Open Letter to an Enthusiast

Of those nine drawings, probably two will be the key drawings mentioned earlier, the rest are in-betweens. Drawing the in-between pictures is quicker because you have the key poses to go by.

There are other ways of reducing the number of drawings you will need.

REPEAT CYCLE – is an action of cyclic movement that can he repeated over and over again. The walk cycle is the most common of these. Say, it takes six drawings to take a step with the left foot and six more for the right foot, if your character must go for a walk through the forest you simply repeat the ‘cycle’ of twelve drawings over and over, in fact, until you want to stop him or proceed to the next action. This form of ‘cheating’ however must never be overdone since it is boring on the eye when it involves your character – but perfectly acceptable with objects such as a windmill, or a record on a turntable, get the idea?

SQUASH AND STRETCH – you have laughed at these effects every time you have watched a cartoon film. Squash and stretch are necessary due to the fact that we are caricaturing life. Cartoon characters are totally pliable, elasticated, rubberised, boneless creations. Well, perhaps not boneless exactly, but our characters are almost replicas of the toys we used to bash about when we were children. It is their indestructibility which places them firmly in the world of fantasy wherein anything can happen, and invariably does! To stretch and squash, merely stretch and squash your four circles and draw accordingly:

issue-4-page-19Compress your character, like a coil spring, then release him and he stretches up as he jumps with arms outstretched. There is a reversal of this action on impact. You are visually distorting your character for EMPHASIS and for COMIC EFFECT. This includes ‘drag’ and ‘follow-through’.

Timing and all the other tricks of the trade can be found in books such as ANIMATION by Preston Blair and Timing for Animation by Harold Whitaker. In carefully analysing visual gags found in professional films by pulling them through frame by frame on an editing viewer; and by experiment.

You will need some form of register. Filmcraft Acme standard peg bars are ideal for the purpose. Alternatively a letter punch with widely spaced holes and pegs to fit made of wooden doweling or similar and fitted above your light box window. Or you could dispense with the pegs and draw registration crosses above and below your drawings outside the view of the camera.

O.K. – so you can make your characters move and you must now consider your backgrounds.

I suggest you stay with paper and penciled animations for your first film. Colour your drawings by all means or use coloured paper but do not attempt to proceed to the celluloid stage except to use a ‘cel’ level on which to draw your background (B/G). This was the way Felix and Bongo films were made in the ‘silent’ days. The B/G’s were drawn on celluloid and laid ON TOP of the pencil drawings. The action was arranged in the clear areas. A foreground tree, however, could be painted on the cel and its opacity would obscure characters passing behind it.

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