Hand Drawn Animation
I had an occasion to speak to an old friend last week. We had worked together on several projects and I had lost track of him over the last few years. He told me he had been busy working to complete a personal project he had started years before.
My friend's name is Milton Knight and he is a fine director and a wonderful animator. Though far from ancient, he is a throwback to a lot of guys I remember from the past. I think of them all as artists rather than animators, background painters or layout men. Many of these guys, and gals, just happened to use animation to express themselves but as talented as they were, commercial success was not always achieved. Their dreams and visions were not easily homogenized into mass market driven films and like many creators, they seemed willing to exchange financial success in order to follow their own paths.
But, speaking of paths, perhaps I'm straying off of this one as well....
Milton had called to say hello and to ask me a few questions about current costs for some service work he needed in order to complete his film. We had a pleasant conversation. How ya doing? How's it going? And the usual catch up stuff... When I asked about the film, Milton (Great Name) told me that he had completed everything but the ink and paint and the post and hoped to finish it soon. He had animated nearly the whole thing himself and brush inked it on animation paper. Now he needed to finish a little animation, have it scanned, painted and to complete post.
I recalled the project from several years past when we had last worked together. It was pure thirties and early forties in style and content and I had thought it had great potential so was glad to hear that he was at last getting around to finishing it. He explained that he had decided to try, dare I say a different path, to help him finish the film. He had just put the project up on kickstarter.com, a site which defines itself as a funding platform for artistic projects. If you haven't run across it you might want to check it out. The idea is to offer the public an opportunity to peruse a number of projects that are put up by their creators; such as videos, music, photography and for the most part, interesting conceptual offerings that need some amount of funding to be completed. You basically become a patron and if you're Republican and hate the National Endowment for the Arts, here's your chance to show those liberal monkeys that artists don't need government support, people like you and Standard Oil will take care of them...
Sorry, couldn't resist. What's better than to sucker punch the rich and filthy rich, then turn and run like hell.... Oh, but I'm not done here..
So, back to Milton and his passion for hand drawn animation. We talked for a bit and it became clear that he was a true believer, and a very erudite and bright one at that. In fact, he was so anxious to express himself, I asked him to reply to a few questions on the topic and to explain what he thought about the mad rush for everyone to embrace CGI. Being a nice guy and having given this whole thing more than a little thought, he agreed. Our brief exchange follows:
MV: Hand drawn animation has been around forever, why do you think there's still more there to explore?
MK: Hollywood barely dabbled in using the computer to create drawn animation and is now sinking everything into CGI of the most sterile kind. The visual possibilities of drawn animation finished through computer technologies have barely been touched.
MV: What do you find so appealing about hand drawn animation?
MK: There's a reason drawn animation has a strength all its own. I'm going to use animation graphically, use the qualities of ink line and paint and paper. This has been done only in fits and starts in the history of the form, periods of experimentation forever giving way to the usual gropes for literalism. Animation now, armed with technology, can, quickly and relatively cheaply, be bringing the likes of Maxfield Parrish or Pollock or Peter Max to glorious life. I love German Expressionism, and it is this approach...each medium worked to make emotion real...that I am applying to my animation, even within a humorous context. This is not just about art for its own sake. "Life" and "Emotion" are crucial to creating the memorable characters that form the basis of successful films. My personal model is the "Popeye" series; cartoons that entertained on all possible levels. Showmanship. Honesty is the thing. There's not enough truth in cartooning. And that is why the art originated, not as commercial entertainment, neutered for home use. Shock of shocks: Audiences are being starved for honesty! Honesty can be commercial too! Especially with a dollop of fun and fantasy to help it down.
MV: Milton, you and I have been around for awhile and seen more than a few changes in our industry. What concerns you most about our Brave New World??
MK: The role of the artist, not as a "wrist", a mere interpreter of commercial ideas, but as a worldmaker...creator, writer, designer... is being endangered. I agonize to create my own, personal solution.
Well, as you might be able to tell by these few short paragraphs, Milton Knight is a very thoughtful and passionate man who also happens to be a fine artist, animator, director and human being. If anyone would like to see his project and see how it is coming they can check it out on www.kck.st/cLaFYo - take a look...