Monday, April 4, 2011


1. Scenes begin in the middle, not the beginning.
2. A character should be "doing" something 100 percent of the time.
3. A character enters a scene for a reason, and he exits for a reason.
4. Thinking tends to lead to conclusions; emotion tends to lead to action.
5. A gesture need not be an illustration of the spoken word.
6. Audiences empathize with emotion. The key to good animation is in empathy.
7. Comedy is drama heightened, oxygenated.
8. An action pursues a longer term objective. (Smile at the girl because you want to date her.)
9. Short term memory causes eyes to glance upward.
10. Long term memory causes eyes to glance downward, into the soul.
11. The human sense of sight is many times more powerful than the sense of hearing.
12. Humans act to survive. Find the survival mechanism in your character.
13. Play an action until something happens to make you play a different one.
14. A scene is a negotiation.
15. "Actors are athletes of the heart" - Artonin Artaud
16. Anxiety is a high or heady power center; confidence is a low power center.
17. Emotions are automatic value responses.
18. Characters that make steady eye contact for more than a few seconds are either going to fight or make love.
19. The human smile says, "I won't hurt you."
20. Never underestimate the audience.
21. When you animate, you are saying to the audience, "I understand this." When the audience applauds, laughs or cries, it is saying, "I see what you mean."
22. Actors lead; audiences follow.
23. Background characters can be defined with shadow movement - a jiggling knee, a charcter's mouth moving when he reads the paper, biting fingernails and so on.
24. "The Iron Giant" is an animation classic. Every animator should study it, like visiting Mecca.
25. We see things before we hear them; we hear things before we touch them; we touch things before we smell them; we smell things before we taste them.
26. A villain is a regular person that has a fatal flaw.
27. A hero is a regular person that has to rise to extreme heights to overcome an extraordinary obstacle.
28. The "beats" in a scene or script are better perceived as "beads" in a necklace. One bead leads to the next to the next and so on. Put the beads together, and you have a story.
29. The purpose of (character) movement is destination.
30. Acting has almost nothing to do with words.
31. Commercials convey almost zero actual information. They are about emotion.
32. Humans and other animals negotiate status continually.
33. To energize a scene, convert the character's "wants" to "needs."
34. Theatrical reality isn't the same thing as regular reality.
35. Acting is reacting.
36. Animators are not mimes. Mime is a specialized art.
37. A key ingredient of empathy is distance.
38. Old people stoop because their bodies ache.
39. A drunk character tries to counteract the effects of the alcohol.
40. To show that a character is hot, have him try to get cool.
41. To show that a character is cold, have him try to get warm.
42. An "adrenaline" moment is one the character will remember when he turns eighty and looks back on his life. The best movies include plenty of adrenaline moments. (Re-read #24)
43. A character analysis is like a character biography.
44. When a character is faced with a choice, be specific. Avoid ambivalence.
45. Allow your characters to be affected by the atmosphere in a location, the "feeling" it projects. (A car wreck has an atmosphere; a church has an atmosphere; a marriage bed has an atmosphere.)
46. Yelling is a weak acting choice.
47. We speak of memory in general terms, but it is referenced in specific mental images.
48. A character that is listening to another is actually preparing to speak.
49. The camera tends to follow the character's gaze.
50. A scene should have conflict, otherwise known as an obstacle.
51. Trick for suggesting villainy: tilt head forward; eyes peer upward, exposing whites in lower portion of eyeball.
52. Character "personality" is actually character "behavior."

Intro to Ed Hooks theories

Animators are performers, like actors.
As such, they are shamans, like actors.
The performing arts stretch back seven thousand years, to the days when nomadic tribes were trying to get through hard winters and to secure a successful hunt. Shamans talked to the animal spirits, drew pictures on cave walls, helped the tribe survive. Successful survival is what all the arts are about.

We laugh at Wile E. Coyote because we recognize in him our own weaknesses. We laugh because we know that the weaknesses must be harnessed, or we will perish. The coyote trusts the Acme Company and its cock-eyed inventions too much, and he lusts for a Road Runner sandwich too much. Each of us can relate to the trouble that can come from falling ass-over-tea kettle in pursuit of a thing. Each of us can see the value in moderation, and Chuck Jones helps us understand that via the coyote's compulsions.
When you storyboard a new animation, remember that everybody in the world acts to survive. From the time we are born until the moment we die, everything we do is oriented by our intent to survive. The choices we make in the pursuit of life are the stuff of laughter and tears. Keep your finger lightly on the pulse of humanity, search for the survival mechanisms and your animation will soar. It will be meaningful regardless of its style.

If you are making your own animation, ask yourself if the story you are telling is worth calling the tribe together. Actors are shamans, and so are animators. When you tell a story, there needs to be some point to it. If you call the tribe to assemble, be sure that you have something worthwhile to say.

Emotion is the primary thing that binds us humans to one another. Audiences empathize with emotion, not information. Animators, like other interpretative artists, speak to the audience with emotion. As Artonin Artaud said, "Actors are athletes of the heart", and so, too, are animators.

DEFINITION: An EMOTION is an automatic value response.

Emotion is a factor of a thinking brain. It has to do with the values we hold. Take away the thinking, and you remove any possibility of emotion. They go hand in hand.

As a practical matter, how does this help an animator? Well, in general,
thinking tends to lead to conclusions, and emotion tends to lead to action.
Define your character, get him thinking, and then he will have emotional responses to whatever is going on -- leading him to physical action. The audience relates to the feeling that is behind the movement.

the audience will empathize with the SURVIVAL MECHANISMS in a character, as they are expressed in emotion. What this means is that we humans act to survive, and we will recognize this tendency in characters on the screen.
The first thing we do when we are born is try to live. The last thing we do before we die is try to live. Think about that. It is the secret of acting that Lasseter was hitting at. We think and so we feel. Thinking and emotion serves our survival as a species.

It is a base line truth of character animation that empathy is the key to success. In order to create in the audience a sense of empathy, you must create in your character an illusion of emotion. We humans empathize only with emotion, not with thinking.
I hear animators speak of "animating the thought", and that is of course correct - but I don't think it goes quite far enough. Animating the thought is desirable and is a quantum leap forward from "animating the dialogue", but thought alone will not carry the day, no matter how brilliantly it is animated. The thought must be tied to emotion because emotion is what leads to an empathetic response.
First the character has thoughts. The thoughts lead to feelings. The feelings lead to action.
The action must have theatrical structure because theatrical reality is not the same thing as regular reality. People do not go to the movie to see regular reality, which is what they would get if they hang out at the grocery store or shopping mall. Theatrical reality is compressed in time and space.

A defining moment is usually a small, almost undetectable and private 
thing for a character. It goes by in less than a heart beat. It is a 
factor of a squint, the refocusing of a pupil, the bat of an eyelash 
... But if you, the animator and story teller, can isolate it even 
for a fraction of a second, there is a good chance the extra effort 
will pay dividends triple-fold.

An Adrenaline Moment is one that the character will 
remember when he or she turns eighty-five years old and looks back on 
his life. It is, in short, a moment of significance.

Scientists have discovered that when something "important" (i.e. important to our survival as humans) happens to a person, her brain literally becomes bathed with adrenaline. Nature marks this moment and instructs that she remember it. The moment may be happy or sad, full of excitement or very quiet. None of that matters. All that matters is that the moment be important.

An adrenaline moment is a factor of character. It is not a factor of story. The story per se does not have an adrenaline moment because the story's brain doesn't get bathed in adrenaline. The character's brain gets bathed with adrenaline. An adrenaline moment is also not something that happens to the audience. The audience does not experience an adrenaline moment unless the theatre burns down while the movie is screening. The person in the audience empathizes with the character that is experiencing an adrenaline moment.

Your character should be playing an action in pursuit of an objective while overcoming an obstacle.

“Acting is doing something”.
You should be able to freeze-frame your character at any moment and ask him what he is doing?
What is his objective?
What is his obstacle? (Obstacle with self, obstacle with the situation or obstacle with another character.) If the character can’t answer those questions, you have a problem.

Scenes begin in the middle, not at the beginning.
When a character enters a room, where is he going?
Where did he come from?
What is the obstacle?
It is not enough to know that, when frustrated, this character stomps his left foot and pulls hair out of his head.
The more important question is what is his objective.

Only 7 percent of what we communicate with one another is via words.
The other 93 percent is via expression and body language.

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