My Intro to Animation

Like most kids growing up, I watched cartoons, animated movies and collected comic books and strips with my brothers. We’d rush home after school to watch the afternoon cartoons and wake up to catch the Saturday morning ones. We’d draw characters from shows, movies, super heroes and games. This opened us up to the world of art.

It was fun but nothing I took seriously until I remember watching the end credits of Ranma 1/2 using the theme Positive. It depicted the titular character in pencil undergoing a running animation. The credits reminded me of the old music video Take On Me by a-ha. It encapsulated everything I loved about art, but more importantly, animation. That feeling stayed with me til this day. I looked back at all the old movies and shows I watched and began to study the way characters moved and reacted.

Life Without Animation

During my time in college, I bowed to pressure from my family to major in something that would lead to “real career.” So for a time I stopped drawing, until I took an art class in my final year as an elective. One art work that stood out was a piece by Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2.” While abstract, the portrayal of motion as a sequence of images re-awoken an interest that I tried to move on from.

When I graduated and started working, it felt like there was something missing, a part of me unfulfilled. More likely there was a part of me that wanted to stop being ignored. This feeling never went away even after I moved to Florida. It didn’t help that I interned at Walt Disney World and was constantly surrounded by animation.

Rekindling My Passion

I decided to go back school to reset myself. Studied graphic design with a focus on interactive design and took a computer animation class that further reignited my passion for animation. It was kind of like learning to walk all over again but it was fun. I’m more of a traditionalist so I prefer traditional hand drawn animation. The majority of what I do is done traditionally or rather tra-digitally. There’s a special beauty to seeing artwork come to life. Animating a walk cycle and a bouncing ball is tedious but the end result will wow you every time!

Starting from scratch, I learned about famous animators such as Don Bleuth, Glen Keane, Milt Kahl, John Lasseter, Ollie Johnston, Hayao Miyazaki and Richard Williams. I purchased how to books from Preston Blair, Richard William’s Animator Survival Guide, and countless art books from animated movies. The Illusion of Life was another great help. What’s also great is using yourself and others as references. There were many times I had to act out a motion to get it right. I grew up watching their works and loving just how their characters jumped from paper with more personality and sense of presence than can be captured in reality. Recreating that someday was and remains my goal. Glen Keane is without a doubt my favorite animator. The richness of his lines, the personality his drawings evoke and the feelings conveyed by merely pressing the pencil harder continues to leave me in awe.

And now…

Of course these days we use tablets but the feeling is understood. The toughest thing is finding a program that fits my preference. I’d like something to feel as close to pencil and paper and there are only a few out there. Clip Studio Paint aka Manga Studio is a personal favorite for illustrations and recently they’ve added a timeline which is perfect. Before that I was using Toon Boom but I found it more geared towards rigging.

I’ve never really taken a hard look at animation in games until relatively recently. I’ve since become a big fan of Paul Robertson’s sprite animations. This helped me to explore other avenues of animation beyond the big and small screens.