Archive for February 2012

Blog #5: Character development in Animation

February 29, 2012

Hey guys, so for this post I’m going to talk breifly about character development, which is one of my favorite parts of story telling, especially for an animated film or show.  Character development is important for a story because it has the potential, if it is done right, to make a character, especially an animated one memorable to the audience.  Also, I believe that tv shows and film series (meaning movie trilogies and the like) are the best ways in which to watch a character develop mainly because the audience gets to watch the character grow for a longer period of time.  Now I think watching the development of animated characters is more interesting than with live-action shows or movies is because with a live actor, it’s easier to pull off since we can see a real person reacting to certain things and situations as opposed to an animated character who is often only as good as the person voicing him or her performs.  With an animated character, the voice of the character is where the audience gets to connect, the audience doesn’t have the fine facial expressions of a live actor to play off, but predominantly they must hear the voice to understand the animated character.

The one specific character that I chose to focus on for this post is Prince Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender, and I chose Zuko because I thought that the animators of the show did a good job in developing the character and personality of Zuko as the series progressed.

 (Prince Zuko)

For those of you who don’t know, at the start of Avatar The Last Airbender Prince Zuko is a banished prince of the Fire Nation who is hellbent on finding and capturing Aang, the Avatar who is the incarnated spirit of the world, in other words the Avatar is the last, best hope for the world that is currently fighting a 100 year war against the Fire Nation, which seeks to rule the world.  Zuko was given this task by his father, the Fire Lord, in order return from his banishment and in turn reclaim his right as heir to the throne. For the majority of the series, which lasts for 3 seasons called Books, Zuko is driven by his strong desire to earn back his father’s love and favor and he carries the personality of a selfish, quick-tempered, and brutal person who clings to the noble but false hope of earning his father’s approval.  On his journey, Zuko is accompanied by his Uncle Iroh who is a kind, patient, and humorous man, and he is one who acts as a true and honest father figure toward his nephew Zuko, however it takes quite a while for Zuko to come to this realization.  And, it is when Zuko finally comes to this realization ,and chiefly to the realization that his father will never give him the love and favor that he desires, that Zuko’s personality changes and he becomes one of the good guys.  As I watched the series, it was quite amazing to see the growth of Zuko, especially toward the middle and end of the series because during this time I, and the rest of the audience, got to see the struggles that Zuko goes through in order to discover who he really is and what he is really meant to do in his life.  And finally, I thought that the voice actor for Prince Zuko did a wonderful job in conveying Zuko as the scarred (no pun intended) character that he truly is, both internally and externally.

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Blog #4: Characterization Inanimate Objects

February 22, 2012

Hey everybody, for this post I’m going to talk about the characterization that animators give to characters which are, in real life, inanimate objects.  I often wondered from watching movies like Beauty and the Beast(1991), The Brave Little Toaster (1987), and Cars (2006), all of which feature characters that are, in reality, inanimate objects, how the animators went about giving each of the characters unique personality traits.  For example with the movie Cars, I’d ask myself why was Lightning McQueen, a racecar, giving the personality of a self-centered, prima donna athlete, and what is it about something like a racecar that made the animators arrive at the decision that the personality traits of a prima donna athlete were a perfect fit for Lightning McQueen.  The conclusion that I have since arrived at, sort of, is that certain human characteristics are applied, by animators, to certain inanimate objects because these objects, in the animator’s eyes and in the eyes of people in general, have come to be associated with a certain type of human occupation, stereotype, attitude, etc. So in simpler words, animator’s will often give inanimate objects the characteristics of whatever human thing they are often associated with.  So in Cars, Fillmore, the hippy van, is given the stereotypical characteristics of a hippy because of the real life relationship of that van model to the hippy movement and counterculture.

  (Cars)      (Beauty & The Beast)

Now that we’ve seen how animated cars are given character traits for an animation, I wanted to look a go to Beauty and The Beast for a moment to see how and why the household objects of that movie are given the traits they posseess.  As I am sure most of us know. the movie of Beauty and the Beast is about a rude prince who is turned into a montrous beast by a witch so that he made learn true love, and who then meets a girl named Belle who eventually frees him.  As Belle stays with the Beast, she comes to know the Beast’s many servants, all of whom have been turned into household objects by the same spell that turned the prince into the Beast.  Each of these characters are given differing personalities that are unique to each of them,  and the object the each servant is turned into gives the audience a hint at what role that servant performs in the Beast’s castle.  Well to give a good example for this, many of which the movie provides, Mrs. Potts, who shows up as a teapot, is given the personal charactistics of an old maidservant, which can be seen by her British-maid accent and by the frilled lid of her teapot, which is usually seen as a maid’s cap.  It can almost clearly be recognized that the animator’s of this movie knew to give a teapot the mannerisms and characteristics of an old maid since teapots and serving tea are generally associated with the usual, daily tasks of a maidservant. So, this is just something fun to look out for the next time any of you decide to watch an animated movie or show in which some of the characters are inanimate objects.

Blog #3: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Recommendation)

February 15, 2012

Hey guys, okay so for this week’s post, I wanted to make a sort of pitch or recommendation to you about a fantastic animated movie called Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm (1993).  Mask of the Phantasm comes out of the Emmy Award winning Batman: The Animated Series tv show which ran from 1992-1995, and was created by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, both of whom wrote and directed the movie as well (Batman). The main plot of the movie, Mask of the Phantasm, revolves around Batman being wrongly implicated in a series of murders of mob bosses which are actually being done by a new vigilante assassin (Phantasm).  So, for this post, I’m going to explain one of the aspects that drew me to it and why I recommend  the movie to you guys.

 (MaskOfThePhantasm)

Mask of the Phantasm, to sum it all up, really captures the essence of, first, the Batman universe, and secondly it captures what and who Batman/Bruce Wayne is.  In other words, Mask of the Phantasm, along with Batman: The Animated Series, captures the dark mood and serious tone that one would expect from a Batman story.  Furthermore, the characters are each great to watch and the voice actors do an amzaing job playing them and giving them life, especially Mark Hamill who voices the Joker, and even more especially Kevin Conroy who voices Batman/Bruce Wayne.  Conroy most of all jumps out by way of his portrayal of Bruce Wayne who, in Mask of the Phantasm, is having flashbacks of how he came to be the Dark Knight, which is a sideplot to the overall plot described earlier in this post.  The creators and writers, and especially Conroy, did an excellent job in carrying out this highly emotional subplot because they were able to really hammer home how much of a big decision Bruce Wayne had before him, for on one hand he had the choice of getting married and starting a family and living a happy life, thus throwing aside his desire to avenge his parent’s death by fighting crime, whereas on the other hand, he could choose to embrace the immense task of fighting crime and injustice in Gotham City in order to protect the innocent, which would, in his mind, negate the prior choice.  Watching Bruce go through the emotional turmoil that he did was quite amazing to watch as it captured the sheer immensity and difficulty of the choices he had before him, and it was also thought-provoking as well because, while watching this sequence, it raised the question of: If faced with a hard, life-changing choice, as Bruce Wayne was, what would I, or any of us, do?

Also, since in class today, we talked about how modern animators have involve various story and plot device, such as emotional appeal, I thought that recommending Batman; Mask of the Phantasm to you guys would be a very appropriate piece of animation to check out, largely because of strong emotions that this movie features, in additon to the great characterizations, performances, music, etc.

Here are just two clips that I thought would be good at showing the amazing and emotional performance displayed in the movie:

Phantasm Clip #1

Phantasm Clip #2

Blog #2: It’s All in the Eyes…of Anime

February 8, 2012

Okay so I wasn’t too sure about what to talk about for this blog, but lucky for me a topic presented itself.  Today, I’m going to be talking al little about how animators are able to have their characters express emotion through the character’s eyes.  My primary focus will be on the way the eyes are often drawn for characters of Japanese anime shows and films.  Anime, which is an abbreviation for the word “animation”, is often used as blanket term for the Japanese style of motion-picture animation, and it is often characterized by  by highly stylized, colorful art, futuristic settings, violence, and sexuality (Dictionary.com).  Many popular anime includes Cowboy Bebop, the Dragon Ball series, Pokemon, etc.

(DeviantArt.net)

Now, for anyone who, like myself, has ever watched an anime show or film, a very noticable “anime characteristic” is how big the eyes are for each of the characters.  For example, the eyes of Ash Ketchum, the main character in the Pokemon series, are pretty big compared to the eyes of a real person, and they are quite the dominant feature of his face.  So one could ask his or herself: what’s with the big eyes?  Well, the big eyes are used by the animators so that the characters they create can express their emotions in a more obvious and exaggerated manner.  For example, when the anime character is meant to show the emotion of happiness or joy, his or hers eyes close, then the eyes are raised up slightly, and they appear as two little hills (see the picture above for a better look).  This of course goes in line with the exaggeration-of-features technique which is used by animator across the globe in order to, among other things, express emotions through the animated character.  As the famous animator Walt Disney once said, and I paraphrase, “If the character is to look sad, make him look even sadder.” and this quote captures exactly the point and reason why a major characteristic of Japanese anime are the big eyes which pretty much all of its characters possess.

Post #1: Character Appearance

February 1, 2012

Hey guys, so on the first day of class,which was the 24th of January, we talked a little about how characters in an animation are drawn and made to look in order to tell us something about the character’s personality.  I mainly wanted to focus on, in this post, the differences between how the hero characters are drawn as opposed to the villains.

 Photo Retrieved from Tumblr

As a fairly good example, I’m using this picture of Mufasa and Scar, from the Disney Classic movie, The Lion King.  This picture gives a good contrast between the look of the villian, Scar, and the look of the hero, or one of the good guys, Mufasa.  As you can see the villain, who is Scar, has generally an uglier and less favorable appearance as opposed to his brother, Mufasa who has a more “kingly,” and mighty appearance, which is most signified by his scarlet mane and bright golden and groomed fur coat .  Scar’s features, as with many other animated villains, are meant to hit home the point and help remind the audience that he is the antagonist of this particular story.   Furthermore, Scar features many of the classic physical traits of a villainous character and these include his yellowish eyes, his more sinister looking face, his little pointed goatee, his scar, and of course his black mane.  The black color of Scar’s mane, for me, is the most telling villainous feature of his, and, in a way, Scar’s black mane harkens back to the old western films where the bad guys wore the black hats to hint at and reminds the audience who to bad guys were.  Now to finish up, Mufasa’s appearance, as I said earlier, is more favorable and more kingly compared to Scar.  Mufasa has a healthier, tidier, more-filled out look compared to Scar, and, repeating what I said earlier, he bears the kingly features of a scarlet mane and a bright gold fur coat. Unlike Scar, all of Mufasa’s features are meant to convey to the audience his mighty, kingly, and heroic nature and personality