obvious than the rest of the body. Draw attention to it.


Don't distract from the pointing by having other parts of the body stick out of the silhouette as much as or more than the pointing action. Have the rest of the body being pulled along by whichever part is causing the action.



When everything is moving all the time, it becomes hard to tell what is happening. You can see this problem in many late 30s cartoons, when animators were outdoing each other by having the characters constantly change shape and each part of the body had secondary actions, overlapping action, tons of squash and all the animation tools happening all the time and competing with each other for attention. Watch some "Captain and The Kids".

By the 40s, most top animators learned that good clear poses were more effective in selling a story than constant random motion.

Strong and obvious lines of action and silhouettes were very popular and expertly done in the 1940s.

40s cartoons based the entertainment more on action, while 50s began focusing more on dialogue and design.

Subtle Lines Of Action - it happened in the 50s

By the 50s, many animators began toning down their lines of action and bold silhouettes. They didn't abandon them completely, just made them more subtle.

Brilliant 50s Jones design- full of classic principles and tricky contrasts.

The more "modern" character designs tended to have more straight lines and angles, so it naturally makes an animator tend towards less obviously rounded organic posing.
Characters tended to stand up straight more. These Harvey Eisenberg 60s comics still have all the classic drawing principles evident, but the balance of them has changed. The poses are less obvious, but still very clear.


As the good animators toned down their principles, new animators came into the business who didn't understand them at all and couldn't see the subtleties in the more experienced animators' work. This led quickly to the disappearance almost altogether of lines of action and clear silhouettes.

http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2007/05/upa-vs-wally-5-upa-bred-worse.html

Why Man Learns From The Past

Now and then, someone will write in the comments that young artists don't need tools. They just need their own God-given creativity and their beautiful natural-born styles. They needn't hamper themselves with knowledge and techniques that were learned through trial and error by experts over decades. The young genius artist wants to start from scratch and make all the same mistakes that thousands of more talented artists had long ago learned to correct.

Every artist of course has the right to do whatever he wants. Every builder does too. You could poopoo hammers as cramping your creativity and try to punch nails into wood as you attempt to build a house in a completely new way without even a plan. It's not against the law or anything. - But good luck in ever finishing it or having it stand up by itself.

But it eludes my reasoning why anyone would want to choose to have absolutely no control over their finished products. Skills, practice, knowledge and tools put you way ahead of your competitors.

You have a much wider freedom of creative choices if you understand the basic tools of your trade.

Being able to clearly and creatively stage your poses, makes you more capable of getting your audience to feel and see what YOU want them to see. Posing is one of many important tools that gives you more control.

To rebel against tried and true effective tools when you have never been able to handle them yourself in the first place seems very self-defeating to me.

It's one thing if you are Picasso or John Hubley and you want to veer off into abstraction, but it's not the same thing for a smelly little graffiti artist who just can't draw but wants you to believe he has a unique style.

28 comments:

Niki said...

My favorite cartoons for reference, as in 'ones of exceptionally bad everything' is "Johnny test" and "Speed Racer: The Next Generation" you could say it is almost as if the creators were super intelligent computers bent on making all mankind lifeless and computer-like. Although, I do believe that good super computers could do a much better job.

Ramon said...

"It's one thing if you are Picasso or John Hubley and you want to veer off into abstraction,..."

And Picasso could paint like Velazquez at age 16. I remember visiting Picasso museum in Barcelona and seeing some of his youth works. He did for sure master all the classical techniques and knew all the rules before he started breaking them.

John A said...

Limited animation killed the silhouette. Artists and designers started breaking the static figure down into a collection of parts. Characters that were originally designed to be drawn quickly to allow for lively character poses and animation as full as the budgets and time restraints would allow, were now reduced to standing around in the same model sheet poses with a few mouth and arm movements to make them appear animated.Bad habits have been passed along generationally and have become the standard way of doing things. What kills me is that people defend this garbage. We truly live in the age of crap.

Thank you for using lots of Disney examples to support your opinions. Sometimes I get the impression that your readers think they must automatically hate anything that came from the Disney studio, I'm glad that you're trying to teach them how to discriminate.

The Layout painting/ book illustrations have been great. Disney had some of the best color stylists in the business (not any more I'm afraid, although Lilo and Stitch was a breath of fresh air after a decade of murkiness)Back in the day, Walt and Co. would put just as much effort into their print work as they did with their features.

Ryan said...

I think a big part of it is there's so many bad and misapplied rules out there, like "never deviate from the model sheet in the slightest" or "use anticipation and follow-through on every single action, without fail." So some beginners react to this by just rejecting it all, rather than learning to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Caleb said...

Wow, well said John. The gradual loss of silhouette posing has to be one of the biggest missing links from 40's cartoons to now. I never realized it before, but most of my favorite old cartoons have strong sillos that can read without surface details. I also blame ignorance and the decline of slapstick and pantomime acting.

I learned the hard way that rebelling against solid principles and the way the human eye works is like reinventing the car from scratch.

ArtF said...

I, for one, am a better cartoonist for having learned the basic fundamentals of drawing. John really opened my eyes to a bunch of principles that I thought just weren't necessary to learn or even think about. I still have a lot to learn, but in the long run, it can only make my drawing better.

colemeister said...

This is wonderful stuff. I can't thank you enough, really helps reading what you have to say. I agree with John A, Disney's traditionally animated movies have life in their drawings, as did Looney Tunes - but shows like Fairly Odd Parents, everything's flat and movements seem too linear. From the teaser trailer of DIsneys new The Princess and the Frog, they use the good old stuff. Check into it, looks like it will be amazing.

Ben Forbes said...

It's hard trying to achieve all of this stuff. I'm slowly making my way through them... hopefully it shows...

We should learn the basics and once you have that down, you can veer off and try some new things while still using these vital basic ideas. Am I correct?

Mr. Semaj said...

Thank you for using lots of Disney examples to support your opinions. Sometimes I get the impression that your readers think they must automatically hate anything that came from the Disney studio, I'm glad that you're trying to teach them how to discriminate.

2nd.

I think the main reason why so many new animators weren't using the principles when they entered the field in the 70's is because of the general decline of the medium. Many old timers whom hadn't already died served out the remainder of their careers in television, where there was unfortunately no room for most of those principles. Even under the wing of the experienced, the newbies were getting the leftovers of the leftovers.

John, didn't you once mention something like that, where the old timers couldn't teach you some old tricks because they weren't being done anymore?

RBT said...

I love, love, love this blog. Thank you, John K!

As an animation writer, I am wondering if there is a way to write blocking/staging/action that best compliments the animator/board artists. I realize that this is an animation site, but it would be awesome if you could do a post on your experience writing and dealing with writers over the years.
Thanks!

Freckled Derelict said...

I love this series of posts! Thank you!!

Kelly Toon said...

John, this might be off topic, but I'd love to someday read a post about the subject of illustration vs: animation. Is there such a clear line between the two? You use a lot of Little Golden Book examples for composition and design, and not so often for construction. Or that beautiful Frazetta painting which has such dynamic negative space, but would be a monumental effort to animate in that rendered style. I'd be interested to see you do an overlayed construction drawing on some of those Virgil Partch cartoons. Would you say you might be biased towards critiquing illustration as though they were bound by the same rules as "good" animation design?

Thanks Mr. K!

Cartoon Critique said...

Some people are just L-A-Z-Y

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Amen!

Weirdo said...

"You could poopoo hammers as cramping your creativity and try to punch nails into wood as you attempt to build a house in a completely new way without even a plan. It's not against the law or anything. - But good luck in ever finishing it or having it stand up by itself."

Come on John, that's how a REAL man would do it. None of those sissy tools.

Zoran Taylor said...

RBT - Run like hell before someone here kills you.

BTW, only John would put Hubley and Picasso in the same sentence.....because only John knows what the hell he's talking about. Thank god he's still here.

Zoran Taylor said...

Also, I dig the Modern Times shot. My favorite "silent" comedy. (Well, TEEEECHnically....you know)

Christine Gerardi said...

I recently found a really old silent animated film done entirely in silhouettes. It's not really animated because it's done with cut-outs, but I think it applies to the concept of staging in silhouettes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Prince_Achmed

Aaron said...

I agree with the post and I want to say, I think you come from a school of thought that I come from which says art is just a form of communication, and clarity in communication is very important. If Picasso hadn't been a master before he veered, the move wouldn't have been understood and it wouldn't have been rightly done. That is to say, I don't think Guernica could have happened because it was a genuine progression from a genuine artist.

Oscar Baechler said...

Anyone ever use Andrew Loomis' process for organic compositions? It's a good way to break up the page when you've got artist's block. It's also a good way to form a habit around planning staging as a step 1 sort of idea.

Any thoughts on staging as it relates to Character Design? It's one of my hugest pet peeves in the video game industry: blocky characters with plenty of high-detail nooks and crannies to their silhouette, but absolutely no big-picture composition to how they look. I'd say the two ends of the spectrum are the god-awful Unreal/Gears of War/Halo crowd versus the instantly readable (and therefore over-copied) Square games. Here's visual exhibits:

http://cache.kotaku.com/assets/resources/2008/01/gearsfigs.jpg

versus

http://www.estarland.com/images/products/80/25680/45047.jpg
http://www.critical-hits.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/rhnb7p.jpg

IMHO the problem with putting staging into your character design, rather than your key poses and all-around setup/composition, is it promotes laziness...why make a dynamic pose when you've got an awesome spike thingy sticking out of your back? But it also points out how it's pretty unacceptable to see blatantly bad staging in illustration, since you've only got a single piece at a time to worry about.

Lucas Nine said...

>The young genius artist wants to start from scratch and make all the same mistakes that thousands of more talented artists had long ago learned to correct.

Well, that was the way they did it. Starting from scratch...

Masked Stinker said...

Now and then, someone will write in the comments that young artists don't need tools. They just need their own God-given creativity and their beautiful natural-born styles. They needn't hamper themselves with knowledge and techniques that were learned through trial and error by experts over decades.

Most of the classic artist that "Broke the rules" spent time learning the rules before they broke them.

Picasso and others that are remembered studied the rules you call "principles".

It's just ignorant that someone would see these rules as inhibiting creativity.

The principles are tools that are your friends.
They guide you through creative problems.
They aid you in making your work look better.

I want to understand them because it will make my work better.

Ted said...

Original layout for the Wally Walrus Kiddie Koncert shot:
http://tag.rubberslug.com/gallery/inv_info.asp?ItemID=247659

Brendan M said...

I'm with you during this entire post until you made the comment about graffiti.

The people who have been doing graffiti for years and years and years (not the "toys" who just scribble a tag) do have their own unique style. It's very constructed and evolved in each of their own ways.

Michael DiMilo said...

Another amazingly great post! This whole series on staging is really fun and informative. The silhouette examples are outstanding. and you have every right to go after undisciplined artists, graffiti or otherwise. One should never be too old to learn from the masters.

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ funny how John K seems dead set on using outmoded tools in order to create housing yet assumes competition is the pint of making up stories to tell.
(^ oversimplification? sure.
(^ just remember:
(^ old school masters are just..
another.. tool.

(^ by no means the only way to make a house that jack built underground without a hammer
or weaved from bamboo never cut with a machete.
(^ lighten up guy. maybe it's time to step down as spokespersonah of the old vanguard and embraced the digital virtual era that needs tool manufacturers willing to re-invent wheels (anolog)

(^ into points on a gridmap.
digTHIS missedERR!

(^ many homes are built to spill.
temporary shelters are as glorious as those intended for resale.
(^ moderate enabling tends to truncate discourse.

Pete Emslie said...

Well, bRYEnd, why do you think anybody here should listen to you when you insist on writing in that contrived manner with the ridiculous symbols prefacing every sentence? I looked at your own blog too, and find it to be totally incomprehensible. Start talking in plain English and perhaps we might give you our attention.

Brendon Neumar said...

I've heard it said, you have to know the rules to break the rules and you have to break the rules to make art. I don't know if it's true, but I just heard it said.