centre for animation & interactive media

Animation Notes #1
What is Animation?
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Animation precedes the invention of photography and the cine camera by several decades. It is an art form in which a world of dynamic image and sound may be synthesised completely out of nothing but a thought (see Peter Greenaway quote, right).

Animation is 100% artifice, and as such, the synthesis of movement through the sequential use of small fragments of time, which gives rise to this wondrous illusion, is open to manipulation in extraordinary ways.

Animation is the most nimble of mediums. It has survived the mechanical 'persistence of vision' toys popular in the 19th century; found expression as an art form in cinema; it was the means by which to experiment with time-based art and cinematic forms to present new visual vocabularies; it was brilliantly positioned to pioneer the use of computers to create moving images from numbers; it has demystified complex processes; visualised scientific phenomena and provided simulation models to help us understand the world; it has become an essential ingredient in multimedia content; it is imbedded in the control interface display of multi-million dollar jet fighter planes, it is integral to the computer games industry; it increasingly underpins all special effects in motion picture production; and it has provided content in an ideal form to distribute across a bandwidth poor networked environment.

Animation is an art form which can come from anywhere and which can go to anywhere - from a large production team working in a highly specialised studio or a lone individual working out of a bedroom, to an Imax Cinema screen several metres wide or a mobile phone screen a few centimetres across.

Animation can be as intimate and personal as a stick figure doodle jiggling in the corner of a dog-eared school exercise book cum flip book, or as expansive and public as animated laser lights splashed upon a cityscape (see Hong Kong's Harbour 'Symphony Of Lights' project - Lloyd Weir, Art Director, Laservision NSW and AIM graduate 1996).

Laservision's Hong Kong Harbour 'Symphony Of Lights' project. Art Director, AIM 1996 graduate, Lloyd Weir.

Animation has the capacity to: entertain, exaggerate, simplify, abstract, reveal complex processes, clarify difficult-to-understand concepts, visualise data, be a vehicle for humorous writing, sell product, be an art form, create slapstick sight gags, be a vehicle for insightful social comment, portray the human condition, and tackle difficult and uncomfortable subject manner.

'Hello' - a multi award winning animated film by 2003 AIM graduate, Jonathan Nix.

The amplification of an idea through simplification and abstraction; a sight gag timed to perfection; a visual poem; a moving painting; extraordinary sublime moments in the orchestration of moving image and sound; throw-away sick slapstick humour designed for the moment; stories that remain with you forever; time-based imagery that can be fantastically surreal because of its unique process of realisation; a journey through the human body and other datascapes; the invisible made visible; informative dynamic graphics that monitor critical processes; an animated neon sign. At its best, animation is an exquisite character performance synthesised at the end of a pencil, or increasingly through the sweep and click of a computer mouse, that would otherwise win an award for best acting.

Little else compares with the thrill of breathing life into characters that might never have existed but for your imagination, or to move a large audience of strangers to laugh out loud at their antics, or to keep a person interactively engaged with them and the worlds you have invented, for hours on end.

Almost anything can be brought to life and be imbued with personality, twigs, clay, drawings, objects, computer meshes, and, of course, anything becomes possible in the world of animation. It can entertain, explain and fascinate. In all its wondrous forms from the traditional 'bonk 'em on the head' cartoon styles, to TV commercials, sophisticated narrative works and simulations, to experimental, digitally composited, special effects driven and art films, animation is a powerful vehicle for ideas.

Annemarie Szeleczky used sticks of macaroni and torn paper (left) and the Aussie breakfast spread, 'Vegiemite' for the experimental animation in her research project - "The Development of Experimental Animation Techniques Using Mixed Media, Spatial Layering and Gestural Artwork."

Whether expressed in linear, interactive or real-time forms, the Centre for Animation and Interactive Media embraces the broadest of definition of animation. Animation is timeless, nimble and future proof - and is currently, very 'hot'.

'Symbiosis' by AIM research candidate, Mark Guglielmetti. An immersive stereoscopic virtual space. Co-recipient of the ATOM award for "Outstanding Virtual Experience" 2002 for the immersive digital art installation.

Read on....





(Serge) Eisenstein, greatest film director for me of all time. The only film director, probably, you can put up against Beethoven and Michael Angelo and not be embarrassed, a man with extraordinary vision, great sense of knowledge of his equipment and its potential and he's there making and creating the beginnings of cinema vocabulary. He goes very rarely because he hardly ever left Russia, he goes to South America to make a film about Mexican culture and he stops off in California and he meets Walt Disney and he says “Walt Disney is the only true film maker”.

You have to stand back a minute and think what does this man mean, this great great film director but the essence is that Walt Disney starts from ground zero. He starts from a blank sheet...

We've created a cinema which is based upon nemesis. We have a camera which basically records reality as we know it. There are variations on a theme and you can rework that reality to a certain extent, but in a sense, film making, the cinema, was invented at ground Richter number six rather than zero, so in a sense we've gone too far too fast, and I think there's a way that the real world is going to be more fascinating, more exciting, more dangerous than ever you can put on a cinema screen. - Peter Greenaway
from an interview, 2001

“animation is arguably the most important creative form of the 21st century... it is the omnipresent pictorial form of the modern era” - Paul Wells

"Animation film visualises the invisible. The creative imagination gives life to the abstract and the amorphous"
- Veronique Steeno

"Animation can explain what the mind can conceive" - Walt Disney

"I have given twelve Mickey Mouse movies as a present for the Fuhrer at Christmas! He is being pleased about it. He is absolute happy about this treasure".
- a diary entry of Goebbels commenting on Hitler's enthusiasm for Mickey Mouse Cartoons - 20 Dec 1937

“…animation works best as an abstract form, where it fully demonstrates its intrinsic capability of moving non-representational lines and material which fall outside the orthodox domains of 'realist' constructions and agendas. Animation of this sort may be recognized as more specifically bound up with the desire to express profoundly personal, sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious, aspects of human thought, feeling and experience. The liberating freedom of the medium has a direct correlation with the variety of work achieved by certain animators and artists, who are not merely seeking to find the most appropriate means by which they express their vision, but to progress the medium itself.” - Paul Wells, 1998

"...[an] immobile world of inanimate drawings that had been granted the secret of motion, [a] death-world with its hidden gift of life. But that life was a deeply ambiguous life, a conjurer's trick, a crafty illusion based on an accidental property of the retina, which retained an image for a fraction of a second after the image was no longer present. On this frail fact was erected the entire structure of the cinema, that colossal confidence game.

The animated cartoon was a far more honest expression of the cinematic illusion than the so-called realistic (live-action) film, because the cartoon reveled in its own illusory nature, exulted in the impossible, indeed it claimed the impossible as its own, exalted it as its own highest end, found in impossibility, in the negation of the actual, its profoundest reason for being.

The animated cartoon was nothing but the poetry of the impossible - therein lay its exhilaration and its secret melancholy. For this willful violation of the actual, while it was an intoxicating release from the constriction of things, was at the same time nothing but a delusion, an attempt to outwit mortality. As such it was doomed to failure. And yet it was desperately important to smash through the constriction of the actual, to unhinge the universe and let the impossible stream in, because otherwise - well otherwise, the world was nothing but an editorial cartoon." - Steven Millhauser, "Little Kingdoms"

"... We're confronted with such massive, serious problems as a society, on a world level, that animation as a medium of communication can deal with the abstractions of these problems that a camera can't." - John Hubley


"...the ultimate test of what animation might be would be life that is created rather than just photographed... I always think that's the basic magic of animation: to see the naturally inert come to life. Even if it's alive. It just rivets. It shouldn't happen and we are just riveted by it. It's a form of magic, ....alchemy" - John Canemaker


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