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Animation has been with us for a very long time now. People have been drawing sequential, motion-mimicking frames for thousands of years. (Go look at some ancient Egyptian burial murals when you get a chance.) And for the past few hundred years, we’ve been figuring out ways to bring those frames to life ⎯ through spinning discs, flipbooks, and, ultimately, online video streaming services. You might say animation was the earliest form of filmmaking. It’s the medium that first taught us the power of moving pictures. And it continues to be one of the most innovative forms of filmmaking today.

Like any good story, our careers often make sense only in retrospect. In the moment, the way forward is anything but obvious. It’s only when you look back that you can see how one thing led to another: how you were preparing for your next big move all along, without even realizing it. That’s how things worked for director Rob Chiu who’s now directed commercials for brands like McLaren, Lexus, and Toyota — just to name a few.

Three recent design school graduates are sitting in a room somewhere in the Netherlands, listening to an album. The record skips. They think: Did the record just skip? Or did we travel through time a little bit? It’s the kind of bizarro question that will become common for these three. Jump-cut 10 years into the future, and this seed of an idea has become the Oscar-nominated animated short film A Single Life, created by the now-renowned animation studio Job, Joris & Marieke.

Danny Madden (a.k.a. Ornana) has one rule: Make films the hard way, or don’t make them at all. “Sometimes it’s easy to look for tricks, or to want to master your craft to the point where you know what you’re doing and it gets easier. But if you get to that point, where what you’re doing is easy, then you’ve really lost something.”

At just 26 years old, Daisy Jacobs was nominated for an Academy Award for her animated short film, The Bigger Picture. Short in this context is a bit ironic. The project was physically massive: life-sized paintings painstakingly animated frame by frame over six months. The result is striking — unforgettable even. Ostensibly a simple story about a family, the film explores life-sized issues including death, loss, anger, and grief. In many ways, the scale of the art matches the scale of the themes. But that might be too tidy of an interpretation. Daisy’s reasons for working in the large scale are much more down to earth: “Personally, I can get more into the character,” she told us. “He is the same size as me; and what he does and physically touches, I’m animating at the same scale I encounter in the real world.”