Monday, November 13, 2006

Brad Bird on Animation

The N.Y. Times Magazine had an article entitled "How to be Funny." Comedy and the N.Y. Times are something of an oxymoron; they don't call the newspaper "the gray lady" for nothing. However, they solicited contributions from stand-up comics, writers, etc, and did include one contribution from our neck of the woods.

How to Draw Funny Pictures
By Brad Bird, creator of “The Incredibles”

Because animation is a relatively complicated process, and because it is not spontaneous, it is often mischaracterized as purely mechanical. In reality, and at its best, the art of character animation exists somewhere between silent comedy and dance. Its success depends on finding a physical expression that is recognizable yet beyond what occurs in real life.

Fred Astaire had unusually large hands and learned how to use them in a way that made his dance more dynamic; he’d fold his hands for most of a routine, then flash them out for accents at key points. Their sudden increase in size made those moves pop in a way that other dancers couldn’t match. Animators use tricks like this all the time in ways that the audience never sees but always feels. Bugs Bunny, imitating the conductor Leopold Stokowski in concert, will violently raise his arms in onetwelfth of a second (two frames of film). Every part of his body will be rock-still — save for Bugs’s quivering hand.

It is impossible for a living being to do this, but not for Bugs. He is truly Stokowski, more Stokowski than Stokowski was himself, because Bugs is the impression of Stokowski: his power, his arrogance, his supreme control over his musicians, perfectly boiled down to its essence. We laugh because it is completely unreal and utterly truthful in the same moment.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

It's an interesting post. I agree with Brad that animators are more akin to dancers than to actors. The silent comedy reference is also apt.