International Animation Day: With Animal Logic

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International Animation Day 2017 official poster

I have no problem at all with buying a ticket to an animated film and NOT taking my spawnlings. I usually take them anyway because I DO have a problem with the whining and whinging when I movie-watch on my own. But, seriously? I don’t need the “I’m taking the kids” excuse. I love animated films, in their own right. I love International Animation Day. I love celebrating all things animation, and you know you do too. So, why are there still people hesitant to admit it?

International Animation Day: October 28

International Animation Day is just around the corner—it’s before Halloween, so re-organize your priorities and settle into some animation adoration on Saturday, October 28. That’s right: Saturday. I don’t think I have ever seen a better reason for Pizza-and-Movie-Night for this Saturday night.

If you’re really lucky, you may have a cinema in your local area who is also celebrating International Animation Day. It’s a genuine bona fide celebration; I’m not making this up. Starting in 2002, the day commemorates the first public performance of Charles-Emile Reynaud’s Theatre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris, 1892. Now, it is a recognized event initiated by the International Animated Film Association (a member of UNESCO). Cultural institutions around the world are invited to join in the celebrations with screenings of animated films, workshops, exhibitions and demonstrations. This year, the participating countries include the United States of America, Australia, Croatia, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia (to find out what is on, you are best doing an internet search for International Animation Day in your local area).

Are Animated Films Just for Kids?

It amazes me how this is still a common response when I bring up animated films. Then there are the people who go, “Oh, I love Studio Ghibli! But that’s different, right?”

Yeah, we ALL love Studio Ghibli but if you have only two categories to differentiate your animated films, you are in desperate need of some schooling. So, I called in some buddies at Animal Logic, the studio behind animated films like Happy Feet, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole, and the series of LEGO Movies including the latest The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Kim Taylor, the Production Designer on The LEGO Ninjago Movie, is here to set the record straight:

Animal Logic Kim Taylor Production Design
Kim Taylor (Animal Logic) / Image courtesy of Animal Logic
Evil Genius Mum:
Let’s establish some street cred first. International Animation Day is a celebration of the history of animation. What are your three favorite animated films?
Kim Taylor:
Princess Mononoke, The Secret of NIMH, and My Neighbor Totoro.
Evil Genius Mum:
I think I’m going to cry a little; I LOVE The Secret of NIMH! Well, considering your choices and the portfolio from Animal Logic’s Animation, how do you think animation changes the message in films, especially for kids?
Kim Taylor:
I think animation doesn’t so much change the message as allow for greater amplification and expression of it. Animation has historically been a very fertile ground for the imagination as any idea could be drawn to life, though the practical constraints stemming from having to draw thousands of frames of any character have led to a lot of simplification. I think the imagination combined with this simplification makes animated films such as Princess Mononoke, The Secret of NIMH, and My Neighbor Totoro very appealing to children. It’s also a big part of why so many modern 3D animated films are still appealing to the same demographic.
Evil Genius Mum:
It takes a huge team effort to create the animation and the messages. What makes working in animation different for you, compared to live action films?
Kim Taylor:
In the case of animated features, I feel that the main difference is that absolutely everything has to be designed or decided on from the ground up. Literally! I spent a long time on Ninjago just reviewing the surfacing of the ground itself. With live action you can be lucky, find a location and cash in on its sense of history to make your film feel rich; whereas animated features you have to consciously create a backstory to the world and follow through on how this story or concept effects absolutely everything from streets to plants to characters to floating fairy palaces. The fact that anything is possible makes a large part of the job narrowing down possibilities to what will serve the story best.
A scene from the new animated adventure “THE LEGO® NINJAGO MOVIE,” from Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Animation Group, in association with LEGO System A/S, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Evil Genius Mum:
How comfortable do you feel treading that line of possibilities, between realism and animation? How does it affect your creativity?
Kim Taylor:
I am absolutely comfortable with this as I really don’t believe there is a line; just a great grey haze. The film Gravity was essentially an animated feature with bits of live action. Many of the biggest VFX heavy superhero movies are as much CGI as they are live action and creatures like Gollum, Groot, or even Dobby feel very real and wouldn’t exist if not for a team of animators. For me, it is about using realism as a tool in telling stories. You could tell a poignant story like the start of Up or My Neighbor Totoro in a super realistic style but it would be too heavy. Conversely, you could animate Gollum in goofy style and you would lose all of his intensity. I think the creativity defines how the look and the style tell the story and if the story needs realism then it’s up to new technologies to take us out of the uncanny valley into comfortable realism.
Evil Genius Mum:
Now, we need to continue feeding my addiction to animated films and encourage a new generation to join the industry. How would you sell it: What is the greatest perk of the job, the thing that makes you happy to come back to work the next day?
Kim Taylor:
I think it would have to be the fact that we get to create worlds and stories every day. I never know what design challenge I will be faced with and the sheer randomness of my Google searches as I learn about everything from character design to town planning to typography to historic costumes means I am never bored. I learn something new every day and that makes the work better, and keeps me coming back!

 

Everything Kim shared with us shows how animation is able to span across multiple demographics and all age groups. It is not just for kids. It can’t be: Animation simply achieves too much to be restricted to one specific group of viewers. Instead, animation should be seen as the offering to cinematic gods; another way to reach anyone and everyone in whatever way you think is best.

International Animation Day is the perfect opportunity for you to embrace your love for animated films, share it with unsuspecting others, or even broaden your own watch-list. Check your local guides for special events. And most of all, give us a few hints of your favorites in the comments—I need some suggestions for Pizza-and-Movie Night.

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