How to Succeed in Animation
OK. Now Alex Marshack pointed out, many of those beautiful paintings have been made maybe a half-mile deep inside the caves. Why did those early artists do that when it must have been enormously difficult for them? It proves that even so-called primitive, hunter-gatherer societies felt it important enough to feed artists who drew and painted in what was usually pitch darkness! It certainly proves that they were able to produce light. Hollowed stones have been found inside the caves, which were probably oil lamps. They also had to be able to bring in drawing and painting utensils, to make scaffolding, and to mix colors on the spot.
Flattened areas of stone have been found with enough residues to indicate they were used as palettes. But it can be assumed that they did not drag all those animals in there to use as models! Yet these paintings are marvelous examples of drawing skill by any standard. These were trained artists! What is especially fascinating to an animator is seeing that many of the drawings were attempts to convey an image of motion!
But this was a time of primitive and exceedingly difficult life, when just staying alive and hunting for food was the predominate need. But yet they felt it necessary to support "professional" artists! From this we have to assume that these so-called cave men had a more advanced social organization than we might have thought, and that they were able to bring in a surplus of food, and that not every man or woman had to spend full time scrabbling for existence - that the society 35,000 years ago could support and train artists!!! But why? It must be that these people had a culture and a lore they wished to preserve, to pass on - a need to tell stories!
What more imprinting way could there have been for those people to inculcate their youth with the legends and lore of their community and tribe than to lead them into the enveloping darkness of a cave, to a deep, forbidding gallery, always the one that was the most sound resonant, (Cave-age Surround Sound!), and in flickering oil lamp light, illuminating wondrous images, tell the tribal tales in an atmosphere of guaranteed attention. They could’ve been the first "animated movie presentations!”
So we can see that though the technology of animation has changed a bit in the last 35,000 years, the aim is the same: to tell stories in the most dramatic, riveting, and attention-holding way we can. Technical advancements come thick and fast in our times, but we mustn’t let them rule our work as a thing unto themselves. Technology is an ever-evolving tool, but our use of it must always be the same: to tell our story!
If you learn anything, learn to keep the clarity of what you are saying, or the gag you are presenting. Don't fall victim to the mannerisms of the moment, or let technique smother your story!
In our art/craft of animation, in order to truly win our audiences hearts, we should aim not just to make our characters move, but to make them live – or seem to live – to project an inner life that motivates their actions, and make those actions plausible. I wish I could say that I ever truly accomplished that… but I was a UPA man at heart. I have always valued strong stories and humanity, but in animation, I had other goals, guided by graphics, symbols, and stylisation. That has its place, and my successes nicely balanced my failures… but I have grown in my understanding of what animation is all about.
Our audience is made up of humans, and we must respond to human expectations.