The Art Babbitt Classical Animation Course – Page 2

The pressures of “time” and “economics” have so bastardized the medium, we have even forgotten how to stumble.

The generation of fine animators spawned at Disney’s in the 1930 -1940 period is fast vanishing. Hopefully some of you, some day, will not only restore the craft to its status of forty years ago – but will carry it far beyond its past glories. Hopefully, you will approach your tasks with imagination, inventiveness, curiosity, fine taste, artistry and integrity.

What are the necessary qualifications for an aspiring animator?

The ability to draw – with facility – in a professional manner: “if you can’t draw – forget it”.

He must possess an inquiring, inventive mind.

He must have the will and discipline for very hard work.

He must be a sensitive, discerning, convincing actor – frustrated or otherwise – who expresses himself, his ideas, his conclusions, his observations by means of his pencil.

Animation and facility in drawing are as inseparable as control of the voice, the body and the mind are in acting. The parallels are innumerable.

An animator must possess a curiosity about everything that exists or moves.

He should be well read on subjects as diverse as “Building a House”, “Rousseau and the Revolution” and Stanislavsky’s “My Life in Art”.

He must be acquainted with music … all kinds … from Gregorian Chants to the latest hits on the record charts.

He must have travelled – actually or at least vicariously – and observed intensely the varying customs, mannerisms and sounds that prevail in strange lands.

He must inhabit the theatre, and saturate his mind with every detail he hears and witnesses. He can pay his respects to Shakespeare, but he must not pass up Beckett.

He should attend the ballet – modern as well as traditional – and consider the relationship between action, colour, volumes, composition and music. He should be able to distinguish a Pas de Deux from an Entrechat – or a Tour en l’air from an Arabesque.

He should observe and absorb the artistry of great pantomimists, like Marcel Marceau … or of secondary stature, like our too little appreciated Red Skelton.

He should study motion pictures – for even the worst contains encyclopaedias of information for an observant animator. He must possess at least a cursory knowledge and an appreciation of all kinds of art. From Rembrandt to Jackson Pollock – from Breughel to Picasso – from Rowlandson to Ronald Searle.

In sum – an animator must be a student of everything that might or does exist. From the shiver of a blade of grass, affected by an invisible breeze, to the behaviour of a starving hobo eating the first steak he has had in years. From a baby, tentatively trying to walk for the first time, to an elephant doing a can-can.

Art Babbitt teaching at Richard Williams Animation.

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