Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Breakdown. Breakthrough! Part I

"Breakdown. Breakthrough!"

I'll always remember that line from the movie "Jerry Maguire."

Jerry thinks he's having a breakdown. But as he progresses through the experience, he instead realizes that it's a breakthrough.

I recently experienced something similar.

Back in October, 2013, I was preparing to animate a new scene with Honey. Once I sat down to work, however, I discovered--to my horror--that I didn't really know how to DRAW her!

Then the struggle began.

In years past, I would picture images but lacked the skills to get them down on paper. In the last 3 years, I've improved that skill from regular practice. But trying to animate Honey made clear to me that I have another drawing shortcoming: I can't caricature. As a result, the mental image I had of Honey and the one I originally designed weren't matching.

And unlike years past, I was DETERMINED to get past the roadblock.

Brad Bird said in extras on "The Incredibles" DVD that the only reason to tell a story in animation is to caricature (which is why I didn't like the animated films "Tokyo Godfathers" and "The Illusionist," among others. The style was too realistic and lacked caricature and was therefore boring.) I decided after hearing that to make Honey as caricatured as possible.

As I began drawing, I was reminded of recent comments made by Disney animator, Lino DiSalvo (head of animation for Frozen) about the difficulties of animating emotions for female characters because they're expected to always be "pretty." I didn't find DiSalvo's comments as awful as others because I felt he was simply repeating what his bosses told him to do which is: keep the women pretty. Always.

So despite wanting to make Honey look more "cartoony" and caricatured, a part of me wanted to keep her attractive as well because she's one of the few black leading ladies in animation. She's representin' in a way, whether she likes it or not.

Once it became clear that I needed some serious caricature help, I turned to the best source I knew: Tom Richmond. Immediately I bought his book and got to work reading it and applying the principles (I still haven't finished it.)

Next post: the results of all the hard work.

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