ACTING for ANIMATORS
March, April, May 2016
I have been working on two new books simultaneously, which is why this newsletter is running late. Craft Notes for Animators: Perspectives on a 21st Century Career will be published this fall by Routledge in London, and the revised 4th edition of Acting for Animators will be out early in 2017. Both books include scene-by-scene performance analysis of several feature films, ranging from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to Pixar's Inside Out and Anomalisa. My apologies for the tardiness of my newsletters, and please keep an eye out for the new books!
Now, this item is cool! These animation puppets are made of engineering-grade polymers and have a sophisticated joint system. They are just about the neatest animation puppets I have ever seen, and you might want to check them out. Originally offered for sale as part of a successful crowd-funding thing, Stickybones is now formally going into a manufacture cycle. You can order them at this website. The price is currently set at $89 for one Stickybones.
"If there was an observer on Mars,
they would probably be amazed that
we have survived this long." Noam Chomsky
Upcoming Workshops . . .
July 14 - 16, A Coruña, Spain, Mundos Digitales
September (date to be determined), Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal
In Praise of Boy and the World
Boy and the World, the Brazilian animated feature film directed by Alê Abreu, really should have been awarded this year's Best Animated Feature Film Academy Award. If creativity were the deciding factor rather than popularity in the U.S. and box-office grosses, it would easily have beat Pixar's Inside Out, which, when viewed with a discerning eye, is riddled with flaws. The DVD is scheduled for release July 5th, and I urge you to do yourself a favor and check it out. I am so enthusiastic about this movie, in fact, that I am including a scene-by-scene acting analysis of it in the revised 4th edition of Acting for Animators, which will be published late this year or early next. For now, however, let me share with you a few superlatives:
1) The movie is about something. In an era when the big Hollywood studios make movies primarily to sell toys and other merchandise, Boy and the World is making a profound statement about the train-wreck we adults are making of the world we live in. The story is told through the POV of a 7-year-old boy who has never been off the farm. He sees — for the first time, and through a child's eyes — worker exploitation, raw commercialism, television consumerism, military power and many other manifestations of our civilized world -- all this contrasted with the simple pleasures of music and dance around a junkyard bonfire. And, ultimately, the true and most meaningful value is a loving family and a quiet moment.
2) The production budget was US$500,000. That's not a misprint. US$500,000! And it was created by only fifteen extremely talented animators. Compare this to the US$200+ million budget of the average Disney/Pixar film. I visit many countries that are trying to launch animation industries, and this is the kind of film the investors should be studying. It simply is not necessary to spend US$200 million on a movie. International producers should be working with culture-specific projects designed for international consumption, and they should be keeping the cost down. A well-told story that is targeted to a narrow demographic audience is the way to go.
3) The film has no dialogue. What Alê Abreu did was write out a script in Portuguese, backward, and then recorded that as a nonsense language. Instead of comprehensible dialogue, a brilliant musical score is how the characters communicate. A side-benefit of this creative choice is that anybody anywhere in the world can enjoy this film. You don't have to speak Portuguese.
4) It looks like it was drawn by a child with a box of crayons, using a ruler and a paper pie-plate. It is the most colorful film in Oscar competition this year, by far.
5) The film is chock full of good acting lessons. In particular, I was impressed with how Alê Abreu used the child's blinking to establish comprehension. Remember, this kid is seeing the world for the first time. He does not always immediately understand what he is looking at, and you can track his thoughts with the blinks. This is an ingenious device, in fact. Also, Boy and the World will be Exhibit-A when discussing status transactions in my Acting for Animators masterclasses from now on. The protagonist is a 7-year-old boy, and he is low-status to all adults. Nonetheless, he ventures out into the world alone. In sequence after sequence, he appears to be doing nothing more than observing, but he is in fact working very hard. The acting is theatrically valid throughout.
6) The basic narrative is about a boy's search for his father. It is not a spoiler for me to tell you that he does ultimately find him — but not in the way you might anticipate.
Boy and the World deserves a large audience. So far, hardly anybody outside of Brazil has seen it — including, I suspect, most of the Academy voters who knee-jerked for Inside Out — and I hope my enthusiasm will help turn the tide. The animation industry is definitely becoming less Hollywood-centric. The animation art form has been successfully commercialized by the major studios. Now it is ripe for creative development. We need more feature animation for adults. Boy and the World is a good start.
Until next month...
Copyright © 2012-2017 Ed Hooks