I was recently asked by one of my followers on Instagram what my approach is to animating. I have to say, my approach, or approaches rather, are multiple. Each scene offers a unique challenge, which I think is why animating never gets boring for me. To the layman, repeating virtually the same drawing with minute variations frame after frame can seem exhausting and tedious. But for me, creating that spark of life on a blank piece of paper is a thrill! One that has kept me entranced for half a century now. One of the most important things I do when starting a scene is planning.
If I am animating a personality scene with dialogue, for example, I will first create thumbnail sketches of the poses, then capture them in large format. One good key pose usually informs the rest of the scene. Once I get about half a dozen poses that express the emotion and mood of the scene, I will then start to work out my patterns of action between them and introduce “texture” to the action. When I say texture, I mean quiet moments against the “loud” and “active” movements. I want to make sure I don’t confuse the audience with too much action, but build my movements so that the scene has a beginning, middle, and end. This can be likened to the way a passage of music builds to a crescendo. This approach applies to my animating a character in any emotion, be it joy, anger, sadness, or fear.
In my time as an animator, one of the most important things I have learned is this, no matter how beautiful a drawing may be, if it competes with or compromises the action, throw it out! This can be very hard to do but we must keep in mind that action reigns in story telling. When you animate, you are creating actions, not drawings. Creating action is the goal, drawing is simply the means by which we create the action. It is important to make that distinction in your mind because the moment you start focusing on creating attractive drawings rather than attractive actions, that is when your animations begin to lose their “illusion of life” as Frank and Ollie so eloquently describe it.