Friday, April 1, 2011

Influences

I have a post from the beginning of the year which touched on the topic of my personal influences within animation, but of course, the wonderful Steve Jobs is only a small portion of the people who inspire me.  I feel like my path into animation has a certain chronology to it, so chronologically through my influences I shall proceed.

Mr. Disney
First and foremost HAS to be, absolutely no doubt, Walt Disney.  My entire childhood Disney videos were my babysitters, I know every line for every film and every lyrics for every song up until the great Disney Renaissance of the 1980s/90s.  The first film I was ever taken to was The Little Mermaid with my aunt Mandy when I was 4 years old.  That same aunt came with my family to Disneyland, California when I was 9 years old, and then again to Disneyworld, Florida when I was 16.  My parents, and especially my aunt Mandy loved the films and instilled that love in me and my siblings.  Still, to this day (in fact especially to this day now that I study animation) we talk at great length about our favourite characters, our favourite songs, humerous storylines and funny routines which we recite over for the hundredth time and still find funny.  Just recently I sat for an hour with my father talking at great depth about the character designs of the animals from the Jungle Book.  I personally don't know of any other set of films which I could do this with.  Walk Disney is definitely one of the pinacles of the animation world.  It might be entirely cliched for an animator to love Disney, my god imagine, but he is definitely my first and one of my biggest inspirations for studying this artform.

Being such a massive fan of the Disney animated films my aunt Mandy (who I am actually thinking is as big an influence as anyone for me... most of my early animation-related influences are linked to her in some way or another) was always pointing us towards new animations she liked.  It was her and my father who first introduced me to Wallace and Gromit from a very early age (I must have been about 5 or 6 when I first saw A Grand Day Out).  Nick Park soon became a name as well known as Walt Disney in our household.

Nick Park with his creations Wallace & Gromit
The modeling kit that inspired my short lived dreams as a plasticine animator.

I remember getting a Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (or The Wrong Breeks I mistakenly called it one day to my aunt Mandy... she never let me live that down) plasticine modeling kit when I was about 8 years old and spending hour upon hour modeling and posing the characters in home-made sets.  It was the first time I remember the frustration of animation, how difficult it was to get the characters just right and on model.  I also remember it being the first time I actually looked into animation.  I wondered how they got the pictures on screen and read in a book (not internet... books in those days) that I required a certain camera to take pictures with, and that these cameras were exceedingly expensive, and not for amateur 8 years olds.  My future as a plasticine animator ended there, without a camera these were nothing more than models, and no one got to see the adventures I put them in.

Luckily though, when I was in primary 6 (about 10 years old, roughly) we received a visit from two traveling animators to our school and we joined forces with the primary 6 and 7 classes from two other local primary's to create a short animation.  I can't for the life of me remember who these two women were, but they had been going around the country to other rural primary schools and for two weeks creating an animation based on local stories with the kids from these schools.  The final animation was called Minnie's Muckle Meshie, and it encompassed all the stories we grew up with in the Shetland Isles - giants, magical trolls, seamonsters, and such like.  It was so exciting and stupendously creative, which I loved (I had big dreams of being an artist when I was a child, so art every day for two weeks was heavenly).

My role in the production was character designer and animator (something I have gone on to  specialise in now).  I remember designing a number of the trolls and cutting them out with black paper, then animating a splash scene by moving blue sand around on a glass plate under a camera.  The characters and buildings were, if I remember correctly, all cut out form black card like silhouettes, and the environments - seas, hills - were sand.  I still keep a copy of the video with me.  My first animation.  It got a premiere showing at the local village hall.  I remember being so proud that my family were there to see it, pointing out the scenes I had done and them seeing my name in the credits.  Pretty exciting for a ten year old.

Skoons and Nene, our Warcraft counterparts
My next big influence was, would you believe, World of Warcraft.  In 2005 my boyfriend at the time got me heavily into the game, so into it that I dropped out of my university course and got a full-time job to pay for subscriptions.  I hated my job, was really only living for Warcraft for a long time.  The game had this introductory trailer which absolutely blew me away.  The animation in it was astounding, and it made me want to work for Blizzard so bad, I wanted to be the person making these videos or modeling those characters.  So I looked into it, and this may seem weird but it was the first time I really realised that there were jobs out there for animators and 3D modelers and such like.  



It still took a long time for me to really get it into my head that I could be one of these people and do all these things.  This is where my previous post on Steve Jobs comes in.  My boyfriend's Dad told me to get some clarity in my life or else I'll never find where I want to go (he was a very wise Malaysian man, in addition to being a very successful business coach and one of the original developers of the first generation of CAD architechtural software).  It was then that I was give the video of Steve Job's graduation speech at Stanford University and I was inspired to fund myself back into education and begin learning something that I really wanted to for the rest of my life.


So I enrolled myself into Dundee College on a 3D Computer Animation Course, graduating after two years with an HND and managed to wangle my way into the 2nd year of a BA Animation course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design with 5 of my fellow classmates.  Here I met my next big influence.  These guys:


They're not all present but this is the majority of my motley crew of classmates.  Each one of them inspires and influences me in a different way, from being a better animator to doing more with my life outside of the classroom.  Our course is incredibly focused on peer-to-peer learning, and I swear I've learned as much from these guys as I have from what has been taught to me in class.  What makes it better is that we're incredibly close with the year above and some of the year below too.  The fourth years are pushing boundaries just now which we'll need to try and better next year.  They're setting a stupidly high standard this year, which is pure motivation for us to strive and get better and better.  You couldn't get more influence than that.

So that brings me up to date with my chronological influences.  For the sake of a good narrative I have had to save some of my inspirational people for a wee paragraph or two at the end.  These are people whose work I admire and would love to emulate and follow in their footsteps  The main one would definitely be John Lasseter (cliche no. 2, my god imagine an animator loving Pixar, whatever next) and the work he has done for Pixar and Disney.  His storytelling abilities are second to none.  He is literally the second coming of Walt and a massive inspiration to anyone in the animation industry.  

The second would have to be Genndy Tartakovsky.  His style of animation blows my mind.  The way he tells story through action over dialogue makes from some amazing pieces of work.  The Clone Wars series and Samurai Jack are amongst some of my favourite animations to watch.  His cartoons, such as Dexter's laboratory and the Powerpuff Girls, pervaded a lot of my childhood as well.  He has an incredibly distinctive visual style which I absolutely love, but it was only when I was older and looking back on his work as an animator that I truely became to appreciate it.
My final inspiration is one of the most recent to come into my life.  I have long been a fan of The Gorillaz and Tank Girl but I never ever linked them both to one person - Jamie Hewlett.  It was only researching them in college that I actually started to really appreciate his artwork.  His drawing style is amazing, to a level I could never dream my own would reach, but what really makes him stand out for me too is his recent work for charity, something that's quite close to my heart. 
So yeah, these are my influences.  Well, the ones I can think of just now anyway.  Think this post is getting a bit too long to start naming everyone.  Hopefully maybe they'll be as inspirational for other people as they have been for me. 

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