It was an exciting evening (Sunday, 11-2-2008). At the old Balboa Theater in San Francisco
I attended an evening with Richard Williams, a legendary animator best known for his work on Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, sponsored by ASIFA SF.
He is the author of one of the mandatory animation books at Animation Mentor 'The Animator's Survival Kit', a book that I have referred to many times in my animation journey and found it to be very useful and practical. It has become one of the most popular animation books in the industry. Although Richard's main purpose of the seminar is to promote his tutorial DVDs (16 DVDs of 100s of clips that he animated to illustrate his lecture). I liked the fact that the format of the presentation was more of a Q & A than just a "shameless promotional". He began by showing the promotional clip which started with the animated logo http://www.theanimatorssurvivalkit.com/logo.html The rest of the evening continued with an equal mix of clips from the DVDs and Q & A.
When asked what can be done about animation as a medium to advance beyond the children and family entertainment so that it can be taken seriously not just as a form of telling high browed narratives but as a fine art; Richard replied "I'm making one of those!" His answer, in a nut shell, was to just do it. But the problem is 'the golden rule' (Whoever has the gold, makes the rule), so if you want to get backing from somebody, they want to make children stuff. This is the reason Richard is selling his work in order to be able to produce his own work.
He dodged a question about his opinion of The Thief and the Cobbler, I guess its a sensitive spot with him.
He didn't reveal much about his film other than he had the idea for it since he was 15. He does not want anyone else to help him with it. He mentioned how relieved he was when Spielberg took over his small company of animators. He does not like running the business side of animation.
Watched some incredible footage about lip sync. He relayed Milt Kahl telling him the secret of lip sync, he told him that Jim Henson, the Muppet guy, is the genius because he realized what no other puppeteer realized before him, he is progressing the action. The secret to lip sync is progression.
A good quesion was asked "How do you feel about the attitude that there is no point in animating human beings (realism) when you got action films?" In summation, Richard said that animators discovered how realistic animation does not work back in the 30s. It lookd floaty, unbelievable. They tried using a reference for Snow White walking. The important part of artistic animation is that you only show the essence of the idea. In realism there is so much detail being conveyed that the viewer will become detached from the subject.
Richard is not of the opinion that 3D animation is an outgrowth of 2D. He said that 2D animators are scribblers while 3D is hi tech marionettes. Different animals.
Another great clip about eyes. The eyes tell the story. We watch the eyes more than the mouth.
About facing frustration during animating, he advised to research your work before you animate.
He told some charming stories of his work with Milt Kahl, Art Babbit, Ken Harris and other animation legends and revealed some little golden animation nuggets of wisdom that he referred to as little secrets. They are no secret now, but his way of relaying them was funny and entertaining. He also relayed a funny story where actor Michael Caine gave an acting session where he said to his students "If you see something you like, steal it! Because they did" Of course Richard also said that he doesn't like it when people steal his work, but I took it in the context of inspiration.
The theater was full, 300 people attended. This is the first time that I was among so many individuals with similar interest as mine. Quite a few Animation Mentor students but the majority were SF State or College of Art students. Their enthusiasm to Richard's lecture tells me that this industry has a lot of steam in it. I am looking forward to what comes next in the future of animation.