Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Flash VS Traditional VS Asia


Pete Emslie wrote a post that I mostly agree with.


He compares Pinocchio to a Flash cartoon, and of course you'd have to be pretty stubborn to say that any Flash cartoon can compete with A fully animated Disney feature from the 1940s. Or any cartoon from the 40s.

Pete also makes the point that he prefers low budget Hanna Barbera TV cartoons from the 60s to low budget Flash cartoons from today. I agree again.

Yet when it comes to TV production I will still opt for Flash from now on. Against my will.

Here's what it comes down to:

What are the most important drawings in a cartoon?

The Model Sheets?

In modern cartoons of all types, the model sheets are the most important drawings, whether the cartoons are drawn completely by hand or predesigned and then moved around like cutouts in Flash.Here's one of the best. When the design is appealing, it can work.

Even many fully animated cartoons today are basically puppet shows, because even the best animators are handicapped by their non-creative bosses' fear of creativity.

The Key Poses?

I would love to have full animation completely drawn by hand by great animators who sit in the next room to me. That would be my preference. To direct Bob Clampett's crew of animators. Or Friz Freleng's. Or to direct Cats Don't Dance crew. That would be so much fun and would allow me a much greater freedom to create the kind of animation I myself would like to sit down and watch.

Unfortunately, I have not ever found anyone who would pay for me to do full animation in house.

So by necessity I have had to make the best of the low budgets in kiddie TV animation.

The compromise I have had to make forced me to come up with a new production system that took what it could from classic cartoons and adapt it to the ugly realities of TV budgets.

To many people today "full-animation" means smooth animation.

To me it means more - smooth animation of lots of creative customized well drawn, well acted poses.

It's the key poses that tell the story. They are the drawings that the eye sees and responds to.

If I can't afford lots of inbetweens, at least I want to have the story telling-and entertaining poses.

That's why my cartoons have lots of layouts.

The Inbetweens?

Many richer prime-time shows today have lots of inbetweens and are very smooth but don't ever use original poses and expressions.

Many producers and in my opinion, non-creative types believe that having a lot of inbetweens is what makes quality and they are willing to spend a lot of money for drawings that no one sees. At the same time telling the artists who do the key poses to not ever make anything new up.
Computer animation is perfect for producers who fear creativity, because it is so hard to make customized poses in the first place. But it's easy to make it smooth. It's all about the "tweening".

I like having smooth inbetweening, but it doesn't normally add to the entertainment value, it just connects the key poses without causing obvious jerky movements.

Of course, if you animate here you can even make the inbetweens entertaining and fun if you are so inclined.


Flash looks like Flash no matter how hard you try to hide it. At least so far. It is basically an inbetweening program, not an animation program. The inbetweens - like in all computer programs are too mathematical. Hand drawn inbetweens make your animation feel more natural, because things don't move mathematically in real life.

Flash is only as good as the drawings you put into it- and how many good drawings. The less you do, the more fake it looks.

Ever since I started using Flash as a necessary evil, I have been trying my damnedest to make it look as little like Flash as possible.

When I first worked with Copernicus on Weird Al, I told them to make it look like they weren't using Flash and they did as good a job of that as I have ever seen, so I have been working with them since.


Limited Animation Done By Good American Animators:

If I was able, I would go back to the 60s system of limited animation. The reality of the situation today is that there are no animators capable of what the animators in the 60s did. We have not done animation in the country for 35 years now so no one even knows how it works.

Yes, there are Disney 2d animators, but how many would be willing to do 4 to 6 drawings per second today as opposed to their usual 12-24? And would they be able to just sit down and start knocking out footage at the rate that the Flintstones animators did? And how many can draw in a non-Disney style?

Overseas Animation:

There is almost no point in animating overseas, because you get nothing creative out of it. (Rough Draft excepted). They are really there just to move model sheets from one position on the screen to another.

What we call overseas animation is really just inbetweening.

If you do send them specific customized key poses (which most studios don't) they won't use them anyway. Or even if they do they will tone them down so badly that it takes all the life out of the cartoons.

This causes you to lose a lot of time and money in retakes.

For my last 2 TV productions I stubbornly held on to doing all the inbetweening and "animation" by hand, just because I'm a purist and I don't like the way Flash inbetweens look. They are too mathematical-even in the hands of the best Flash animators.

BUT! The problems with trying to get service studios to use the work you send them are so immense and expensive that it has finally dawned on me that it's not worth it. I don't care whether the service studio is in Asia or a block away. This and some other expert scenes were animated here at a Korean studio next door. Anthony Agrusa, a Filipino animator worked closely with me and had to go against years of bland training in order to almost fully animate a few key scenes for me. Most of the rest of the studio could not grasp at all by what I meant when I handed them my drawings and said "use them".It takes too much work to retrain the working methods of studios that have done the tracing model-sheet method for years and can't all of a sudden adapt to a completely new way of thinking.

Copernicus surprised the Hell out of me for this major reason alone. They actually used the drawings I sent them!

I explained how I wanted the drawings inked and cleaned up- without changing them or toning them down and they actually did it. You can't even imagine how rare that is!
I have also worked with very talented Flash animators here and they know not to change my drawings (or Jim's or anyone else's). Once we get to the stage where everyone knows the mission: to try to not make it look like Flash, then we even are able to do some creative things that couldn't be done without Flash.

Does that make up for not having Bob Clampett's unit of genius animators and a big enough budget to make fully animated cartoons?

Of course not.

But right now, it's the best way to use original custom poses and have some hands on direction here in the country - or at least in North America with other like-minded artists who speak the same language. It's the closest thing to working directly with animators that we have.

Again, Flash is only as good as the drawings you put into it. But that goes for full animation too.

I would rather have original drawings with cheesy inbetweening than really smooth boring drawings and poses that we have seen a million times before.

It's the Devil's choice.

Give me 1/5th the budget of The Simpsons and I will give you hand drawn animation all done here.