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Performers in Animation

Warning: Do not start today’s post if you need to head out the door in a few minutes. The videos contained herein will make you late. They may also leave you feeling deeply inspired by the seemingly boundless depths of human creativity and a re-kindled fire within you to make art.

The three pieces that I want to highlight today are not only all gorgeous and inspiring, but they all incorporate live performance in different ways. When I think of how performers are used in animation, my first thought is that performers are used to give voice to the characters. Also, through films like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Avatar” we’ve seen actors used for motion or performance capture, their every move and gesture “captured” by a computer and then used by the animators to give the characters life. In terms of working in Hollywood films, commercials and videos, both of these areas are growing markets, but they aren’t the use of performers in animation that I want to highlight today.

Ryan Woodward, the animator of the first piece below, Thought of You, talks about the “itch to do something unique” and the “inner beast of creativity”. He has worked as a storyboard artist on some of Hollywood’s biggest films – Spiderman 2 and 3, Where the Wild Things Are, and Cowboys and Aliens, to name just a few. He works with the choreographer Kori Wakamatsu and four dancers for the creation of his film. The dancers aren’t hooked up to machines to calculate their precise movements but in the making of video you can see Ryan closely watching them and then interpreting their movements in his gorgeous drawings (of which he made over 20,000!).

You can see all the collaborators in this making of documentary.

This next piece, Tyger, by Guilherme Marcondes, uses a mix of traditional puppetry, photography and computer generated animation. The film was inspired by William Blake’s poem The Tyger, and in the book Animation in Process by Andrew Selby, Guilherme talks about why he kept the puppeteers visible in the final product.

That’s a reference to a line in the poem that questions the origin of this supernatural animal; “Was it created by God?” “Is it the image of a human desire?” There’s no answer to that in the text. I thought that using the direct puppet manipulation and showing the controlling dark figures was the perfect visual translation of that mystery.

In these last pieces, Miwa Matreyek is both the live performer and the animator. She uses a mix of rear and front projections, music and her own body to create her mesmerizing pieces.

Brings Miranda’s famous line from The Tempest to mind –

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

Image at top is a still from “Thought of You” by Ryan Woodward

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