[-empyre-] Greetings!

Thomas LaMarre, Prof. thomas.lamarre at mcgill.ca
Wed Feb 3 03:24:15 EST 2010


Since Renate has already introduced me, I am happy to bypass self-introduction and throw out some ideas about animation.

Since my research on animation is centred on movement, I thought maybe to begin with a few words about what I think is at stake in looking at animation in terms of movement.  When I begun writing about animation, I was surprised at how rarely people have actually explored the question of movement in animation.  We often sing the praises of movement in animation, and it is pretty much assumed that the attractiveness of animation comes of movement.  Yet a sustained discussion of movement has been largely avoided.  This is a shame because I think that animation creators think first and foremost with movement.

Discussions of animation usually dwell on image (formal) analysis or the 'illusion of life.'  The illusion-of-life approach calls attention to the potential for an experience of the uncanny that arises when something that is supposed to be inorganic or inert comes to life.  In other words, in both approaches, there is a general bias that animation is a matter of adding movement to images or things that are already out there.  Movement is treated as secondary to image, as a supplement to it.

But in animation (as in cinema) movement is something in itself. And moving images are not illusions of movement.  They are real experiences of movement.  In other words, if we rely on a real/unreal or real/illusion divide, we won't get very far in understanding animation (or cinema or video games).

Once we give priority to movement, it becomes clear that we can't confine movement in animation to character animation.  In fact, I think that too much attention has been focused on character animation rather than the force of the moving image. If we begin with the force of the moving image rather than with the gaps between frames, we see that animation is as much an art of compositing as it is of animating bodies.  In fact, I would argue that animation gives priority to compositing (the movement between layers within images that then becomes spread across frames) over character animation (based on the movement between or across images).  In this respect, because it is based on what I like to call the multiplanar image, so-called traditional animation anticipates the dynamics of the digital image.  This is especially true of limited cel animation.

It is precisely for this reason that animation can frequently said be subsuming cinema today-as Lev Manovich has famously noted. But this is not a matter of the formal properties of animation (as is often supposed in new media studies) but of an 'animetic machine' that harnesses a specific potential of the moving image.

It is on this basis that I think we can understand both the ubiquity of animation today and the crucial role that it plays in media mix.



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