Toons

(Animation - video - flicks – film – Interactive Multi Media)

If a picture can be worth a thousand words, how good does the picture have to be in order for it to take a thousand words to describe it?

text desriptions of tunes

When creating a web page there is a sometimes neglected part of the code (myself being one of the worst perpetrators of that infraction) where one should insert an “image tag” or a brief written description of what the visual is. That can be quite a task when considering any visual element could be worthy of more than a couple three or four words to describe. It can be accomplished by utilizing symbolic statements. For example, volumes have been written about Da Vince’s Mona Lisa and the sublime subtleness of how that mystifying smile is accomplished, but; just say Mona Lisa smile and practically everyone will have a good concept of what you mean. Is it the volumes that have been written or even the many discussions and lectures about that smile or is it simply the fact that most anyone who sees that painting is able to comprehend there is something really extraordinary and unique about her expression?

A visual element is usually what becomes the most lasting of impressions. When you take a picture and add motion to it the impression proliferates. A slide show or even a storyboard – comic book type of presentation can deliver a worthwhile concept but it is with well done motion that an impression is absolutely defined. Motion is captured and projected at 24 frames or pictures a second in a standard - traditional movie film. Standard video is right at 30 frames a second, more or less. What I am trying to get at here is stated most clearly in the book “Disney Animation – The Illusion of Life” by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson. There is a conversation with an actor who is looking at the individual drawings (frames) and comments that each expression and the body language displayed is a complete and very lively and understandable impression in and of itself, yet when filmed and projected it takes on a life and expression of emotion far beyond what the individual pictures can show.

The “illusion of life” is created frame by frame, pose to pose, picture to picture but does not truly happen until filmed and then projected. Like most magic there can be many, many hours that go into making a worthwhile instant happen. Consider a ‘standard’ movie. One second is 24 frames or pictures and one minute is 1440 frames and one hour is 86400 and most feature length movies are around an hour and a half so that’s around 129,600 frames or pictures. Actually it is more pictures than that because classic animation can contain many pictures or layers in a single frame, backgrounds and the characters for example and that is not even mentioning soundtracks which are also created in many layers. So how refined does that picture that only lasts one twenty fourth of second have to be?

One of the best examples of that is also a story from the classic Disney Animation Studios. There is a process in their production of animated cartoons called a pencil test. The action is quickly and roughly sketched out in pencil and filmed to get a better idea of how it will play when refined for final production. These are snippets and are often used to see how well a “gag” or quick joke will work. There was a pencil test of a quick gag that when projected had the entire staff and crew rolling on the floor with laughter. When the gag was fully rendered and placed into the production it fell flat. It took a great deal more work to get it even close to what that pencil test draft had accomplished.

So, is creating a worthwhile toon found in the highly refined draftsmanship of a classic canvas or in a fleeting swath of hastily scratched out lines? There are the productions that deliver to us each frame or picture that is rendered so breathtakingly fine as to be worthy of being placed in a golden frame and displayed in first-class museums and galleries. There are the side-splitting funny and even dramatic, highly emotional tales that are little more than stick figures. I believe it is not so much in the individual picture or rendered style, but the story and the motion and even sounds that become the emotional context that communicates it. The actual drawing itself is the tool that manifests the solid expression of an idea that is somewhere in between all those pictures and frames, just before or right after but not the picture in and of itself. How can we even begin to explain with words what a truly remarkable picture is worth? I have only used 842 words in this passage; maybe I need at least 158 more to completely describe the picture or toons I endeavor to create, one frame at a time.