I wanted to bring this Bug Bunny example, not just because it’s one hell of a shortfilm and character I’ve learned so much over the years…but also to talk about the topic of quick animation, as it is something that I wanted to pass my thoughts on it following a great post from Andrew on SplineDoctors where he talks about Presto’s great execution in the shortfilm. Just very true stuff, and stuff to always be concious. If you haven’t watch the short, go watch it right now on Itunes (Andrew passed the link on his site I believe), as Doug, Andrew and the animators, did a more than impressive work. The quality of the work was something else. Congratulations guys for a really unique and amazing short.

So starting out in CG the quick animation was a style of animation I very much was inspired on. You can see I really liked that style on my early work…and even some of my professional work. Not so much in the work I did for ILM, as that timing style didn´t really apply in a world where you are trying to match your CG animation to Live-Action background plates and actors. Anyways, I think the style of animation follows your personality somehow or parts of it. But in watching some old Daffy Duck stuff when learning animation, I kept going “that’s gotta be fun to try”. Since my 2D drawing skills sucked, I tried some of that stuff with a CG simple wooden manequin character I built back in 1997. Whatever I could try. For the most part, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Much of that stuff needed a lot of work. No one taught me that style and I was taking blind steps constantly. I’d frame by frame the old VHS tapes, and then right onto the computer to try stuff out. But I was still having a great time trying stuff out.

However, this is something I wanted to bring up, as quick animation is something that should be done carefully, if done at all. I’ve learned over the years, that while it’s easy to snap a character from pose to pose like I did for many years, what’s really difficult is to pull it off succesfully. Take this example of a clip from Bugs Bunny in “Overtures to Disaster”. In my opinion, the quickness of the animation is done really succesfully, and this shortfilm is one by far one of the most enterntaining 2D shorts I’ve watched:

This film is GREAT for me still today. From the choices, the ideas and the pace, it’s a great short. It follows the music, but even without sound it has a great pace, and makes me more and more aware that keeping an audience’s attention visually is crucial in making sure they are following your character around regardless of whether the animation is really quick (like in this clip) or the animation is really slow and subtle, through the timing, the choices or the staging. So I have found that when studying fast quick timing/animation over the years, several factors need to be taken into account, other than hitting poses with just a couple frames transitions in between. That will bore people to death…or they’ll grow tired of it. Some important things to think about in my opinion are:

  1. Texture and musicality in the timing:

What you want to look for are ways to break up those poses with the timing. Find a rhythm and a musicality when going from pose to pose. If you have 4 poses in general, don’t have the exact timing when holding the poses and the transitions. That’s repetitive, and never helps. You can have repetitive poses/timing if you are going somewhere with it, and it’s part of a larger picture where the repetition is a means to an end. This is harder to explain, and won’t get into it. But instead of having these 4 poses/transitions with the exact timing, break it up…and break it up so that it makes sense in your shot. Maybe the first two poses have quicker transitions because the character is nervous…and slower ones towards the end as he’s starting to relax. Who knows. But what’s important is to BREAK TIMING DOWN, and create a texture in it.

  • Overlapping action:

Maybe the character hits a pose within 4 frames. That’s fast. However…maybe one arm settles 4 frames later. Maybe it is the head that settles later due to a point in your shot. Maybe instead the head arrives 4 frames before the body. Your choice. Play with things like that.

  • Staging:

Where we are looking at is always really important. Because it’s quicker stuff, the audience will have to work a little harder in following the character and what he/she is doing. Sometimes you can have quick animation, but make sure the audience follows. There is no point in snapping a character to a point if the staging isn’t clear or is done with a purpose.

  • Enterntaining:

Is the quickness of the animation making the shot enterntaining and pushing the character/story/gag forward? or are you just moving the character quickly for the hell of it? If it’s the second one, it’s not reason enough…and it’ll show quickly you are moving the character quickly around the screen.

  • Choices/Ideas:

While difficult to explain, quick animation will give you a set of choices and ideas to play with.
Some of my favourite Scrat stuff in IceAge, was because the choices/ideas in the shots were very well thought out…and suited the character. So while it was quick animation, the ideas made the character, personality work even more.

  • Slow IN and OUTS:

This is a big one. No matter whether your character transitions from one pose to the next in two frames (or even one frame), it will work if it’s properly anticipated and/or properly settled into its next pose. Look at the Coyote films, where sometimes he’ll anticipate so much and then literally dissapear in one frame. So pay attention to how animators anticipate and settle characters in your favourite films.

So don’t have quick or slow animation in your characters if there is no purpose to it. People will be able to tell. And when you do, make sure you are not throwing your character from one part of the screen to another part in a couple of frames without making sure other things are working. I hope this helps.

Carlos.