Showing posts with label Ed Hooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ed Hooks. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Ed Hooks on Hollywood Animation

Ed Hooks is an actor and acting teacher who has run workshops for animators.  He has a monthly newsletter where he talks about animated acting and comments on animated films.  This is from his latest:
"Even a cursory glance at the evolution of feature animation in the United States reveals a lack of thematic diversity. Walt Disney started out making movies for children, and that is still pretty much the situation today. For one brief moment in history, it looked like John Lasseter and his Pixar crew were  going to break the mold. "Toy Story" was for adults, as was "Monsters Incorporated", "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille".  These movies worked for the kids in the audience, but they had adult themes and featured characters with adult wisdom. Pixar gave Hollywood animation a real Camelot moment. But then Disney bought Pixar, and we are back where we started, with movies for kids. The stories invariably are about  good vs. evil, virginal first love or non-life-threatening bravery. There is definitely sufficient talent in Hollywood to handle tough adult-world issues, but there is more money to be made with kids' movies and their tentpole merchandising opportunities."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ed Hooks on Avatar

Ed Hooks is the author of Acting for Animators. While his own background is not in animation, he's identified many things that animators need to be thinking about while doing their work.

One point that he's made is that the quality of a performance is based on the script supplying the necessary foundation for building a character. In his February 2010 newsletter (scroll down for the relevant material), he talks about the shortcomings of Avatar's script from an acting standpoint.
Zoe Saldana is Neytiri, the Na’vi female lead. She has been raised in a kind of New Age Garden of Eden. The Na’vi spend a lot of time tuning into trees, plants and their spiritual vibes. But what are Neytiri's personal values? The script really doesn’t say. In her first scenes, she's helping chase off those pesky humans. But then, in the second act of the script, she befriends the fake Jake avatar and gets romantic. And, at the very end of the story, she slays the dragon, Col Quaritch. You look through the script again and again, searching for clues about Neytiri's values, childhood, former love life…anything at all that might help. Not much there. She’s a Na’vi princess, that’s all, and she does what Na’vi princesses do. She is reactive to the events that happen to her. It is difficult to find her objectives. The transitions in her character don’t really work.
I found this essay particularly interesting in light of James Cameron's complaints that the actors in Avatar were passed over for Oscar nominations. Cameron specifically mentioned Zoe Saldana as being ignored. Cameron's view was that the technology involved was somehow seen as cheating, but as Hooks points out, the problem was not the technology, it was the script.

Hooks criteria could, and should, be applied to recent animated features, many of which suffer from the same shortcomings. While animation artists are constantly asserting "story, story, story!" the truth is that their understanding of story is lacking. Too many animated films have a disconnect between personality and plot, where characters do things based on the needs of the plot rather than the needs of the character.