From Muybridge to Avatar: Animation Timeline

Monday, 26 April 2010

Interesting to read and to know.

Eyes, Tail, Object Exchange, Double Bounce Cycle


Friday, 23 April 2010

Animation Theatre

Sunday, 18 April 2010
Brothers Quay (1947)

The Quay brothers are influential stop-motion animators. Most of their films were created under influence of Eastern European culture. Quay Brothers were inspired by works of Walerian Borowczyk, Jan Lenica; writers Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Robert Walser and Michel de Ghelderode; puppeteers Wladyslaw Starewicz and Richard Teschner.

Their films are flight of imagination including eerie and uncanny décor, unsystematic and long lasting close-ups which combine in an unconscious and esoteric dream. Kafkaesque puppets increase uncanny effect and the meticulous attention to the details and mise-en-scène turn their films into a dream world of metaphor and visual poetry. Poetic fragments and morbid textures followed by whisper and celestial music plunge you into the universe which is out of your comprehension.

The film “The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer” is homage to the filmmaker whose work they admire. It is said that Jan Svankmajer is considered as a major influence however they discovered his works in 1983, by this time their style and preoccupation had been formed. Some of their films are their own interpretation of writings and compositions of authors, writers and composers they have encountered. For example, Street of Crocodiles is based on Bruno Schulz's short story, "Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies" and was inspired by a print by Fragonard.

The films “The Street of Crocodiles” and “Comb”

“In addition to puppet films, the Quays' work encompasses various animated shorts and advertising commissions (including documentaries on Punch and Judy, Stravinsky, Janácek and the art of Anamorphosis "De Artificiali Perspectiva," and station/network I.D.'s (Channel 4, MTV). They have designed theatre and opera productions (Mazeppa, A Flea in Her Ear, The Love of Three Oranges) for various European venues and made music videos, including collaborating on Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, and promos for Michael Penn and His Name is Alive.”

Ray Harryhausen (1920-)

Ray Harryhausen is an American film producer and a special effects creator most famous for his brand of stop-motion model animation. The work of the pioneer animator William O’brien in “King Kong” exerted the pivotal influence on Harryhausen’s work. The most notable works in his career are “Mighty Joe Young” in collaboration with Willis O’Brien, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” and “Jason and the Argonauts” with its distinctive and famous sword fight against skeleton warriors.

Jason and the Argonauts

“Jason and the Argonauts” (1963) is a fantasy feature film directed by Don Chaffey in collaboration with stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. The movie is famous for its stop-motion monsters.
The film is an adaptation of Greek mythology about Jason’s adventures to the Golden Fleece. The Greek Mythology never gets old and attracts audience with their Gods, Heroes and various mythical beasts. The film is undoubtedly dated and doesn’t bring satisfaction to the modern viewer. The contemporary audience is spoilt by 3D hyper realistic models and latest special effects. Therefore, “Jason and the Argonauts” is a true torture for them. However, for 1963 this film is a great cinematographical achievement.
After the O’Brien’s “King Kong” the film “Jason and the Argonauts” reveals a fleeting improvement in animation techniques. The movements of models became more complex and believable. Ray Harryhausen was responsible for all mythical creatures in the film including harpies, hydra, the great Titan of Talos and skeletons. The sequences with these unbelievable monsters created an impression on the audience and became memorable. In my opinion, another technical and perhaps cinematic progress lies in the use of scale. The scale added an epic atmosphere to the sequences, particularly, the most memorable scenes with the Talos and Poseidon.
To conclude, the film had a great achievement in stop-motion animation and cinematographical techniques, which inspired many filmmakers and animators in the future.

Lotte Reiniger (1899- 1981)

Lotte Reiniger was a German-British silhouette animator and film director. Her handy-craft silhouette world gives an opportunity to the audience to create their own images. This style of animation is partially similar to the books. Regardless of the fact that we are able to see only black character’s silhouettes, we can easily build their appearance in our heads.
The Cinderella is a well-known classic folk tale. However, the silhouette style is perceived differently from the classic Disney animation. It’s more adult and leaves some space for your imagination. I enjoyed watching it – a wonderful story from a childhood and a silhouette technique which I have never encountered before.

Lotte Reiniger’s animation, Cinderella (1954)
Video is explaining the art behind the Lotte Reiniger’s works.

Jan Svankmajer (1934-)

Jan Svankmajer is a Chech surrealist artist. He is a representative of experimental cinematography, author of surrealistic animations, sculptures and tactile poems. The influence of his work still remains indisputable for many world-wide geniuses from Tim Burton to Quay Brothers. By 1982 the apotheosis of his career was reached with the short film “Dimension of Dialogues”. The themes of his creative work usually represent fear of closed spaces, Freudian concept of childhood and desires and different themes of manipulation. However, some works remind more tough logical schemes as in “Et cetera”. The animation is divided into three equal parts: “Wings”, “Whip” and “Home”. The allegory in these three illustrations defines a human life. The film demonstrates how limited and constrained life is.

One of his most famous short films “Dimensions of Dialogue” (1982)

The film includes simple symbolism with hidden complex meanings on what Dialogue is. Here we are able to contemplate relationships between man and woman and their dialogue with consequences. The concept of dialogues usually consists of questions and answers, arguments and misunderstandings with everything that ensues from them. The strange and deep animation in Jan Svankmajer’s manner is characterized by tools of artistic expressiveness (cardboards, tins, paper and of course plasticine) that twirl in a beautiful chaos.
The film is divided into three parts: “Exhaustive Discussion", "Passionate Discourse" and "Factual Conversation". These allegorical parts reflect our reality brilliantly.

Wladislaw Starewicz (1882 – 1965)

Wladislaw Starewicz was a Polish stop-motion animator who used insects and animals as his protagonists.

The Mascot is a great 3D stop-motion film made in 1933. It was a remarkable achievement in the animation field for that time. Sensitive and tough plot: one dog goes through “hell” to get an orange to a poor little girl. He doesn’t lead astray and reaches his goal fighting all sorts of weird demons, other puppets and Satan himself. Everything is about friendship and loyalty.

My attitude to this animation can be described with one word – indifferent. I hardly can define this animation to myself. I’m just fed up with this kind of films and plots.

Pixar – Up

Pixar Animation Studios is an American CGI animation production. In 1984 John Lasseter left his animation job at Disney to join filmmaker George Lucas’ special-effect computer group, which later became Pixar. Pixar has made 10 feature films beginning with “Toy Story” in 1995 and each one has achieved critical and commercial success. The animation film Up in was made in 2009 which is the first Pixar film presented in Disney Digital 3-D.


The ability of Pixar’s writers to create universal scripts, which brilliantly pull audience’s soul strings, became a legend. From the first sight the story is a simple and captivating adventurous romance which contains idea that it is never late to change your destiny. Indeed, this is a sad parable. The medal always has two sides. The same way the race for a dream can be uplifting and destructive for human. Another semantic meaning is the appearance of a little boy. This symbolizes a phenomenon of similarity between old age and youth.
This is a marvellous story with thoughts and beautiful pictures which doesn’t leave you indifferent.
Children perceived this animation as a bright adventure to exotic world with various fantastic creatures. However, in this sky adventure on the floating house, the adult audience clearly sees a metaphor of life extinction, returning to the childhood, call of death and Azrael’s whisper. The harmonic combination of meanings and colourful story is fascinating.

Bill Plymton (1946-)

Bill Plympton is an American animator whose works bring a sparkle of fun and positive energy to this life. His hand-drawn sketchy style is both complex and simple. Bill’s exaggeration of characters, metaphorical and morphological techniques and Buddha-like wisdoms which are enclosed in his animations combine in a positive, comedic and esoteric world. His caricatures and character over-exaggeration double positive vision.

“The Tune” was animator Bill Plympton's first full-length feature film. Finally, I saw something positive and comfortable in this project. Del, a hard-working songwriter, is trying to write a perfect song for his boss, Mr. Mega, so he can keep his job and his girlfriend Didi. But he can not accomplish it, because he has lost children’s clear, unspoiled vision of the world. Sometimes, I think, we all have lost it. On the way to work he is suddenly thrown into the town called Flooby Nooby. In this town he gains knowledge on how to think via his heart, rather than mind. The animation is followed by free and easy music, which couldn’t leave me indifferent. The morphing “Buddha” man sequence was brilliantly made, including wisdom and deep thoughts which were combined with LSD morphing animation. Animation’s comedic atmosphere is a true relief, especially, after the weird, uncanny and morbid animations. Overall, the animation is a polished diamond stylized and full of positive energy. Let’s keep our life vectors in a positive direction.

King Kong (1933)

“King Kong” is an iconic and significant monster film. The Kong registered himself as a new word in the cinematography. The film had an influence on many directors and rouse to create numerous remakes and analogues like Godzilla. Kong is distinguished for its stop-motion animation and its musical score. Willis O’Brien’s special effects allowed to breath in life into King Kong and other creatures like Dinosaur. Everything is delivered brilliantly and skilfully: the depths of the skull island, the epic Kong fight against Dinosaur and the climb on the Empire State Building.

To be honest, I don’t like Kong movies and I’m definitely not inspired by the iconic techniques and stop-motion model animation. These monster movies à la Cloverfield, Godzilla and finally King Kong do not mean anything to me. The film is dull and dated to enjoy its epic sequences.

Jiri Barta (1948-)

Jiri Barta is a Czech stop-motion animator who often uses dolls and wood to create his weird worlds saturated with uncanniness. My first familiarization with Jiri Barta’s animations started with the animation called “Klub Odlozenych” (Club of the laid off). This animation represents abandoned “part” of society and its collision of generations. Probably, animation’s strange and eerie atmosphere is an allegory to the rusted and imperfect society. Dolls are perfectly stylized and their easy definable roles are fascinating.

I am not happy with social and political themes. Yes, it is a serious and deep animation, but I’m just tired of different social exfoliations. To be honest, social themes annoy me. Humanity self-destruction, decay and disability to make compromises is a great field for animation, however, it’s really sad to watch. Therefore, this animation left negative sensations and feelings in my fevered brain.

La Planète Sauvage

René Laloux's “La Planète Sauvage” (1973) is an animated science fiction feature film. The story is based on the novel Oms en série, by the French writer Stefan Wul. The film is notable for its surreal vision. The landscape of the Draag planet is full of strange creatures and different kinds of plants. The beautifully drawn animation is followed by various social and behaviouristic themes. The Draag represents an allegory to human behaviour. Humans are arrogant beings with no respect to animal and plant worlds, in other words with no respect to “Mother Earth”. And they never realize what damage they cause to low-level beings. The film has strong narration, capturing audience from beginning until the end. Narration leads us to themes like knowledge and superstition. Humans’ nature is constructed in a way that if they don’t understand something, they try to destroy it. Another theme which I noted to myself was the rebellion of Oms. “One thing you can count on: You push a man too far, and sooner or later he'll start pushing back.” The same thing I was able to perceive in this animation. In the end author tells us, that every life form can live in peace and harmony. Overall, we have got the surrealistic and highly beautiful animation with its unique world followed by deep narration. I enjoyed watching it twice.

From Muybridge to Avatar: List of animators draft

Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Here is a list of animators. Obviously, I need to add more of them. I think, this timeline is the most interesting part in this project. I was surprised when I found out that we have Estonian famous animator:) Anyway, here is my list.

Animatic & Storyboard

Monday, 12 April 2010
I've changed a concept, - the tuba character will dance. It's a good chance to disprove the idea: Born to creep, can not fly. :P I know this is stupid, but I don't care.



Michelangelo Buonarroti

Monday, 5 April 2010
"Dear to me is sleep: still more, being made of stone,
While pain and guilt still linger here below,
Blindness and numbness--these please me alone;
Then do not wake me, keep your voices low."