About Millie

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I animate, therefore I am a teacher. I teach, therefore I illustrate. I illustrate, therefore I draw on my environment. In drawing on my environment, I am animated!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Umbra by Malcolm Sutherland




Umbra (HD - 2010) from Malcolm Sutherland on Vimeo.


A simple but perfectly designed character for this role... A lesson in searching and exploring and recognising yourself. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Animation a seriously funny subject in cross cultural telling tales.

http://www.humourinasean.com/

Animation, a Seriously Funny Subject in Cross Cultural Telling Tales.

In this paper I will be discussing the thought process and development of ideas that went into the creation of the ten minute animation Mere Wife by Millie Young1[1], about a mahout, an elephant and his wife. This story was gathered from research in Northern Thailand between 2000 and 2008. I will be discussing the role of animation as a story telling medium, refer to the anecdotes that were part of the research on oral histories and traditional tales about mahouts and their elephants and how these were interwoven into one particular tale to give it an authentic feel to my own interpretation and telling of that tale. Plus I will discuss the importance and role of capturing and sharing these tales to new audiences.

The exchange of personal histories is a universal past time – story telling gives us enlightenment about our world and entertainment within our world. Oral personal histories are often intertwined with historical events, cultural ideologies and traditional stories. These stories offer an opening up of experiences, a shared understanding of the world we live in and a basis to form judgment and decision making in our own lives.

For the purpose of this paper oral personal histories will refer to anecdotes and stories told about in first hand, first person or third party characters that the teller knows. The exchanges involved only two or three people and the details held some importance to all present. The situations are based on a truth or truths of an actual event. These stories were exchanged in a loose oral setting with the teller acting as the narrator to the events and the audience passive in the main (apart from the odd chortle), to their receiving of the tale. Most of these oral histories like traditional stories, have a moral dilemma or moment of enlightenment (learning) that the teller has gleaned from the event(s). Their aim in telling is to get a connection with and emotionally move the other individual(s). However, these stories are often embellished with details real or adjusted to the author’s telling of the tale. They are exchanged in situations for entertainment and in some sense are used to develop a (further) common agreement or ideology. They are told in a reflective way, with the teller acting as the interpreter of the events (usually offering the coded ideology with which the audience is expected to subscribe to) and use the recognizable archetype roles for the ‘players’ (possibly including themselves) involved in the tale. Essentially the most common archetypes (from Film analysis) that appear, being those identified by Chris Vogler in his book A Writer’s Journey are The Hero, the Mentor/Friend, The Herald, The Shadow, The Threshold Guardian, The Trickster, and the Shape shifter.[2]

Traditional story telling for the purpose of this essay refers to the oral tradition of passing on stories that have some common theme and enlightenment to a specific culture or audience, where the same basic elements of the tale have been passed on through various exchanges - possibly they may have started as informal personal histories, but through the development of different telling have become a set pattern of characters, events and outcome. They are however, much; like the oral histories, open to the interpretation of the teller/narrator at any/each given telling, and thus the stories themselves are mutable and able to adapt to changes in audience and environment with each new exchange. For the purpose of this paper oral personal histories will refer to anecdotes and stories told about in first hand, first person or third party characters that the teller knows. The exchanges involved only two or three people and the details held some importance to all present. The situations are based on a truth or truths of an actual event. These stories were exchanged in a loose oral setting with the teller acting as the narrator to the events and the audience passive in the main (apart from the odd chortle), to their receiving of the tale. Most of these oral histories like traditional stories, have a moral dilemma or moment of enlightenment (learning) that the teller has gleaned from the event(s). Their aim in telling is to get a connection with and emotionally move the other individual(s). However, these stories are often embellished with details real or adjusted to the author’s telling of the tale. They are exchanged in situations for entertainment and in some sense are used to develop a (further) common agreement or ideology. They are told in a reflective way, with the teller acting as the interpreter of the events (usually offering the coded ideology with which the audience is expected to subscribe to) and use the recognizable archetype roles for the ‘players’ (possibly including themselves) involved in the tale. Essentially the most common archetypes (from Film analysis) that appear, being those identified by Chris Vogler in his book A Writer’s Journey are The Hero, the Mentor/Friend, The Herald, The Shadow, The Threshold Guardian, The Trickster, and the Shape shifter.[3]

Traditional story telling for the purpose of this essay refers to the oral tradition of passing on stories that have some common theme and enlightenment to a specific culture or audience, where the same basic elements of the tale have been passed on through various exchanges - possibly they may have started as informal personal histories, but through the development of different telling have become a set pattern of characters, events and outcome. A good story has, in the words of Karl Iglesias,

‘“ someone who wants something badly and is having trouble getting it”

And this simple definition needs three primary elements to make it a story: character, character goal and conflict.’[4]

But this is not the only explanation of story, which can come in many varying forms, especially when derived from different cultures. Story especially when presented in animation can

‘be understood as a sequence of events taking place over a particular period of time. The narrative events are informed by a chain of causes and effects, both subtle and explicit, the ultimate outcome of which is a specified moment of resolution.’[5]

This is significant in particular when crossing cultural and contextual boundaries. The notion of story and significance of the events, time and place are informed heavily by the culture from which they have derived. This in turn is open to different interpretations by an audience that, in the context of the given text Mere Wife, through new technologies is receiving the story in many different contexts both culturally in terms of experience and placement and in their relationship to the storytelling. In terms of the audience’s accessibility to media in such a variety of contexts (ipod, PC, telephone, cinema, TV) this experience can be both deliberate, personal and intimate or accidental, disengaged and fragmented. Therefore each individual receives a very different experience and subsequently a different interpretation.

‘NO two people have exactly the same perception of an experience, because factors such as cultural identity impact interpretation. People who identify with subcultures within dominant societies can ascribe culturally specific meanings to what they see, regardless of the intentions of the creator.’[6]

However this does not negate the telling of tales from sub-cultures to a more global culturally diverse audience, I believe it actually enhances and develops the dominant ideologies present when alternative forms are presented (which question and develop the dominant position). In fact it is the very presentation of these alternative perspectives into new contexts and interpretations that I believe can help bring new fresh understandings into our lives (and stories). As a British person living in Thailand I am constantly amused in the almost daily discovery of a new logic with which to look at things in the world I thought, at 40+, I knew. And ultimately these fresh perspectives are funny. This notion of a new logic presented in a different context to a familiar situation was coined significantly well by Antti Vuorio, Tampere Festival Director, one of my fellow ten or so foreigner festival attendees, at the Teheran International Animation Festival 2000, when he said,

“It’s the things people really understand, but don’t!” [7]

What helps in our understanding, and thus makes it a more universal theme in these exchanges, is the seriously important role of humour. In Dr Paul Wells book Understanding Animation he discusses the 25 ways to start laughing (specifically about animation).

‘Theories of comedy have proliferated ever since humankind started to laugh, and no one is any closer to knowing why human beings make absurd noises in response to innumerable things that amuse them. Every one would claim to have a sense of humour, but it seems that everyone does not possess the same sense of humour, so what’s funny remains an entirely relative thing. In whatever shape or form, comedy can be silly or subversive, purposeful or perfunctory, observational or offensive, but always possesses energy and ‘life’ the intrinsic imperative of animation’[8]

I will be using some his theories within this discussion, exploring the elements that make telling tales funny, in particular, the role of animation in making the humour and story accessible to a wider audience.

“Creating animated movement is a triadic process of experience, observation and description. The animators uniqueness comes through selection or perceptual biases from experience and observation in the natural world.”[9]

Animation as a tool for conveying story can supersede the mere translation of text from one language to another - giving audio, visual and literal signifiers that help cross over cultural barriers. The medium, the sound, the image and the time frame all combine to act as the storyteller. Although not ‘alive’ and able to adapt to the situation the content is so well controlled that unlike film, which captures real time and is then manipulates and edits it into a different time and ordered sequential form; the creation of animation involves breaking time down into it’s minutest form (1/25th per second) and then recreating a new visual and physical reality in it’s own precise timed world. The word animation derives from the Latin word anima to breathe life into (something). The animator, acting as the creator, making all the decisions on form, size, weight, shape, colour, environment, sound and light, time, gravity – all the visual physical varieties and possibilities are available within their imagination in order to tell the story. The animator is creating the ‘life’ within the story – this is akin to alchemy or magic (when done well) and this is then open to the audience to receive in wonderment much like they would in a ‘live’ storytelling situation.

I aim through analyzing Mere Wife to show how the role of animation maintains this freedom of expression of the traditional storyteller’s personal unique voice and how the accessibility of the visual language and the influence of the new globally accessible formats, such as the internet, allow for these stories to be accessed by wider audiences thus opening a wider understanding and appeal for the cultures from where they were derived. This is particularly significant with Mere Wife which is derived from research with Burmese Karen who historically have lived and worked with elephants for over 4000 years and whose present circumstances with the military Junta in Burma are under serious threat of being lost. Along with the significant drop in the use and need for elephants in forestry they are being forced into a transient lifestyle, often resulting in living as ‘stateless’ people in refugee camps along the Thai/Myanmar border. They are dependant on their oral histories to maintain some cultural independence, existence and identity in a fragile situation. This transient life and state of perpetual threat to community has meant that these (traditional and personal) stories along with the cultures and traditions of the people are on a brink of disappearing if they are not recorded and shared to a wider audience. Their stories, not just about the present experience, but the oral histories and traditions of ‘long long ago’ are rich with textures and very fabric of human life, and this is something, no matter how far detached we have all become, universally we all share.

Mere Wife came about from a number of visits to Thailand where I spent months at a time in the Elephant Nature Park(ENP), Mae Taman, North of Chiang Mai and in the Thai Elephant Conservation Center(TECC) in Lampang. It’s made up from the stories and anecdotes exchanged between the mahouts, the owner of the park, Sangduen ‘Lek’ Chailert, Richard Lair, the foreign liaison elephant conservation expert at the TECC, other visitors and elephant enthusiasts and myself. I originally came to Thailand in search of a story that could be animated. I wanted it to be about elephants, a topic that I was initially aware, and now ten years later absolutely sure, I know very little about – but want to know more. At that time I had won a bursary from Meridian TV in the UK to research for another animation; but it was not enough money to realize and make a film. So I decided to broaden my horizons and research something new, and essentially something that without that money I would not have been able to do. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I set of for Thailand in December 2000, and the complete turn around it would have on my life. Tens years on I am now living and working in Thailand, I have made the film, plus four short documentaries and another animation, I have had exhibitions of my paintings and continue working on and with the people who work with elephants and still more work is in the offing. From the outset, my very first encounter with an elephant in Thailand I was astounded and amazed, not just by the animals themselves, which are truly magnificent, but what caught my attention and has maintained my interest is the elephants with their mahouts. Without them, I could never dream to stand so close, to interact, to play with an elephant... that’s playing with me! Through their careful eyes I saw the elephants. And subsequently a whole world has been opened. So in looking for a story, it was this symbiosis of existence I became fascinated in recording.

Essentially there are two stories interwoven in this adapted tale. The main body of the story is, I have been assured, a traditional tale from the Karen – but in that lies part of the essential mystery of tales… in subsequent telling to various Karen people in and around Thailand the tale apparently bears no familiarity… to others again it is true. Either way I was told it initially by Lek (who is half Thai half Karen). The beauty in the oral tale is its mystery origin! Hence the often familiar opener of ‘Once upon a time long, long ago…’ This tale I was assured is the explanation as to why the Karen mahout prefer the female elephants and can be heard to call their elephant their wife (so very ‘Just So Stories…’ Rudyard Kipling).

The second part of the story derives from various anecdotes about jealous elephants. As part of my research I spent on summer vacation in 2004 interviewing mahouts with a variety of questions, which led to the key question:

“Between you elephant and your wife, whom do you love most?”

Peels of laughter usually surrounded the answers, and almost to a man they said their elephants, she doesn’t answer back! However, one significant answer came from one mahout at TECC, he loved his wife more, to which all the mahout burst out laughing shouting he was afraid of her! Some jokes need little cross-cultural translation…

This particular jealousy love triangle is a familiar circumstance among mahouts; and a source of much amusement and jokes. In a male dominated (working) society where much of one’s time is spent in subservience, as a carer to the elephant’s every need, as well as them being the dominator (controller) of the same elephant, whilst working for at bets minimum wage - they are open to peer pressure both in admiration for good care and control and ridicule of their elephant’s faults. Mahouts are very low down in social class terms, despite the importance of their role in the future of the revered elephant. However the ‘job’ has a certain status within it’s own context. The mahouts work in a symbiotic relationship with their elephants. Many have learned the ‘trade’ through a generational lineage. Although more and more this is not the case as traditional work in the forest is scarce and the only opportunities are in the tourist industry, which often doesn’t suit the hardened characters of the old timers who are more used to the solitude of the forest. However the peer relationship is still evident and with the long hours spent with their elephants there is much room for jokes. This type of humour can be seen in many cultures, often in low paid male dominated hard labor situations where the object of the works’ control, be it the machine being operated, the stove, the ship, the vehicle, the tool etc becomes the metaphor for the jealous lover/wife preoccupying their life. Their lives are controlled and manipulated by their work and it or the object with in the job takes on anthropomorphic qualities. Which when it comes down to it, is very funny.

In Mere Wife the stories have been woven together and ultimately create a cyclical story returning to a scene of the elephant and the mahout together in harmony. However the story contains a twist and I shall explain that later.

So this is essentially a love triangle story Mere Wife adapted into animation by Millie Young from oral histories and traditional tales gathered from the Karen Hill tribe. There are universal truths (the need for love and the presence of jealousy) and humour (One of the loves is an elephant – which are without doubt humorous in their visual context – but even more so when this is then put into the role of a wife) in culturally specific situations (it is set in a Karen village), yet it contains familiarity, a universal truth. The medium used in the animation is cut out elephant dung paper, a subliminal signifier that is playing with the notion that the medium is (part of) the message. (Perhaps the cynics may suggest that pure love is made of a crock of elephant sh*t). The imagery style gives the visual coding a naive art feel lending itself to the telling of a traditional tale. The style of the characters and the colours chosen were indicative of the Karen handicraft art, the characters are dressed in traditional style clothes (still worn today) adding a timelessness to the story.

It contains the three primary elements to make it a story: character (Jokolat), character goal (He needs love) and conflict (A jealous elephant).

“Jokolat is stuck in the jungle again with his possessive and jealous elephant. Diichai is holding a party and all the village girls are invited…what can Jokolat do to trick his elephant and go to seek a potential love?”

This is the premise for the story, which starts with the narrator’s words lending the feeling that is this an ideal situation, she introduces the audience to Jokolat as a young boy, his life as a mahout, which is bound up with his elephant. This is certainly not a universal theme, nor a common experience on the surface. However there is a significant amount of the potential audience who is familiar with another tale, Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and animated by Disney studios. In that tale of a young boy living in the jungle, being brought up by the wolves and animals of the forest and the story holds a strong romanticism and nostalgia in much of the English speaking world… and beyond despite the unfamiliar setting, a romanticism that is still projected onto the relationship of the elephant and mahout to this day. However, the primeval notion of living among wild animals seems somehow deep-rooted in our collective human psyche.

As his situation becomes more apparent Jokolat’s role essentially becomes a universally familiar character, the story’s romantic ‘hero’ in search of his true love and through him the story is told. Although we may not have our lives bound up with an elephant, many peoples lives are restricted by, their work or care for their siblings/parents and find themselves trapped and having to find ways to trick to be able to get some ‘freedom’ to find their love. So essentially our hapless mahout is a symbol for ‘everyman’, the elephant a metaphor for a binding love/work/care relationship that acts as an adversary or jealous partner in the search for love/a wife initially the goal to make his life complete.

As a young boy we see the boy and elephant playing together in the river, the passage of time into adult hood passes with simple visual progression (they get bigger) and we then see Jokolat now dwarfed by the large elephant but working in unison.

“So there you have it a harmonious relationship, what could be more perfect?”

However the dilemma is introduced by a slight question in the narrator’s tone:

‘Jokolat is not happy. His friends laugh and tease him,

“Your elephant is jealous, she is worse than having a wife! She has you wrapped around her trunk!”’

Here the humour takes on an all too familiar tone, the elephant takes on role of the nagging wife. No matter the culture the world over there is a commonality with the female wife role being that of a jealous nag! And as suggested earlier there is in its familiarity humour to be had, especially with the visual of an elephant as the wife! The desire of Jokolat then is to go to the party of Diichai, but how? A trick has to come in to play, which is suggested by his friend, Narong, acting as the archetype ‘herald’ calling him into adventure by offering a solution to the problem,

“Why don’t you get a radio, then while your elephant is sleeping try leaving a pillow with the radio playing in your hammock.”

As far-fetched as this may sound, (and this was taken directly from an anecdote) the plan works. It too has parallels in modern global context where many parents/wives/lovers are tricked into thinking their husband/lover/son/daughter is safe home asleep – when a pillow has been placed in the bed. Jokolat is seen creeping off and then at the dance, where he meets a beautiful girl called Artee. Naively he declares

“This could be the start of my true love”.

There follows sequences that cover a period of time illustrating the building of the relationship toward the marriage day, here is where animation plays a role both in story telling and in humour, condensing the information. The ability of animation to compress a high degree information visually coding the events to develop a sense of drama and tension. There unfolds a repetitive sequence of events including the cockerel as a (comic) signifier of time passing that set up sense of domestic routine and also act as a humorous precursor for the later breaks from that routine. At this stage the elephant – presumably still duped by the radio trick is happily compliant to the situation. Gradually however we see dissent from Artee,

“You care so much for your elephant when you leave her for only one night, yet you leave me every night on my own! I think you care more about your elephant than you do for me!”

Here we see the set up of the parallel between the wife (to be) and the elephant. Both are needing the universal dilemma of love: commitment. Then there is that other the age-old problem a balance of domestic and work life. And as a solution Jokolat consults with the headman (The ‘mentor’ archetype who helps him out) and a date is set for their marriage.

At this point in the preparations for the wedding we would normally see the bride’s preparations – however, here we see Jokolat lovingly washing and dressing up Mae Boon Ma the elephant for the occasion. At the wedding she stands behind the celebration, and wipes away a tear. This small flicker of emotion, which animation lends itself to, adds small commentary to the proceedings. Is she crying for happiness of the day’s events or mourning the loss of her love? The days events end with another momentary action on the screen – a fly makes it’s way into the food as it is packed away. The narrator’s stern voice points this out, but the action essentially is lost in the visual kafuffle of the colorful dancing couples reflecting how many a small but important detail is lost in the melee of special occasions.

The earlier domestic routine is re-played, with the addition of scenes of Artee, alone in her newly built home. A classic comedy devise repetition allows the audience to become familiar with the scene and then the break in the routine is made recognizable and the point is emphasized, usually to comic effect. This is where cultures the world over can recognise this situation. The very seed that creates the so-called ‘nagging wife’ and butt of so many jokes is often created here in these lonely moments – the jealousy has now reversed and she cries,

“Jokolat thinks more of his elephant, saving the sweetest bananas and sugar cane for her, than he does of me! He would rather see me waste away than eat the precious meat!”

Here she is referring back to the wedding food. But within the words there is deliberately placed innuendo. She is not getting enough attention from her husband, there are other appetites that are not being satisfied. Again the parallel to many newly wed couples who then slip into domestic routine have experienced is the drop in the sexual activities. And often the antidote to this need in women is then satisfied with a higher food intake! Artee starts to transform. As the routine continues she is becoming bigger and bigger. Then the crisis moment she opens the preserved meat where the elusive fly has been hiding all along. A humorous sequence of distortion and chaos ensues with Artee and the fly whirling around until significantly it goes up her nose! We hear Artee’s cries of anguish,

‘“I’m not beautiful anymore! I can’t go out! I can’t leave the house! You wont love me anymore!”

But Jokolat did love her.’

Here the humour takes a more serious and empathetic line. Rather than pander to the negativity in the nagging wife jokes. We see Jokolat almost desperate to maintain the routine , caring for his needy elephant and caring for his needy wife; Artee’s visual metamorphosis into a huge ‘elephant like’ form; and the narration is heard crossing over both dependents mixing up the possibilities of whom it might be referring to,

“Why do you always leave me? I have no one to talk to. I have been so lonely. What have you brought me?”

‘Animation possesses the special ability to render psychological, emotional and physical states, and as such can properly highlight the humour which emerges from self-consciousness. In depicting the frailties and idiosyncrasies of the body; the deep prejudices, concerns and neurosis that inform daily life; and the difficulties inherent in trying to communicate, the animated film properly represents humankind’s own recognition of the inherent comedy within the human condition[10]

The predominant message that now takes over the story is that of not merely a search for love but for happiness within that love. The differences and changes that occur in life that make this hard. Jokolat has to decide – his elephant or his wife (going back to my earlier questioning’) in this story he opts for his wife and in that moment there is a sense of loss, we see the elephant disappear off in the distance, with another mahout, the romantic ideal disappears, perhaps too, a metaphor of the loss of elephants in this domestic setting in Thai life.

But this is not the end of the story.

Artee and Jokolat return to a domestic routine, but it is still not balanced. True love has not yet been reached. Artee is still needy and lonely. He is seen working even harder to feed her appetite. There is something missing.

Again he visits the headman, who offers,

“For True love to work you need to work together. Show Artee how much you love her”

Finally we see Jokolat offering Artee some beautiful material (to cover herself) and make her feel beautiful again. By now she is enormous, and together they go to the river to bathe. This joint activity with symbolic reference on may cultural levels of cleansing, caring, washing away, renewing, rejuvenating, blessing and transformation are all condensed in the animation as Artee swirls in the water, and emerges in a parallel action to a previous scene with Mae Boon Ma, from the water. Together with Jokolat, now she has become a beautiful elephant.

The story here returns to the traditional tale, the animation allows for the fantastical and the impossible. The story reinforces the romanticism of the relationship with the elephants and mahouts being like a marriage, it gives a satisfaction element that order is restored, that this is how it should be, but with this ideal there is a tinge of the price that is paid for this ideal and a notion that this too is a fragile state.

‘Humans are pattern seeking creatures…the gifted animator, along with the music director/composer and the editor, understands the psychology of musical design and seeks to trigger parallel responses through conscious manipulation of various visual patterns: repetition and rhythm; the movements of characters and background; the predictability of the story; and the pacing and editing of the finished work.[11]

The aim in making this an animation was to capture the essence of the story(s) into a form that was accessible to many. That would hold their interest and to give credence to the many authors. To voice the Karen’s belief to a wider audience so that it might not be forgotten. The narrative patterns employed enable ease of understanding on a variety of literal and symbolic levels. The music draws you in with a cacophony backdrop of jungle sounds

While not played out in a gag style comic repertoire as often expected in cartoon this tale and it’s transformation into animation does have an underlying universal humour while reflecting the original (spoken) text. It can be easily contextualized and has enough familiarity in the relationships that allow a wide (even global) audience to enjoy the story. The aim by mixing the original tale in with anecdotal stories has attempted to give the viewer the experience of the storyteller. Using narration to a minimum but giving layers of ‘real’ sounds all recorded in the jungles of Northern Thailand. The tale is told in a way with enough visual and aural layers acting out the story and symbolism, in conjunction with the music (which is Northern Lanna style) that it gives a natural accent to the piece. This then opens up the possibility to a multitude of interpretations, which allow a personal view for each individual.

‘The conventions of language are learned by groups of people, allowing them to understand images they see, as well the sounds they hear. The extent to which we experience different types of art- our ‘visual literacy’- affects our appreciation of various forms of expression. Sometimes people see something they are unfamiliar with and are instantly attracted to it. More often, they gravitate toward things that relate to their past experience and shared cultural norms.’[12]

Hopefully this piece has that attraction. Not just for me as an artist, but essentially because of the story being told and the voice it projects. In crossing cultural boundaries/ borders/ delineations of cultures when creating art we can hope to extend our knowledge, develop our understanding and create something that goes on to live in a further wider context than just oneself. It must be said that the making of the film which was the main project film for my MA Sequential Art and Illustration, was limited by budget, time and facilities, but the essential ingredients, the story remain true to my intent. It does demonstrate the role that animation, in particular short animations, can have in capturing and sharing these stories and maintaining the ‘life essence’ of the storytelling experience. The modern audience, with their infinite access points and fickle attention span can still experience something of the magic of these stories in the animation. The metaphoric and symbolic qualities that animation possesses team up well with the magical and the fantastical essences of the traditional tale in such a way as to give new meanings while sharing the old. The voices of sub-cultures can be heard and universally shared. The humour highlighting the human qualities, failings and needs we all share. Our need to laugh at ourselves no matter what our experiences is part of the human psyche and what helps make up the collective memories we all share. Globalisation can appear to swamp the individual in many ways, but ultimately the democratization of forums like youtube allow the individual story to be shared, and give everyone a chance to laugh a little at themselves.


[1] Mere Wife (2009) directed by Millie Young http://www.youtube.com/millimation

[2] Chris Vogler in his book A Writer’s Journey Taken from Ideas for the animated Short – Finding and Building Stories Karen Sullivan Gary Schumer Kate Alexander Focal Press 2008

[3] Chris Vogler in his book A Writer’s Journey Taken from Ideas for the animated Short – Finding and Building Stories Karen Sullivan Gary Schumer Kate Alexander Focal Press 2008

[4] Quote from Karl Iglesias. Taken from Ideas for the animated Short – Finding and Building Stories Karen Sullivan Gary Schumer Kate Alexander Focal Press 2008

[5] Dr Paul Wells Understanding Animation Routledge 1998

[6] The Animation Bible, Maureen Furness Laurence King Publishing

[7] Antti Vuorio, Tampere Festival Director at the Teheran International Animation Festival 2000

[8] Dr Paul Wells Understanding Animation Routledge 1998

[9] Quote from animator Leslie Bishko The Animation Bible, (2008) Maureen Furness Laurence King Publishing

[10] Dr Paul Wells Understanding Animation Routledge 1998

[11] Sven E. Carlsson, publisher of the website Filmsound.org (The Animation Bible, Maureen Furness Laurence King Publishing)

[12] The Animation Bible, Maureen Furness Laurence King Publishing

Dream - the winning animation



video
This the final edit Dream written and directed by Ohm Panphiroj and animated by Millie Young with the voice of Vinny. An inspirational film about dream. It was our entry for the eyeka Air Asia competition which WE WON! Hurray! As it will be screened on Malaysia TV we have been requested to make a few minor alterations... can you see the difference? Here is the original upload...
video

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flying test



This is work for the inimitable Mr Ohm Ponce D'Rouge
A very teeeeeny quick test for birds flying...well it's supposed to move as it is an animated gif... but maybe it wont work here. Bah technology!
More to come.

Monday, July 12, 2010

FAA Animation on Youtube

Check out the students work from Mahidol on youtube FAAAnimation Our first graduates have produced four great films, see the trailers on the you tube site... soon the finished films will be there.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Running

So here I am trying to explain the intricacies of running - the importance and the need to plan using the key frames and how to plot the subsequent in-betweens.
Here is the result of the 1st year students work on runs - two cycles, one basic and then a development either by adding a start and finish; change of character; or adding a secondary or additional action to the run (like a trip)

video

More fun!

Memento Mori - Zumbakamera

Here's a great example of a simple concept used to create a good plot....
Have you ever been stuck in a lift?

Memento Mori from Zumbakamera on Vimeo.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Walking exercises

Walking!

Walk cycles are notoriously hard to achieve. The students worked on developing two cycles, one side view one front view. The idea is that they should be the same character and same walk. easier said than done. The basic cycle needs to be planned out, extreme keys, passing position and in-betweens. Once the legs are working, add in the arms and the head motion and any secondary action.
So here are the walk cycles the students have worked on.
The characters bear some familiarity...


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Head turns


The 3rd exercise: Head Turns

Looking at expression, distortion and timing to express an action


The theory goes that with the addition of more inbetweens you can add different meaning to the action



So the exercise is to make two sequences, one basic head turn then a developed sequence with additional frames. And here are the results for my students work and a quick one from me...





video


Fun!





Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bouncing Balls



Yep it's exercise time and my 7 faithful first years are exploring the possibility of the bouncing ball... Gravitional forces, weight, bouncability, stretch and squash, connecting and timing are all part of the lesson. Once they have mastered their bounce they can then explore one of the infinite possibilities that are opened by this one small boing...
It's funny how the seemingly simplest thing can open up so many new possibilities, problems and questions about life the universe and everything, well maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but for this simple exercise their future will be shaped. From now all motion will be analysed, explored shaped and and reconstituted into new worlds... I love it.And here's how they did...

video

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So here are our illusions - thaumatropes, phenakistascopes and flickbooks.


video

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Illusionary devices


I have been teaching animation now for over 20 years and I still delight in the simplicity and magic of the illusionary devices. This term has started with the year 1 Animation students at Mahidol University International College starting from basics...I love it!

Animation derives from the principle of perceived illusion of movement.

It is the principle which governs the creation of film and video

Animated: living, having life

Derived from the Latin

anima life

animare to breathe life into
Illusion: deceptive appearance

Movement: undergo a change of position/posture


Some Illusionary devices that demonstrate the principle: Flickbooks, Rollers, Zoetropes, Phenakistascopes, Thaumatropes, Praxinoscope, Magic Lanterns, Lamposcope, Theatriaxinoscope, Chorentoscope, Kinetoscope,Biophantoscope, Chronophotographic, Electrotachyscope, Zoopraxiscope and more…


Here are a few of my favourites:



As inspiration we watched a few fantastic films:
George Griffin - Head (Animation Unlimited DVD)
Ian Mackinnon - Adjustment (BAA 7 DVD) http://www.britishanimationawards.com/
Mark Simon Hewis - Life Sized Zoetrope (BAA 7 DVD)

Donato Sansone - Videogioco http://www.enricoascoli.com/

Jeff Chiba Sterns - Yellow Sticky notes



Serene Teh - Parkour



Displeased Eskimo (Jamie Bell) A Brief History of pretty much everything
If you want to have a go yourself at making a flip book into a movie then watch this 'tutorial' by fallofautumndistro October 08, 2007



Which all go to show that from such humble origins great things can be achieved!
So go on... get yourself a Post-it note.. and start telling tales!