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Animation Speak

We use our collective “animaginations” to create life out of the very ether around us, wherever we go, through the moving and timeless art of animation.

It’s been so long since my last blog post here on AWN, it’s hard to believe that the entire infrastructure that allowed me to post my writing, ideas, and very personal points of view here in the past, is still in one piece and running flawlessly. I really have to hand it to all the folks at AWN, for making enormous positive changes to this site, while retaining the connections between artists and contributors in a very well operating and easy to use online format! Congrats to everyone at AWN for really doing a great job. It’s good to be back, and I really appreciate all you’ve done to conserve my sometimes-inconsistent work, through the years.

I began writing for AWN some years ago, 2005 to be precise, and it was what we still called a “column” back then, as if it was in a magazine, some time before the term “blog” was being widely used, or was really applicable to the way AWN was set up to report animation news at the time. The term “blogging” got its start in the early 90’s, following many years of Internet forum platforms of discussion and sharing that created running conversations with "threads.” Blogging is now one of the most prevalent forms of information dissemination in the world, and here we are, reading and writing blogs. I always thought it was a retarded word, “blog,” but then, there you go. Language. Hmmmm. Twittering has eluded me thus far, though I frequently do something akin to that with the resident birds and assorted wildlife around my pleasant country home, with its sprawling, park-like lawns rolling downward, enormous Douglas firs in small stands of three or four trees each, some over 500 years old, as well as a giant oak tree and assorted fruit and nut trees. I twitter with the animals. It’s more immediate than this flat cyber world. Direct contact, no wireless device….I revel in nature. Dig the dirt.

I’ll get back to that.

From 2005 to 2009, I wrote fifteen of these columns for AWN, under the title, “The Animated Scene” by Joseph Gilland. Then in 2010, AWN switched their format to a much more current and up to date interface and interconnectedness , introducing AWN Blogs, a forum for animation artists around the world to post elaborate and in-depth blog format articles about an infinite number of animation related topics. The world’s greatest treasure-trove actually, of contributing international animation artists of real dynamism, integrity, experience and passion, pouring their hearts into bringing the world of animation to our fingertips.

My new blog was entitled, “Elemental Alchemy, Animation Insights and Musings,” a curious title, which stands to this day. I find that in retrospect, it is a suspiciously overdone title, at least by my current more experienced literary  <ahem> standards. My youthful enthusiasm was still shining through a bit more intensely (as it frequently still does) than my tempered wisdom, back then when I concocted this lovely flowing title, to a mere animation blog, writing about current animation events and films….la dee da!

So, whipping up my alchemical brew, is a daunting task, you see. Perhaps this is why I now so discredit my previous titular inspiration, because I find it a monumental task, to live up to the promise of a written brew that promises to be alchemical in its ability to transform the reader’s animagination~!

Perhaps then, we’ll start then, by alchemically, and officially inventing and establishing a brand new animation word. I say alchemically, because, language defines how we see the world around us. Words, as symbols, put objects and our fellow living beings all around us, into “compartments” of ideological explanations as to their very natures.  Words create our reality, so to speak, and introducing a new word into the vocabulary, will have an alchemical effect, on our language, and the very nature of the things we perceive. To be used around the world, by animators of all languages, as we animated souls tend to travel like gypsies and vagabonds, around the world, we go, hither and dither, spinning intoxicating brews of language through the moving and timeless art of animation.

We use our collective “animaginations” to perform this miraculous feat, creating life out of the very ether around us, wherever we go. Where there was once nothing, we breathe life itself.

So that’s it. My new word. After much wind up about the alchemical potential of the spoken word, it’s not really the most mind boggling, interesting, elegant or particularly helpful word I could have come up with. But for some reason, when I first uttered it, I liked it enough to write about it.


OK, I know it’s not the best new word I’ve ever heard, but bear with me, maybe I can make it grow on you with literary persuasion. You see, I propose this word because my fellow animated souls, from my perspective of animated life, after almost 40 years in the animation business now…(yikes, slippery time flying…) I have come to believe, through extensive and exhaustive research, that animators think in a different way than everybody else on the planet. Especially with regards to time, and a whole lot of other things as well. Animators are unique. There is a reason we’re all smiling ear to ear when you see us at animation festivals. I go to animation events around the world, and I end up staying awake 18 hours a day, just not to miss the incredibly good company of animators, people who live and breathe a rarified air of a mad artistic obsession, put to good positive use in the service of never ending creative cartoonery of all kinds. A bunch of neurotic, frequently O.C.D. artists, (the best kind for animation’s grueling organizational demands by the way) animation artists are an incredible thoroughbred version of artist as; filmmaker/actor/wizard/comedian/storyteller/magician/painter/writer/musician AND an intensely focused “shut up and work” style laborer of unquestionable dedication and ethic.

And we get that when we’re together. We know that when we aren’t at festivals in really great cities around the world, acting like crazy outgoing artists who crave attention and company….that we’re generally sequestered away somewhere, like artistic moles in dark  little holes, we toil on our little magic moving pictures, sometimes 100 hours a week, just as a matter of fact. Introverted into our warm little wombs of animated unfolding, where we create movement where once there was none. We spin characters and magic out of thin air and release them into the manifold of reality, alive, and pregnant with even more potential at every moment, every frame, every pulsating digital electronic signal, every coded image, every tablet thereupon scrawled, every drawn upon piece of paper that we produce, animates us into the ever expanding and flowing, graceful dynamic movement of the space/time continuum. Who wouldn’t want to work 100 hours a week on a project that invigorating and exciting?

Use your animaginations. Do you see what I mean? Does it all sound strangely familiar? Use your animagination.

We also talk in such a bizarre way, us animation folk, that most “normal” people overhearing one of our conversations, would likely think that we are visiting aliens from another planet altogether. And the dialects embedded within our deeply intricate and strange circles of different animation disciplines? Incredibly varied, from late 60’s Dutch stop-motion lingo, to late 80’s Los Angeles VFX speak , to 90’s Montreal Franglimationspeak, to Japan’s cut-out variations, these are wildly different animation dialects that can take weeks of familiarization for a newbie to get comfortable with.  And with the incredibly fast and aggressive growth of the digital animation arenas, my God the language of animation has been twisted into complex dialects that are educationally institutionalized, and studio based, rather than country, or even language based!

Lately, I’ve been drawing. I’ve been drawing, a lot. I’m animating a very sweet little hand-drawn effects piece for a very special upcoming film. I actually fired up my old Disney disk, got a pile of punched paper, and I’m drawing my ass off, my lovely little pile of punched animation paper diminishing rapidly.

And I am in heaven, animating for 12 hours a day. Suddenly I am absorbed in this cartoon/time manifold so utterly and entirely demanding of my attention, that all else wanes, and my attention is laser-like on the fast flipping pages of bond. Pencil lines becoming sequential images, moving as if alive, from a simple splayed finger flipping of pages. My heart reawakens to the magic of animation every time. It is a sacred art indeed, to have this powerful effect on me, drawing me in. Effects, drawing me in, indeed.

Drawing, me, in effects, bursting forth into deep two dimensional space, as much a three dee world as any flat picture screen peering at me, with my magically dimensional pencil lines vanishing into an infinity point on my fluttering pages.

My animagination boggles at the fact that animation has literally yanked me back from straying too far into other artistic disciplines that I had always wanted to get into. And I was in fact getting into it big time, and staying very busy with writing, painting, tattooing, traveling, drawing and designing for non-animation related mediums. Though admittedly, I always was thinking, in a special part of my flipping brain, about animating every single thing that I have ever drawn or painted. I was even trying to PAINT movement, for crying out loud. I even painted flipping pages, literally. Kidding myself that these were mere echoes, remnants of my subconscious animated past, and nothing more. Little did I know that these seemingly insubstantial reverberations would come roaring back with a glorious vengeance, to wrap me up entirely with a gorgeous 2D, hand-drawn animated effects project for me to throw my eternally motion-bound imagination into animated mode once again.

We are a movement of movers, a world nation of animation, making time stretch and compress into the manifold of our imaginations.

Oh, and yes, I did say I’d get back to this. The fact that I play in the dirt daily. I am close, so very close to the earth, the grasses, our gardens, mushrooms, trees, birds, deer, critters, clouds and rain. Nature is my home. I don’t observe it through a pane, or my pain. I am of it, in it, and work through it and with it. And I love it.

Frame by frame.

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