Introduction: In
this assignment, I will be discussing the development of animation. I will do
this by explaining how technological advancements throughout history have paved
the way for new techniques to be founded that have shaped the way that we see
animation to this day. The hypothesis I will be delving into is the idea that
technology can enhance how creative a piece of work can be, but creativity must
always come first for it to be successful.

Techniques:

Traditional
2-D:
Traditional 2-D animation was first used at the start of 20th century and is
still used to this day. Although the technology has been built upon to increase
realism or speed up production times, the concept is the same. The concept being
that each frame should be drawn by hand, with each frame differing a tiny
amount to give the illusion of a moving image. This concept is sometimes
referred to as persistence of vision, which was first popularised by the ‘zoetrope’
made by William Horner. Techniques like rotoscoping and cel animation
allowed traditional 2D animation to advance in terms of accuracy and realism.

Flick
Book:
Flick book animation is very simple, and can be used by almost everyone. This
is one of the oldest animation method since the technology it requires is non-existent.
This method is very time consuming, as creators must redraw a frame several
times, sometimes over 100 or a 1000 per creation. It also requires a huge
amount of skill for it to look professional. Also, it is very difficult for
flick book animations to be mass produced due to the fact each page would have
to be photocopied hundreds of times, consuming both time and money. Furthermore,
the field is very limited as elements like sound can’t be introduced, limiting
its realism.

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Cel
Animation: Cel animation is a type of animation that consists of a
‘cel’ which is short for celluloid on which objects are drawn on for
traditional animation. The process for cel animation is each drawing is inked
and coloured onto cels, which are photographed and sequenced on top of a
painted background. This technique means that the animation remains constant,
something that was previously impossible as backgrounds had to be redrawn with
each new frame, causing the background to partially change as the animation
progressed.

Rotoscoping:
Rotoscoping is a technique in animation which allows for greater continuity
between frames when realism is required. Rotoscoping is a technique where
animators trace over motion picture footage frame by frame. This allows for
realistic interpretations of things like explosions and facial movement. This
made animation much easier to do, and less time consuming. Consequentially,
animation became much more popular since you didn’t have to be so talented to
make a realistic looking animation. This led to rushed and uncreative
productions, examples of which will be explored further in the section, history
of 2D animation.

Drawn
on film: This is when footage is produced directly onto film. This
bypasses cel animation completely, as instead animators would use either blank
(undeveloped) or black (developed) film and lay the film reel across a work
surface with it fixed in place. The animator can then create their own image,
frame by frame, onto their film. This process works with very small images, so
a talented animator is required to pull it off. A great deal of precision is
accuracy is needed to make the animation look good. Often, the images will
appear scribbly and wobbly, an effect often associated with drawn on film
animation. However, there are many advantages to using this process in that it
is relatively cheap and cheaper in the regard that it doesn’t require camera
arrays, expensive cels or software. The technique also forces animators to be
creative and original, with no two drawn on films animations being alike.

Digital techniques: In
the last 30 years, digital techniques have advanced so much that they have
taken over the animation industry. With software like Adobe Animate, anybody
can make an animation from their own home with relative ease and showcase them
to the world.

Stop
motion (Claymation): Stop motion is a simple, yet effective, form
of advertising that has been popularised by production companies like Aardman
animations who have made productions including Wallace and Gromit and Chicken
Run. These productions are beloved my many and prove that Claymation is a
legitimate, good way of making productions. However, most production companies
favour traditional digital techniques of animation, since it is very time
consuming to sculpt the models required for Claymation productions.

History:

Cave
Paintings: The first evidence of narrative imagery dates back to
cave paintings. Narrative imagery,
simply put, is pictures everyone can understand. Narrative imagery can also be
dated back the Roman times with specific pottery being patterned with narrative
imagery. not only has narrative been said to be as far back as the cave
paintings, but also sequential narrative imagery, which is when a series of
pictures can be put together to tell a story An example of sequential narrative imagery was the Bayeux tapestry.

 

 

Birth of photography: There
were little advancements in terms of sequential imagery throughout history
until the birth of photography, which used technology to enhance the effect of
narrative sequential imagery. This was because it allowed artists to produce
more accurate, true to life imagery. An example of this is when, in 1878,
Eardweard Muybridge discovered, using technology, that horses jump
fully in the air when they run. He did this by taking a series of sequential
photos of the horse and examining them. This was huge because, since then,
horses have often been illustrated with all four legs in the air while running.
This shows how technology enhances creativity, as it allows art to be more
realistic which in turn means an artist can increase elements of fantasy.
Muybridge was advancing on the work done by William Horner, who
invented the Zoetrope around the time 1833-34. The zoetrope is
a cylinder with holes in the side and a series of sequential images inside.
When spun, the cylinder gives the effect of a moving image. This effect is
called the persistence of vision. This effect would prove to be the basis of
animation as we see it today, and it started with the zoetrope.

Gertie
the Dinosaur (1914): The next advancement came from Winsor
McCay who created the first stop motion animation for mass audiences.
Arguably, this legitimized animation for the mass audiences, showing that is
was possible. Gertie was the first character created specifically for
animation, with some arguing that it paved the way for characters like Mickey
Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Bambi.

Steamboat
Willie (1928): Disney and a company called Iwerks
worked together to produce this feature in 1928. The reason this was such an
advancement was because it was the first sound synchronised animation. This was
huge, and showed the potential animation had. Animation was able to synchronise
sound into their productions before film. This is another example of how the
advancements in technology have enhanced creativity. This is because the
introduction of sound into animations makes them more accurate, allowing
creators to make their productions more fantasy. Walt Disney himself explains
this by saying “All cartoon characters
and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy
and fable.”1

In 1914-1918, there was a massive
advance in technology founded by Max Fleischer, rotoscoping. Rotoscoping
was massive because it meant artists could essentially trace over real photos
in order to make their animations. This drastically increased realism as it
allowed things like timing and anatomy to be more accurate.  rotoscoping allowed animators to make much
more realistic images. However, it was still almost impossible to make humans
look lifelike. Over the next hundred years, animators would try and animate
humans as little as possible, with animals being preferred. The reason for this
can be summarised perfectly by the famous animator Shamus Culhane using a
quote from his book, ‘Animation: from script to screen’
“The big problem that one has to
face is the fact that everybody in the audience is going to be an expert on how
humans move. This makes it pointless to attempt to use rotoscope or any other
device to imitate human action. I believe the answer lies somewhere in working
out a mode of movement that is edited action, just the way that the animals in
Bambi and the dwarfs in Snow White were. An audience will accept any
convention, any point of view, as long as it is carried out consistently”
This adds onto the idea that animators can be as creative as they want, and
make whatever they want, no matter how unrealistic, as long as the animation is
consistent and the small details are respected. Rotoscoping would prove to have
many other negatives, especially during the next 50 years or so.

Snow
White: Disney created the first cel
animated, cinematic film in 1937, with Snow White and Seven
Dwarfs. This further legitimized the idea of feature length animation films
being monetized, which is something Disney capitalized on over the next 50
years allowing Disney to become the conglomerate they are today. Snow White was
critically acclaimed and made a huge profit, and Disney wanted to make more
animated features. However, cel animation was very time consuming. Rotoscoping
offered a solution to this problem.

However, there was some controversy that came with the
advancements of 2D animation. Specifically, Ralph Bakshi received a huge
amount of criticism for his work in the animation industry. Bakshi felt that
animation had more potential than to be just for kids, he believed there was
more to animation. Between 1969-72, Bakshi created ‘Fritz
the cat’ which dealt with more ‘mature’ themes. This caused outrage
among some who believed it to be distasteful and not in line with what
animation represented. However, that wasn’t the only Bakshi production that was
surrounded by controversy, his feature With Apologies Coonskin (1973-75)
challenged racial stereotypes and was criticised heavily for it.

The rise of rotoscoping greatly improved the quality of
animation, and allowed animators to be more creative. However, it also meant productions
were rushed and rotoscoping was overused. Another Bakshi production, Wizards
(1977), overly used rotoscoping due to time constraints.  Another one of his productions, Lord
Of The Rings (1978), also had the same problem and in some cases
footage of real actors were used with the solarised effect.

It wasn’t also Bakshi criticised for overuse of
rotoscoping, Disney has also been seen to have recycled scenes in their movies.
In the 1960’s, Disney was huge due to their earlier work on Snow White and other
productions. The fact Disney was so successful meant they released more
productions. Between 1967 and 1977, Disney released 4 productions. Animation
takes time, and Disney were under a busy schedule. In order to release their
productions in time, Disney were forced to rely heavily on rotoscoping. This
can be seen in their productions as there are countless examples of recycled
scenes in Disney productions.

Animation transformed as we know it in 1986, when John
Lasseter made Luxo Jr. This short showcased a lamp
moving, appearing alive. This effect is called anthropomorphism, which is when
inanimate objects appear alive. The production made use of recent digital
techniques an consequentially Luxo Jr. was the most realistic animation to
date, which paved the way for companies like Pixar to work with Disney
to produce films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc.

Motion
Capture and Performance Capture:

This leap made techniques like motion and performance
possible. Motion consists of movement of the body. It involves a suit with
silver balls which allow recording of the z-axis which allows running and
movement to be recorded. This allowed the game and film industry to converge in
terms of how they were produced. Performance capture regards acting done on the
face, examples of where this technique have been used are for the Lord
of the Rings trilogy, specifically used for actor Andy Serkis for his
portrayal of Gollum. The director of these films, Peter Jackson, knew that
technology wasn’t advanced enough in 2001 to successfully pull off performance
capture. It’s for this reason he stuck for motion capture for Gollum in Fellowship
Of The Ring. In 2002, when technology had advanced, Jackson used
performance capture to depict Gollum. Some argue that performance capture represents
a new age for performers, with some going so far as to say in the future the
majority of films will use performance capture. Serkis himself said ‘Performance capture is a tool that young
actors will need in the next 10, 20 years.’ 2 However, performance acting
is a very new thing, and many people don’t fully understand it, with some
thinking it is easier than traditional acting. Andy Serkis also stated ‘Everybody thinks performance capture is
about thrashing around and doing lots of movement, but it’s actually about
being able to contain and think and be believed in a close-up, as much as
anything else’. Serkis is an incredibly creative performer who uses the
advancements in technology to further enhance his creativity.

Beawolf
(2007) was a film directed by Robert Zemikis which
strived to create a feature length motion capture film. However, the technology
wasn’t advanced enough for it to look lifelike, which was the direction it
wanted to take. This meant it slipped into a territory known as the ‘uncanny
valley’. This term is described when humanoid objects look almost
exactly like humans, giving the feeling of eeriness. Blogger, Andrew
Bloom explained it as “creepier
and more unsettling than anything the film actually intended to be scary. The
uncanny valley is ever present, with characters who are too exaggerated to seem
like real human beings, and too realistic to have the outsized plausibility of
a cartoon character. In fact, many of the film’s characters look like
animatronic robots wearing stretched-out human skins, with movements that feel
like the unnerved twitches of an electrified corpse.” However, Beawolf
wasn’t the only example of a film that got trapped in the uncanny valley. The
2000’s represented a time of huge technological advancements, especially in the
animation industry. This resulted in many companies wanting to make use of
this. Specifically, Warner Bros who produced The Polar Express in 2004.
This backfired as many viewers felt unnerved by the look of the film,
specifically the characters eyes were described as looking lifeless and empty.

James
Cameron’s Avatar (2009): This film came up with a creative
solution to this restraint that technology was providing. This was by making
the characters alien, bypassing the human element. The movie was a massive
success and the avatar characters are still acclaimed and considered realistic
to this day.

Another example is CD PROJECTS RED’s Witcher 3(2015)
which also bypassed the uncanny valley.

Today, there are several successful TV shows that utilise
the benefits of animations. Animations allow stories to be told that would be
almost impossible, or at least very expensive, to make. TV shows like the Simpsons
were the first to catch on to this. They used the benefits of animation to tell
jokes that other jokes couldn’t. Arguably, that is why it is to successful
today.  Other shows include Family
Guy, Rick and Morty and South Park.

?Conclusion:

In conclusion, the advancements in technology over the last
100 years has changed the way animation. Due to these advancements, animations
today are lifelike and can tell a whole range of stories. Not only that, but
they can be mass produced in a quick time. The Simpsons and Family
Guy both have over 600 episodes with them both making more each day.
This is great with regards to the consumer, as it gives them a huge amount of
choice of genre and style among other variables. In the future, animations will
only get more and more lifelike as well as faster to produce. Shows like Rick
and Morty prove that there is still a massive market for animation in the
modern day world, and many companies will try and recreate this success leading
to even more productions for consumers to watch. The advancements in technology
not only mean big companies and consumers can benefit, but so can skilled
creators. With the tools that technology have provided, any creative animators
can make a feature and post it online for the world to see. Arguably the reason
shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons are so successful is their disregard of
modern technology like rotoscoping. These shows have instead relied of
creativity to push their ideas forward, with technology just acting as a medium
to allow them to do this.

 

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