Friday, November 22, 2002

In the early 1930s, Disney animators were struggling to bring the same depth of acting skills to their cartoon characters that actors were achieving in live-action films. Cartoons are a deliberately simplified representation of reality, stripped of the incredibly complex subtleties we are accustomed to in the real world. These animators realized that they could never portray the same subtleties through animation, since the medium was too broad by nature. Instead, they exaggerated all the subtle body language and emotional expressions made by actors until they became almost a pantomime of good acting. Through exaggeration, cartoons are able to elicit very powerful emotional responses from an audience, because cartoon acting is a concentrated version of live acting.

…The key that Disney animators ultimately found to creating the illusion of life was showing their characters thinking. Making a character aware of its environment has an incredible impact on its believability. If your character examines its surroundings and the other characters in it, it automatically appears to be thinking about what it’s looking at. Awareness doesn’t just end with where a character looks, it extends to its reactions to its environment. A character can give emotional responses to what it sees, such as surprise, fear, happiness, and so on.

— Toby Gard, June 20, 2000

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