Art Babbitt’s animation seminar – Page 2

“Everybody writes books about the history of animation, and the technicalities of the rostrum camera, but few tell you how to animate. Some call it Art – that’s wishful thinking. It is little more than finger-painting. Although we are going one step further than finger-painting, animation at present is still at the stage where we stumble on stage – we haven’t yet learned to act.

“We must not remain confined in the land of make-believe and fairy tales. There is a vast area of fantasy and fact we have only just touched. Why not something from Moliere? – or an animated version of the Decameron?

“We must not delude ourselves into thinking we have mastered the art simply because we can make a character walk. There are so many variations we can make to that simple walk – dependant on the situation and our own curiosity.”

Art moved to the blackboard and for the next three hours he took the class through some of the basics. First, he drew a simple outline figure, for this was to be an exercise in ‘breathing’, that is to say: inhaling and exhaling. Inhaling: – the head will have a tendency to move back slightly as the volume of air swells the chest. Exhaling: – volume leaves the chest, the head moves forward slightly and the tummy swells. This was demonstrated in profile and full face, with the advice that this was a preferable way to deal with figures who would otherwise freeze in a scene.

A couple of Art’s old U.P.A. cartoons were shown. “Family Circus” was a homily on sibling jealousy drawn in two contrasting styles. (Art’s comment: “Style of design is immaterial, the principals of animation remain the same.”) Hubley’s name appeared on the credits and he may have been responsible for the stylised jerky animated children’s drawings that were used in a dream sequence. A Mr Magoo short followed, ably demonstrating ‘personality’ characterisation. “Grizzly Golfer” (Prod. John Hubley) cl950 was also a classic example of the art of ‘breathing’. Magoo takes Waldo to a golf course, where his ball eventually disturbs a sleeping bear. The bear’ soon discovers that golf balls taste delicious. Magoo mistakes the circular seed head of a dandelion as his ball, hits it into the air, and there follows a slow-motion sequence as the bear tries to swallow it. Every time he attempts to close his mouth around it, his exhaled breath blows it forward out of harms way. This gag is subjected to much invention -proving the point Art had made earlier, that breathing was as essential to ‘life’ on screen, as it is to us poor mortals.

The three hours passed all too quickly. Towards the close, Art said: “A whole new generation is entering the field of animation who can read, write, draw, and imagine. The profession is full of untapped possibilities. The definition of animation is: to endow with life. Animation is a craft rather than an art, which deserves to live. So be curious – don’t be satisfied!”

A lasting impression? That must be the sight of Art sitting in a chair, looking for all the world like a genial guru, his students on the floor at his feet listening intently to his comments as he flipped through their paper animations.

page 1 | page 2

Printed in Animator Issue 11 (Winter 1984)