Archive for January, 2010
I want to take a moment to talk about inspiration. As an artist, you rely on inspiration to guide you and motivate you. Sure principles can guide you as well, but they are not always the best motivators. I recently found some inspiration that i wish to share with you. It also happens to correspond nicely with our upcoming podcast on comedy.
About a week ago I watched a PBS telethon which aired some clips of Victor Borge. I remember watching him when I was a child on the same PBS telethon. Not having seen him for a while, I was given an opportunity to watch his performance with a fresh, new perspective.
Victor is a genius. His comedic timing is spot on and I couldn’t help but be inspired. While there are many things to take away from his brilliant performances, I found myself focusing on three particular aspects. These aspects are his truthfulness of character, setup and delivery, and pure mastery of craft.
Truthfulness of Character:
Comedy, in the same way as any type of performance, relies on the character being truthful to who they are in order to be believable. For example, Superman would never do anything unjust and/or unethical. He can never lie, cheat or steal. If you animate him doing any of these things, he ceases to be believable. While this example might be broader, character comes out in subtleties as well. If he even wavers one bit from being honest or upstanding, you will lose credibility. This is so important for great animation and for great performances.
Victor, through all of his productions, remains true to the character that he has created. He sets up rules for his character and never strays from them. You would never imagine his character to be mean, nor would you expect him to stay on task. While these aren’t complicated ideas, they are guidelines that Borge constructed to give the audience someone to empathize with. His believability and genuine nature keep you interested.
Setup and Delivery:
Central to comedy is the concept of setting up something to be one way and then delivering something completely unexpected. Borge uses this idea a lot in his sketches. In the quick clip of him playing on the piano and getting the notes wrong, you assume he is going to look up the score and find that he is mistaken. Then you find out that he as actually playing the music the right way according to his sheets. Now this joke works on two fronts that I can see. For one, you laugh at the unexpected outcome. Two, you laugh at the idea that he continues to play with music that is obviously wrong. This also points back to the truthfulness of his character in the way he displays a certain simplicity and naivete. As animators, we should remember this idea of contrast and misdirection. Delivering animation in a plain, straight-forward manner doesn’t make for an entertaining piece. In many ways, this encourages us to keep an open mind when looking at the world around us. There is never one way of looking at or approaching something. Remembering that is so very important. While I might not always be able to come up with something completely unique and different every time I animate, keeping my mind wrapped around this concept will most certainly make for better acting choices.
Mastery of Craft:
This last topic has less to do specifically with Victor Borge, but more in a general sense with anyone who is very good at what they do. Watching how comfortable Borge is performing and the amazing skill to which he accomplishes such is something that should inspire anyone in a skill related craft. As animators and artists, we must never become stagnant. We should always strive to learn and grow. To see another person master their craft always amazes me and drives me to be better in return.
Inspiration comes from anywhere as long as we are willing to acknowledge it. While inspiration many times finds us, it is also not lost to search for it ourselves. In fact, many times on our journey for one type of inspiration, another form of inspiration finds us anyway.
For some other good clips, search “Phonetic Punctuation” and “Inflationary Language” on YouTube for some other funny clips by Victor Borge. Also, his two part series with Marilyn Mulvey is hilarious and worth a watch.
We briefly mentioned Mark Henn in our Ted Ty Podcast. Later, some people told us they had never heard of him before. For anyone who is interested, Animated Views is currently working on a multi-part interview with Mark Henn :
They just posted part 3 – go have a look if you want to learn more about him.
Since Stephen mentioned I would write a follow up post when he posted the “How To Train Your Dragon” trailer, I guess I better.
I just wanted to say how happy I am for “How To Train Your Dragon” to be the first film I worked on. When I first got to DreamWorks Animation and looked over all of the visual development for this film I was blown away! The character designs for the humans and dragons looked great and once I saw some of the early human animation tests by the great Simon Otto, Gabe Hordos, Kristof Serrand and Fabio Lignini I knew this would be a film to entertain many.
The film is going very well and I’m excited to see the final cut. It’s hard to believe how much hard work was done on this film in such a short amount of time. I know Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, Alessandro Carloni, and many others sacrificed a lot of time to make this movie and I’m sure a lot of you will have a great time watching it in theaters! The visual development, story, layout, effects, lighting, editing, crowds, rigging, and animation departments have done some amazing work on this project. Definitely not one to be missed!
Here’s evidence that proper acting and gestures are more important than lip-sync.
(It’s a clip Pete Docter showed in a lecture a couple years ago.)
It works really well and makes me laugh every time.
So make sure your character’s body sells the line before you go crazy trying to get the lip-sync right.