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Welcome to Ed Hooks – Acting for Animators

Ed Hooks kicks off his expert blog on AWN by talking a bit about the genesis of his work teaching acting to animators as well as inviting readers to pose questions or comment about their experiences dealing with subjects like the connections between thinking, emotion and physical action.

Let’s talk about acting!  But, introductions first, for those AWN visitors who may not know me or my work,   For almost thirty years, I was a professional actor working in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  I’ve appeared in upward of one hundred television shows, usually in co-star or guest-star roles, plus a few movies and a lot of stage plays.  Somewhere along the way, I also started teaching professional level acting classes and have had many working actors come through the workshops. 

I came to animation through one of those random convergences of opportunity, talent and timing.  It was in 1996 that I was invited to teach acting to the animators at PDI/DreamWorks in Palo Alto, California, mainly because I was teaching acting in San Francisco, and Ken Beilenberg, a Special Effects genius at PDI, was studying acting with me.  It is all Ken’s fault.

After initially screwing up the classes at PDI/DreamWorks by trying to teach acting to animators the same way I taught it to stage actors, I finally sat down and let some of the animators show me how they do what they do.  It was my first introduction to your kind of magic and, pun intended, I was hooked.  The good people at PDI paid me to experiment with ways to teach acting to animators, and I will forever be grateful to them and the animators who endured my early learning curve.  In due time, I figured out that animators do not perceive or apply acting theory the same way that stage actors do.  The primary variable is that stage actors work “in the present moment,” while animators work with an illusion of a present moment – 24 frames make a second.  Animators do not need to learn voice projection, relaxation techniques or how to stimulate themselves in the present moment.  Animators need to know the connections between thinking, emotion and physical action; they need to understand theatrical structure, the way that performance relates to story and how both relate to the audience.

Those classes at PDI/DreamWorks set me on a journey that has been a sort of Mister Toad’s Wild Ride.  Many thousands of animators have taken my master class in Acting for Animators, and I have taught at most major studios and game companies.  Each year, I travel internationally to participate in animation events such as FMX in Germany and Animex in England.  I have become friends with some of the most talented and exciting artists in the world and, to put a button on it:  I realize that I am a very lucky fellow.

My least favorite thing to do is lecture.  I much prefer to discuss acting theory with you, so I’m not likely to give many tutorials in this AWN blog.  Ask me questions.  Challenge me.  I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, and I welcome your views.  I am a blog virgin, so you’ll have to help me out.  Let’s talk about acting!

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