Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good Ole Charle Brown...

I was just watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, like I do every year. ABC shows it more than a couple times between now and Christmas, so be sure to schedule it in at some point. I'm always awestruck by the heartfelt beauty and simplicity of the story and animation. The only problem is that you always have to hurry and change the channel before they show the awful NEW version afterwards (good grief!). Anyway, I got to thinking about the kind of animation we do at FableVision—usually symbol-based tweening that takes advantages of all the short cuts that Flash has to offer to get it done on time and on budget. There is something so incredibly charming about the limited animation in A Charlie Brown Christmas. The voices, the music, the backgrounds, and the way the characters are drawn is almost timeless because they are so embedded in our minds. Here's a little information I've heard before, and dug up again on Wikipedia that might be good to put into perspective when we think about animation:

"The production was done on a shoestring budget, resulting in a somewhat choppy animation style and, from a technical standpoint, poorly mixed sound. With the exception of the actors who voiced Charlie Brown and Lucy, Peter Robbins and Tracy Stratford, respectively, none of the children had any experience doing voice work. This was especially challenging for Kathy Steinberg, who voiced Sally: she was too young to read and needed to be cued line by line during the soundtrack recording. The technical issues are in evidence on the show's audio track, which to some may seem noticeably choppy and poorly enunciated. Melendez has said he remains somewhat embarrassed to see the show repeated every year with all its problems, but Schulz vetoed his idea of "fixing" the program years later."

From a technical perspective, not to impressive---even for it's time. Anecdotally I've heard they animated it at 8 frames a second!

"Another complaint was the absence of a laugh track, a common element of children's cartoons at the time. Schulz maintained that the audience should be able to enjoy the show at their own pace, without being cued when to laugh. (CBS did create a version of the show with the laugh track added, just in case Schulz changed his mind. This version remains unavailable.) A third complaint was the use of children to do the voice acting, instead of employing adult actors. Finally, the executives thought that the jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi would not work well for a children's program. When executives saw the final product, they were horrified and believed the special would be a complete flop.

The show first aired on Thursday, December 9, 1965, preempting The Munsters and following the Gilligan's Island episode entitled Don't Bug the Mosquitos. To the surprise of the executives, it was both a critical and commercial hit. None of the special's technical problems detracted from the show's appeal; to the contrary, it is thought that these so-called quirks, along with several other choices, are what lent the show such an innovative, authentic and sincere feeling."

It goes to show how charm, wit, and originality can go a long way. Everything that worked for the original is absent from the NEW version they show afterwards to fill out the hour for advertisers. From an animation standpoint, I'd like to see us do more of this kind of animation, which I'll call "limited but with a TON of charm" than the robotic stiffness that is so easy to crank out of Flash. But I guess that would be a bigger discussion on philosophies of animation that might be better saved for another posting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

To Flash, or not to Flash

I pose this question to all of you, but I guess it's a little more geared towards the artists. Given the choice (in an ideal world, where time is not a factor), would you rather work traditionally or digitally? If that sounds too broad, do you find that you prefer working in Flash (Photoshop, etc), or creating your art by getting your hands dirty? Both Keith and Renee have thought about it on their own blogs. Renee is actively weighing the differences, especially when it comes to time. But I'm talking purely about aesthetic quality and working process.

There are the obvious pros and cons to both approaches. I tend to believe that the biggest advantages to working on a digital canvas (aside from time, again...time is not a factor in an ideal world) are precision and editability (better known as UNDO). But it can be cold and sterile to sit in front of a computer—using key commands and sliders. On a computer, you start with something clean, and then you have to go out of your way to muck it up.

When you work with paint, ink, or any other real world media (what have become known as traditional media), if you make a mistake you either have to start over again or find a way to make it work. You can smell it. It gets on your hands. It's hard to make a color or a line completely precise. What is traditional media best for? I'd say texture, variation, subtlety, and that hard to define hand-made quality. Also, your finished original product actually exists outside of the computer.

The question is a hard one for me. But I try to work in the realm that suits my methodology. And often, that means a little bit of both. I find that I'm better off drawing and inking by hand, but I crave the precision of ones and zeros when I'm coloring. If I had to decide one way or another—meaning, get rid of either the brush or the cursor—I'd still rather create my artwork by hand. The computer is an extremely convenient and powerful tool, but it still can't match the immediacy of physical media.

What does everyone else think? And if people think they truly prefer traditional media, then why do we put up with sitting in front of a computer every day?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Logo R.I.P.

I dug this up via Boing Boing:


'Logo R.I.P.' is a commemoration of logos withdrawn from their ocular landscape. Many are considered icons of their time or international design classics, whilst other cost millions only to be replaced within a year or two. These logos disappeared, yet in contrast to the ceremony an pomp that greeted their arrival, they often suffered an ignoble death. Now deemed defunct, they are consigned to the logo graveyard, no longer allowed to signify.

Funny stuff. You can even leave condolences to your favorites. It's a book, as well.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Finding Time for Creativity

I found this interesting quote on Seth Godin's Blog (via Skelliewag):

"99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn't coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you've thought of."

This is true -- I have so many ideas, and spend time thinking about how I'm going to do them someday, but I don't have time to do them. Either they are huge projects that are too daunting, or they get pushed aside by the chores of daily life.

How do people find time for their creative projects? If everyone writes one idea, we'll have a list to inspire each other.