Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thru the Eyes of a Child...

There are many times when animators get frustrated. When the technical crap gets in the way, when you can't figure out which curve is causing that awful pop in the elbow, when you've painted the weights just right in one area just to realize that you created a bigger problem somewhere else. There are other times when you doubt your ability to tell a story. When you have to rely on an untrained sense of story because entertainment isn't something you can get training in. Then there are times when things work. When you finish a scene and it is everything you hoped for. The arcs are there and the timing is just right. All of the terms that you have laboriously tried to memorize like spacing or overlap don't matter because the scene just works.

I just today experienced such inspiration. One of my instructors brought four of his five kids into class for a couple minutes. He lovingly pointed out "the Jimmy Neutron Baby" and the others as well. They promptly ask for candy from mom and wander about the classroom looking eagerly over everyone's shoulders. The oldest girl, Sarah who is six, sits down next to me as I play the scene that I had just finished up. The first thing she says is, "You're a good designer." Aww, that's cute. Thanks little girl. Kids, huh? The next thing that she says blew me away. She views the scene thoughtfully a few more times as it loops in Quicktime. "The bee stings him because there is a beehive right there. And he has a flower. Bees like flowers." Wow!!! She gets it. She understood the story and the reason for the conflict. I was absolutely blown away. Up until this point I've been hoping that the concept will get across. Hoping that I didn't put all this effort into something that is animated servicibly, but is weak in the story department. With no preconceptions about what "good animation" is, little Sarah with three sentences summed up what is happening. (Well actually, two sentences and a sentence fragment. You can't start a sentence with a conjunction, but hey, she's six and she liked my film, so I'll let it slide.)

Kids don't respond to pleasing arcs or realistic fur. They don't respond to sub-surface scattering or Global Illumination. Kids and grown up type people respond to story-telling. They respond to something that they can either relate to or that they recognize as truth. Bees like flowers. Whether Sarah discovered this from Discovery Kids or from looking at flowers in her mom's garden as bees swarmed around them doesn't really matter. What matters is being able to relate on a simple level. That is where story-telling comes from. That is why films become classics. Because they give the audience something that is familiar.

Thank you, Sarah.

-Drew

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