Saturday, April 20, 2013

Animation Sweatbox - reinforcing cultural stereotypes

Animation dailies - how it used to be
Once upon a time animation "sweatbox" was actually a sweaty room below stairs at the Disney lot with a hot moviola to review the previous day's animation. Later, as technology improved, you got to see your shots projected on to a screen, and then publicly dissected by the director in front of your colleagues.

Today the moviola is long gone, but animation dailies are still with us, and some studios still call it sweatbox in homage to the old Disney tradition.

Different directors have different styles, different ways of doing things. Some say things like "that's not really what I had had in mind", leaving baffled animators to guess what they should do different. Or they say stuff like "give it more texture", or "make it funnier", general notes that are very hard to implement.

Others, like the great director Brad Bird, give super specific notes. On The Iron Giant Brad used to have all the animators' shots projected on to a huge white board. He would stand in front of the board, pause the shot frame-by-frame, and draw over the animator's poses with a dry-erase marker, showing exactly what your drawing should have looked like. It could be humiliating - but no-one could deny that Brad knew what he wanted, and how to communicate it.

In truth, criticising the work of fellow artists is never easy, whether the work is being done in Los Angeles, London or Paris.

According to one French animator working in Hollywood, the way that sweatbox works in different countries has something useful to say about our respective national characters. Here is how it works:

Director in Los Angeles: "Great! I love it! That is fantastic! Awesome! Just a few small things....". A long list of changes follows.

Director in London: "uh, ok, that's fine, mostly, but uh...just a couple of things.... ". A long list of changes follows. 

Director in Paris: "thees eez shit. Do it again".


1 comment: