I wanted to bring up the subject of simplicity to animation. Sometimes we overcomplicate our animations. Look at this episode of Pocoyo, and how each action is simply beautifully animated. It’s not polished in the sense of overlaps affecting other parts of the body, or adding a sense of realistic weight etc…but it is CLEAR, brings the point of the shot accross and it is ENTERNTAINING. Do this test, play the clip with the sound OFF. It amazes me that without sound, without dialogue, music, etc…I’m just as enterntained and follow what’s going on so clearly. Some animation parts could be really clear blocking in terms of the beats addressed and the point of the story. It is a great starting point. Also, you know exactly where to look at. Characters don’t move unnecesarily or for no reason…instead, you get breathing room, things are not confusing, and characters let other characters interact. These things should always be addresed early on in the blocking, and with as little number of controls animated as possible. Certain things can be added to a blocking as well, such as the up and down of a character and its timing, and how that affects the personality, emotional state, weight, contact resistance, etc.

On the SplineDoctor’s Blog Andrew brings great points about Puppett animation. Be sure to read it. So much truth to it. So much can be learned about simplicity in animation through puppets, and shows like “Sesame Street” or “The Muppets”. All it really is, is a simple puppet with a simple open/close mouth…combined with amazing timing, posing, and some precise acting skills do the rest. I can study clips like these forever and learn something new about them. The fact that these puppets for example don’t even move their pupils, and yet, the puppeteers give so much life to them…makes it a very valuable lesson in acting. Goes back to the simplicity of a bouncing ball.

I’ve seen tests done with a simple blocky character where only one or two controls are animated. See Stephen Gregory’s post here to see what I’m talking about. You can get a lot of mileage by animating one or two controls….but putting detail to all the little movements that happen on any action. Now, this part is KEY…whatever blocking goes on in those one or two simple controls will drive the rest of the animation, the rest of the overlaps, etc. So it’s always important to pay a lot of attention to the main force driving an action, be that the hips of the character, the main root up/down going on in the character, like Andrew was mentioning, the side to side, etc. The anticipation, action and reaction….PLUS…all the movement imperfections and noise going on as well.

One more thing to point out.
Simple blocking on a character or object can be also affected by:

  • gravity or air resistance.
  • Weight of character, or limb or object.
  • Wether another character/object is affecting the movement.
  • Emotional or physical state of the character.
  • contact material the character is walking on or doing an action.

This last one while it doesn’t seem important, can also play a huge rule.
See This clip of the Raptors in the kitchen in Jurassic Park (jump onto the metal table in 04:30). The jump on the table becomes so much more believable when the animator included the sliping of the Raptor’s feet on the metal table. That’s something you also have to take into account on your blocking…even if all you are blocking are the hips/feet basic controls. Spend a lot of time on these as it will drive the rest of the work left.

Anyways, to add to Andrew’s topic on muppets, this short little clip I found through AM student Justin Weg is really interesting and informative, including an interview with Frank Oz (Sesame Street, Yoda).

Sesame Street: Behind the Scenes.