Chapter 2: Animation -- What The Heck is It?
Beautifully stated, but it needn't be in the past tense! My feeling is that for anyone to really achieve anything in the medium, they must feel its basics in their bones. I tried to formulate my technical definition of animation without using any terms that indicate it must be on film, or any other specific medium or technology for storing and retrieving individual phases of action. It all comes down to creating and registering imagined action in the form of individual motionless increments.
I think I can tell you in a few words the basic difference between live-action films and animation films. Here it is:
In live-action, a camera records action taking place before its lens. In animation, only still images are recorded, and the "illusion of action" only takes place at the moment of projecting it on a screen, or playing it back on a visual device.
I like to point out that animation, as with music, is an art form that exists only in the dimension of time. If you press the pause button while playing recorded music, the music suddenly ceases to exist. It must have uninterrupted movement through time to exist, and that is exactly the same with animation! To animate, one must understand time and timing!
In a recent TV interview, the moderator asked me if I could choose what I'd want to be, if born again, I said, "a musician." I worship musicians as the true cultural magicians. I can do a lot of things, but I cannot sing on key, and I cannot play any musical instrument except hand drums. We are all living within various rhythms, from our heartbeat, breathing, walking. I am especially sensitive to rhythm, and I do play hand drums. I drum all the time. People think I am nervous if I tap my fingers on the table, but no, I am listening to and playing rhythms all the time. I hear everything in music, and I have had a hand in the composition of innumerable scores for my films and songs. I try to get across my ideas to the musicians I work with. I even attempt to hum to them the melodies I hear. They inevitably say, "But Gene, there are no such notes!" Frustrating. Oh, how I wish I were a musician!
I will not comment on the various styles and superficial modes and fads of animation. My point is that the basic medium is absolutely unlimited, and can contain anyone's personal vision. Animation technology is analogous to a painter's blank canvas - you can lay anything onto it, shit or shine. But I must say that the principles of animation, mainly developed at the Disney studio during one incredible decade — from 1930 to 1940 — apply to any frame-by-frame technique, be it classic cel animation, paper cut-outs, stop-motion puppets, computer generated images — whatever.
Do it your way!