Sunday, May 11, 2008

12th Annual Marc Davis Celebration of Animation: Drawing on the Future: Mentorship in Animation

I walked out and into the lobby of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Samuel Goldwyn Theatre) on the 9th. It seemed as if I was coaxing myself into believing that I had been swept off of my feet. With lecturers such as Pete Doctor, Andreas Deja, James Baxter and a name I hadn't heard before - Eric Goldberg, I couldn't help but kick in my geek...but only because I was supposed to. Right? I plan on putting my foot in the door in the animation industry, why not get an early start and get giddy and start acting like some preteen anime fangirl?

I couldn't help but finally convincing myself that I had a sour taste in my mouth. It was hard. I wanted to believe that I was sitting before the greatest innovators, movers and shakers in the animation industry.

The panel would mention over and over again that we were sitting atop the shoulders of giants. Like we as a period of time in history will never be able to accomplish what the Nine Old Men of Disney did in their prime. That whatever we do, we will still not succeed the greats.

In a way, they're right.

The Nine Old Men and their posse will be forever unbeatable - only because they are in a set group, a set ideal made over 60 years ago.

Projectors amplified the work that the Nine Old Men did back in the day. It's all so beautiful! The drawings are fucking awesome! But I couldn't help but shudder when some of the panel would shout out "This is out of our league!" And other such comments. The panel would suggest that our goal is to just barely compare to the Nine Old Men. To be as great as they are, is where the feeling of accomplishment lies.

Not to foster innovation, not to create something new and just as appealing.

I'm sick of this ideal.

To win, you have to copy the greats? Fuck that.

You learn what you can AND MOVE ON.

What should we do when we are able to copy the greats? When we can successfully manipulate and do exactly what the Nine Old Men did back in the day? When we can shake our hands with these giants?

We're here to innovate, to create something new - and more importantly, create something that WORKS.

If we create the image of ourselves as sitting atop giants, how can we ever accomplish anything with them looming behind us watching us work?

The Nine Old Men had no reference to look towards in terms of animation. They were the first to accomplish many of the tasks telling a visual story calls for. The panel , one by one, would come up to the podium and show old clips of old Disney films and then would show clips of work that they've been apart of at NeoDisney.

Each one would then recall looking back at what Frank and Ollie did in terms of animating this or that animal or this or that sort of emotion. They'd slap on the disclaimer, "We only looked at these films as inspiration." But it's simply obvious how much we as an industry look at previous films for reference.

What did the firsts of every entertainment faction look towards for reference? These legends had only very little to reference, the rest was created from scratch. That is innovation, that is what the future is all about.

The panelists aren't drawing on the future, their drawing on the past. We may never be up to par to the Nine Old Men, but only because they are apart of a different group of ideals, of nature. We have to put all that Disney shit in a lockbox, otherwise, everything's gonna start looking the same. I may have spoken too soon.

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