Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ken Duncan animates the best girls

Drawing and animating pretty girls is really hard. Girls are much more complex constructions than general cartoon characters. They have more forms to deal with and the forms don't easily flow along simple animation principles. It's hard to get a good line of action.

You also have to keep a very delicate balance in the design elements. If you get a line or form just a fraction off, the girl will look ugly.
Ken Duncan is amazing because he can draw girls and move them beautifully while maintaining all the classic animation principles. Not only that but he has a very distinct style that isn't purely a Cal Arts Disney formula.
I stumbled upon a couple pencil tests of a scene he did of Jane for Tarzan. One test is his roughs and the other the clean ups.
You can see in the roughs that he is concentrating less on detail and more on the essentials-the construction, the posing, the expressions and the movement.
Watch the clip and see how smoothly and beautifully it flows. Jane has weight, form, balance, variations in timing all with a minimum of lines and details.

This is why learning your principles are so important! Construction, line of action, movement are all more important than having a lot of details that you can't control.

Ken has no problem with difficult angles like heads that tilt up and away. You can't do this kind of animation if you learn to draw in a flat style.
Ken is also original. He relies less on Disney formula motions and cliches. He makes up his own gestures and expressions. That must be especially hard in an environment that is so used to doing everything in a way that has already be done.
It would also be very hard to be an assistant animator on such a complex character. Ken gets a lot of strong expression in his roughs and that's hard to preserve when you start adding flesh and details. There is a natural tendency to tone things down.

Some of these expressions are not quite as broad as the roughs, but the assistant work is really good anyway. There is a lot of appeal in these cleanups and the construction is very well maintained. I've seen a lot of Disney animation that has some pretty weak cleanups.

Like they have all these fluid Disney animators do all the animation, but then send it to Dic to get the Ghostbusters crew to clean it all up in Saturday Morning cartoon style.

These faces are great. And the way she anticipates her arm gesture before she points is really cute and clever.

I wonder what Ken would do if unleashed on a more cartoony project. He manages to get a lot of life and originality in his animation, even within a corporate environment. I would love to work with him someday on my girl characters. I bet all you boys would have to keep your popcorn on your laps all through the movie.

I think I'm gonna have to break down and buy the Tarzan DVD, because I remember some unique acting scenes Ken did and want to show them to you.

He does a lot of really specific acting and expressions, expressions that you've seen real girls do, but never before in cartoons. He is a rare observer of life that is able to translate what he observes into caricature and entertainment without first filtering it through what he thinks animation is supposed to look like. That's what us animators are supposed to do...I think.