I was THIS CLOSE to giving up on the 11 Second Club challenge this month. Couldn’t get my concept to flow smoothly within the audio. After thirteen days of struggling, it was high time to doodie or get off the pot!
There are several ways I go about producing an animation. Sometimes magic is involved and a brilliant idea falls in my lap. Other times, and usually, I have to really work at it. But no matter the process, the first step is always the same: seek help!
I’d recently watched the 2-episode, 4 hour documentary: American Experience | Walt Disney and I highly recommend it if you’re into that kind of thing. Disney was a genius, a master storyteller and visionary. When one thinks of Walt Disney, they instinctively think of animation (or an amusement park). But Walt actually did very little animating in his lifetime, which I never realized. Rather, he made things happen.
“I am in no sense of the word a great artist, not even a great animator. I have always had men working for me whose skills were greater than my own, I am an idea man.” – Walt Disney
When one thoroughly examines how the first ever, full-length animated motion picture, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, was created back in the mid-30’s, suddenly the problems of the artist in 2016 become very, very small. I figured, if these guys can hand-draw 83 minutes worth of Snow White, surely I can draw 11 seconds of inane nonsense.
Be inspired by the best and worst works you can find. If you know something is bad, be better. And if something is really good, rise to that level. I’m inspired by great movies and behind-the-scenes factoids. I also like to storyboard a classic scene from a movie just to study the blocking and compositions.
When I allow myself to be open to inspiration, my own ideas flourish.
PLAY TO THE AUDIO and DON’T FALL IN LOVE
So many audio clips over the months have destroyed my otherwise amazing ideas! I had one concept earlier this year about a missing bird. Did quite a bit of work on it, including lip syncing, but I could not get it to coexist nicely with the audio. I was completely forcing it because my love for the drawings was stronger than my ability to make an audience understand what the concept actually was!
I was busy trying to squeeze a round peg into a square hole. This never works.
Listen to the audio – be one with it. Let your ideas come from the material, not the other way around because you can’t alter the audio file; you can only produce something that flows from it.
BE WILLING TO TRASH YOUR WORK AND BEGIN AGAIN
When there’s a deadline, and especially when there’s no consequence for missing a deadline, it’s easy to give up. I’ve done it so many times and regretted it. There ARE consequences to quitting.
In my case, I ended up with one less completed animation in my demo reel, I failed to problem-solve my way out of a paper bag, and I gave my excuses priority so they could leech the life out of my work.
My original concept for the May 2016 audio of “a self-described “dancing master” introducing himself to a child” focused primarily on a gag about touchdown celebrations in football games. You know, when a guy catches a football and runs really fast past a painted line on the grass, he scores a couple points and starts dancing like an idiot!
I thought it an amusing idea for a child to learn, early on, how not to embarrass himself with awful dance moves, and instead, take some lessons.
The only way to get the gag across was to have the instructor do some dancing. But the audio never permitted space to do so. This meant I’d have to extend the animation, sans sound, for a few seconds to make sure the audience understood the concept. Basically, more work. And more work is stupid.
I soon realized I was wasting my time and that the football concept wasn’t possible given my own time constraints. I decided to start over.
So I gave myself 1-hour to focus and come up with a new idea. I doodled this:
Still on the football idea, and still very much not in line with the flavor of the audio.
But the more I stared at my drawing of a jolly man taking one giant step, the more I realized I must be willing to trash everything and start all over just to get the work done. Admitting when my ideas are licked and beginning again has always propelled me higher.
So I started brewing something else based on the above image. The new concept came to me fairly quickly and promises to be quite challenging. But I’m loving the new direction and it is married practically perfectly in every way with the audio.
With 15 days left in the month, yes, I have fallen behind but continue to be inspired by the vision of Walt Disney, and others.
Power through your work, leaning on reference material and inspiration, no matter the toll, especially if it’s your passion, and you’ll witness every aspect of your production getting stronger. Best of luck!