Search form

The Animation Pimp: Attack of the Clones

Class is in, and the Pimp is teaching Animation 101 to students and schools that churn out cloned work.

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

Insignificant and occasionally interesting contributions to the cognition of reality

Couple months back I was visiting an animation school in the U.S. For the most part, the animation department was no better or worse than most animation schools Ive encountered: 3D animation, as usual, was pretty much short on concept oh and hey, all you fuckers who throw the word CONCEPT or CONCEPTUAL around like theyve found the lost ark can KISS MY ASS. Concept means you have an IDEA. What the fuck is non-conceptual anyway? Even the worst piece o poo poo that has crossed my eyes had a CLUE, IDEA, GOAL, CONFUGGINCEPT. OK? Can we move on now? Any questions?

Long on lip-synch (as in theft, borrowing, recycling, stealing, lifting, pilfering, taking) down the hall in the traditional department we find the latest Preston Blair/Disney wanna-be impressions; and, maybe worst of all, is the use of music. Theres nothing more annoying than watching really crappy visualizations (that means PICTURES) of really crappy Tori Amos songs or even better using the same piece of music from a recent animation. Im breathing examples of one school but Im by no means picking on them. The above criticisms can be applied to 90-95% of the so-called animation programs in existence.

Lesson #1: Throw ALL DISNEY/Warner/Preston Blair materials into an incinerator. No offense Charlie but these should NOT be taught as if theyre standard texts. I mean first off this phony attempt at realism is just that people arent soft, round figures with big wide round eyes, they come in all shapes and forms. Youd notice that if you took the time to close the book, turn off Bambi and Linkin Park and SEE the world and people around you. Its sad really because I see some stuff thats not bad, snippets of a personality but its all shot to shit when those cozy little teddy bear drawings appear. Its amazing to me that no one questions the validity of a Disney or Blair (are they the same?) drawing. Its simply taken for granted that these sources are truth; the natural essence of drawn animation. What a bunch of suckers.

Lesson #2: Its a tough call. Maybe computers and software should be junked. Clearly, people are way too fascinated with these toys to create anything interesting and most students seem to rely too much on the inherent assets of the computer so again their voice is lost to that of the limitations or controls of the software. But then I think of the interesting films like Bingo and Flying Nansen and I feel forgiving. OK how about we say that no one can animate with a computer until theyre at least 30 and have made drawn, cutout, direct, collage films. Of course then youre all out of jobs, and maybe that ain't such a bad thing.

Lesson #3: BAN THE USE OF NON-ORIGINAL MUSIC. I dont care if they make silent films or pull out their moms Casio, ANYTHING to get them more focussed on the image. YOURE MAKING A MOVIE children a medium dominated, apparently, by an image. You wanna play Moby, make me a mixed tape.

Lesson #4: HISTORY/PHILOSOPHY/ART/LITERATURE Especially a problem at colleges, students often get half-assed liberal arts courses taught by my mom or the most flexible custodian. I dont mean that they need a better animation history, something that includes more than a token appearance by the parts of the world that arent USA, but at least an introduction to the philosophy and history of parts of the world that arent USA. In one classroom I visited they had a map of the USA. Dont give me any shit about snobbery but man European students, for the most part, make us look like slobbering monkeys. They get a fairly well rounded education in the history and culture of the world. You can see it in many of the student films. Even the worst or unsuccessful films are often somewhat original.

This leads me to my biggest beef. During this particular visit I heard more than one (i.e., a few) student say in a real disturbing desperate-for-anything If I say it, itll come true manner that they were just going to be a character animator or a modeller/renderer. There was NO passion in their voices. It was like theyd resigned themselves to being a civil servant or an information systems technician. In each case, they begged off worrying about any other aspect of their work. They didnt think the other stuff mattered. Sad, sad, sad.

OK I know that the priority of a college is to prepare a student for a career, to get them a job. Its about training first and foremost. But isn't even that approach a bit sloppy? Why settle for being a one-dimensional schmuck? Its like hockey. No one I know ever dreamed of being a fourth liner. I had no visions of killing penalties or clogging up zones or becoming a low scoring defensive defense man. I doubt anyone ever did. We all wanted to be the superstars; the guys who scored the goals, who led the team, who could do ANYTHING asked of them whether it was man the powerplay, take an important draw, start fights or kill penalties. You wanted to be THE guy who could do whatever the coach called upon him to do. Not a single third or fourth line "role" player ever DREAMED of having that role.

So, I cannot understand these kids who apathetically dream of a life rendering. I cant even imagine that in the ol days anyone dreamed of being an ink-and-painter. Heck should ANYONE under the age of 30 just pin the tale and say, Thats it, thats me for the next 50 years?

Its a weird time and there are always strange circumstances. Some schools dont give a damn as long as the check cashes. That means that they accept virtually anyone who applies (and thats not a bad thing either). Finding qualified/experienced teachers is another problem especially in areas where salaries are low. Sometimes you dont get the most inspired teachers. They come to school, do their job, and leave. But hey sometimes you might have the greatest teacher right under your nose, but youre in such a seemingly apocalyptic phase that youre too angry, stupid, or drunk to recognize it. Maybe post-secondary studies should only start at 25 or 30. Spend that period traveling, living, fucking (men and women) just doin STUFF (and no I dont mean knock up a gal and get married).

What do all these grades and reviews mean anyway? These kids I met were so stressed out over these, in truth, rather well-intended but random/limited judgements. Its like Ive said before about festivals. Just because one festival rejects (and even then, maybe in another year that festival would have accepted your work) yours doesnt mean another will. School can be pretty meaningless in the long run. I remember how important it was for me initially when I could state that I had a B.A. on my CV, now I dont really care.

HOWEVER that being said even in the darkest, most decadent and seemingly pointless Pimp rants, I can still VERY CLEARLY see universitys influence on me. It just sort of snuck up on me like what lame analogy can I use: a seed blossomed into a flower? A grape into a wine? Ugh. Umm... OK... how about schools kinda like a hard-on; it can take time, but when it comes, its well worth that wait.

Lets not end so negatively. You didnt ask, but here are my picks for, not the best (what does that mean?), the most routinely interesting, provocative and original animation schools around. No particular order:

Royal College of Art (U.K.) La Cambre (Belgium) KASK (Belgium)

(Why is it that with two strong schools, Belgium really doesnt seem to have much of an animation community?)

Turku Arts Academy (Finland) Rhode Island School of Design (USA) National Film and Television School (U.K.) California Institute of the Arts (USA) Supinfocom (France)

On the horizon? La Poudriere, Ecole du Film dAnimation (France)

Honorable Mention: Emily Carr School of Art and Design (Canada)

Chris Robinson is but a man. His hobbies include squirrel taunting, goat thumping, meat dancing and elderly peeping. You can find the results at

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.