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Design, animation, and Kells - Which is not unduly obvious, as I am about to explain
Design, animation, and Kells
In animation, there's design - specifically chosen shapes, background forms, the way characters are drawn, and then there's Design, where you can tell the animators put a lot of thought, work or deliberate artistic choice into what you see on the screen.

Stuff like The Simpsons or the Family Guy - not much design. Sure, there's a visual style to each that's recognizable, but I'd call it more of an internal aesthetic. And it's important to keep styles consistent. If a character in one series turned up in the other, our brains would instantly find it jarring.

Actually I had a bit of that happen when I saw How to Train your Dragon last week. Toothless, the sleek, black dragon is completely different in design from the other dragons, and I found this distracting. (I also thought the other dragon designs were frankly ugly, but strangely pleasantly reminscent of the cartoony monster drawings in the opening title sequence of Monsters Inc.)

Two animators who really "get" design are Craig McCracken and Genndy Tartakovsky. McCracken to a slightly lesser extent: I don't mean he's not as good or isn't trying; I think he chooses his designs up to a certain point and then says, "Ok, that works, now let's focus on the rest of the cartoon." But he definitely puts more work into design than a lot of other animators. I'd use something halfway between a lower-case and upper-case D, if I could. Examples of his work? The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.

And Tartakovsky? Well, Dexter's Laboratory, but especially Samurai Jack. Now that's Design. Things like... umm... this video may not be the bext example, but I'm writing this on the fly of the moment so it's tricky to find examples at a moment's notice. Apparently Tartakovsky was inspired by an obscure 1960s anime movie sometimes translated as The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon which I'm tempted to watch sometime.

So anyway, one animated film I've been really wanting to see is an independent Irish production that came out last year, The Secret of Kells. It's gotten almost no North American distribution, but a torrent of it has finally materialized, and I enjoyed it, although I found the Irish accents a little hard to follow at first, especially when people were whispering.

The plot's rather simple - a young boy named Brendan has been kept secluded in a medieval monastery all his life, decides to break free of the rigid abbot's (his uncle's) control, who's trying to build a huge wall to fend off Viking invaders. Brendan finds his spark lit by a master book illustrator who encourages his artistic skills, and by a mysterious girl who lives in the nearby woods. There's also a cursed, evil place in the forest to contend with, the inevitable Viking invasion, plus a cat named Pangur Bán.

But oh, man, the Design! This thing's just over an hour long and I dearly wish it had been longer! It's... well, I'd love to show it to you guys sometime. :-)

Current Mood: elated

5 comments or Leave a comment
okaree From: okaree Date: April 5th, 2010 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful, thanks for the heads up! *torrent torrent*
dronon From: dronon Date: April 5th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Let me know what you think of it!
niall_ From: niall_ Date: April 5th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Considering it got an Oscar nod, I'll keep an eye out. I had seen the preview and didn't seem to care much for it, but it didn't have any of those images in it!!
(Deleted comment)
mr_sharkey From: mr_sharkey Date: April 7th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Looks amazing!
5 comments or Leave a comment