Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Time Marches On

I found this video of copying the Mona Lisa using Microsoft Paint intriguing. The technology is not new, of course. It's not a breakthrough I'm reporting here. It's a kind of signpost, though.

I remember watching Geppetto dance with Pinnochio at the drive-in theater when I was young. My children watch it from time to time on a battered VHS tape. I look at it differently now. Not solely as entertainment.

Men conceived and drew that marvelous thing all by hand. That skill is dead now, more or less. No one needs it. It's the buggy whip of animation.

You can generate all sorts of things like those two figures dancing digitally now, and change them almost instantly into two fish, or Godzilla and Tom Brady, or whatever else comes to mind. There is painstaking work still, of course, but of a different sort than the ink and paint of Walt Disney. It's all ones and zeros now.

I know how to paint an oil painting. Not well, but how it's done is no mystery to me. And I know how to manipulate images on a computer screen, too. I've used MS Paint in particular before too. I found it interesting that the artist began by blocking in the Mona Lisa in the time honored fashion of the oil painting, just without the turpentine. Then they nudged the process 1500 years further along, and brought it to its completion.

We see so far because we stand on the shoulders of giants. Da Vinci, yes, and Walt Disney and Milt Kahl and Art Babbit; and some man or woman in a cubicle too.


Icepick said...

Hand drawn animation isn't dead yet. The head of Pixar (Bob Lassiter), now also the head of Disney Animation, is bringing back the hand drawn animation unit, which had just recently closed down, much to the annoyance of hundreds of animoators who loved the old craft. Those people range in age from their 20s on up. (I'm not sure how old the oldest animator is now.) I imagine Disney has more (hand drawn) animators now than the studio did back in Walt's heyday.

This craft isn't dead, it's just been over-managed and drained dry. Pixar didn't surge to the forefront because of computer wizardry, but because of better stories. That's what's been missing from hand drawn studio features in the last 10 to 15 years, not the latest technology. Strangely, it's the guys who have made their fortunes doing computer animation that know this, instead of movie execs who wouldn't know a good story if it walked up and bit them on the tuckus.

Pastor_Jeff said...

"Pixar didn't surge to the forefront because of computer wizardry, but because of better stories."

Indeed. And yet, no matter how many times it's said, the suits in Hollywood still don't get it. It's the story, stupid.

SippicanCottage said...

Icepick- I'm glad to hear that the hand drawn animation is still alive, but I can't imagine that it's possible to do a whole movie that way anymore. In a way, like you say, it doesn't matter how it is achieved, only that it is achieved.

The word "genius" is tossed around everywhere, never more than in Hollywood. There are a great many people I would call "brilliant" in Hollywood, but the only person I can think of that fits the description of "genius" is Walt Disney. Genius is a kind of vision, coupled with talent and intellect.

There were so many brilliant people gathered with that genius. I was entertained by Pinocchio, but it's mixed with a kind of awe, too, for the way it was all done on a drawing board.

XWL said...

Lasseter isn't just head of Animation, he's Principal Creative Adviser for "Walt Disney Imagineering".

Icepick said...

X, I'm aware of that, but concerns have been voiced on that front, both about him stretching himself too thin and also about his own personaly biases negatively impacting creative developement.

PatHMV said...

My grandfather's first cousin, Ollie Johnston, was one of those brilliant people gathered up by Walt Disney. He and his best friend and next-door neighbor Frank Thomas are the last of the "9 old men" who formed the core of the Disney animation team.

The two have teamed up on many books and other productions in their retirement years. I highly recommend their massive (and masterful) book, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. They've also got a website which provides some fun stuff, including very practical animation tips.

Who here loved Thumber? Baloo and Mowgli? Most of the seven dwarfs? Thank Walt and my cousin Ollie.

SippicanCottage said...

Pat- Those names used to be fairly obscure, but now most dvds come with special features added on to them, I think many people know Ollie Johnston's and Frank Thomas' names now.

They always reminded me of the kinds of people I knew from the 1960s who worked at Polaroid, and IBM, and GE, and so forth. Solid guys, yoking considerable talent to really reliable effort. Proud to be part of a team, all individuals just the same.