Posted by: Phil Anderson | April 14, 2013

Influences – Animation

I’ve always been a fan of animation, from cartoon shorts and TV series to full-length feature films. A lot of people (especially in the United States) think cartoons are just for kids, and there’s a very good reason for that: most animation studios only make cartoons for kids. So people tend to think that cartoons are just for kids, and because of that the studios create… You get the idea.

Animation is one of the first forms of entertainment we experience as children. The bright colors and simple shapes of preschool programs work well in animation. Superhero cartoons are popular with pre-teen boys, and there are numerous shows for girls. A few animated series (like The Simpsons) are even popular with adults, although those are rare. And in Japan, animation is enjoyed by people of all ages; some of their films are R-rated when they’re released in the US. But for the most part, animation is for kids and families. And I’m okay with that. I’m not a fan of needless violence, inappropriate sensuality, and vulgar language, so that makes animation a safer choice for me and my family in most cases.

Animation often inspires my creativity and writing. You can tell stories in animation that you can’t tell in any other visual media: fairy tales, talking animals, superheroes. You can create impossible worlds that couldn’t exist anywhere else. Even the most fantastical and innovative live-action movies owe most of their special effects wizardry to digital animation.

When I’m working on a story, I can write anything I can imagine. I’m not limited to places that exist or people I know. I can create my own landscapes and design my own creatures. Nothing is impossible, and the only limit is what I can make a reader believe.

Another impressive and inspiring aspect of animation is the fact that everything is created out of nothing. In a live-action film you cast actors with a certain look, and maybe use makeup to modify that look. You scout out locations that fit the needs of your movie. But in animation you start with a blank paper and you have to draw, paint, or digitally construct everything that is eventually seen on screen. You have to consider every aspect of design, from the color of the bricks in a building to the look and shape of each tree. Every motion is carefully planned. A live actor might make a facial expression without even being conscious of it, and her hair rustles in a breeze without any effort. But in a cartoon everything has to be intentional; nothing happens by accident. Someone has to think about the way fabric moves when a princess dances, the shape and angle of shadows, and the way an apple lands when it falls to the ground.

In my own writing there are many things that I have to consider as well. Some things are implied, but writing takes a lot of thought and planning. Despite the hard work, it’s very rewarding to go back and enjoy what you’ve created.

Similar to writing, animation reminds of the work that God does. Everything we see (and don’t see) is his creation, and everything that happens is under his control. The laws of physics were written by him and he invented color and light. Nothing exists or occurs by accident. I imagine that God enjoys seeing the world and the creatures he’s made, and enjoys watching us act out the story that he has carefully designed for each of us.

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