Animation is a medium. It’s not one genre, it’s another in an endless assortment of tools that are available to any filmmaker. But that’s unfortunately not how the art form is often viewed by both the general public and even many filmmakers. Animation, especially in America, is often seen as a child’s thing, the domain of gossipy minions and comedic sidekicks. It is considered an inferior art form. This stigma means that there hasn’t been an avalanche of filmmakers primarily known for their live-action work who have turned to directing animated works. But like Guillermo del Toro to cross Pinocchio demonstrates, it does happen and often to quite exhilarating effect. However, for some directors, it can be more troublesome.
When it comes to live-action directors who don’t quite fit into animation, the problem is rarely the fault of animation as a medium. Overall, live-action directors who struggle to perform well in animated filmmaking tend to have a problem due to their reluctance to embrace all of animation’s possibilities. Specifically, they want to apply wall-to-wall realism to a medium that tends to excel at avoiding reality. These directors seem to struggle to think outside of the live-action box they’ve always worked in, diluting the possibilities of animation as a medium in the process.
Curiously, this phenomenon applies to Robert Zemeckiswho showed a great eye for getting close to 1940s hand-drawn animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, by the time Zemeckis returned to animation in the 2000s, he was no longer interested in using hand-drawn animation or even making goofy animated works. He now wanted to make motion-capture animated films that used very realistic character designs. These projects would not be grounded in reality, as they would involve a gigantic train or a buff Ray Winston confront a huge dragon. But they were meant to evoke action cinema more than anything else, down to many of its actors in titles like Beowulf merely looking like digital versions of their real selves.
This created several problems for Zemeckis’ works, including ensuring that something like The Polar Express stuck in the strange valley and never got out. Above all, it felt like a waste for Zemeckis to expend so much energy and the involvement of countless talented artists in making animated films that were so content to mimic reality. In his best films, Zemeckis exhibited a sense of visual imagination that made impossible images, like a time-traveling DeLorean, tangible. Unfortunately, projects like A Christmas Carol were often hampered by a reluctance to embrace all the creative opportunities that animation affords.
There was a similar problem with Jon Favreaugreat foray into animation cinema, The Lion King. Despite Disney’s bizarre insistence to the contrary, The Lion King was an animated film through and through, just like the feature film he was in the process of remaking. Unlike its predecessor, however, this new Lion King was told with ultra-realistic computer animation. Simba and all the other animals in this thread now looked like they could have just stepped out of a nature documentary, a cool feat for a tech demo but not an ideal situation for creating dramatically compelling characters. A staggering amount of money had been spent creating animation that simply tried to mimic a National Geographic special, while reminding you of a better, more stylized animated film from decades past. Much like Zemeckis, Favreau couldn’t let go of realism, and his animated filmmaking efforts suffered as a result.
How Gore Verbinski and Wes Anderson Soared As Animation Filmmakers
However, not all live-action filmmakers follow Zemeckis and Favreau’s path when creating animated cinema. Verbinsky Mountainsfor example, flourished during the making of the 2011 film Interval. Verbinski was always a natural fit for animation given how much his live-action filmmaking efforts drew inspiration from classic cartoons. His goofy style of dark humor has always been rooted in this medium, now he needs to explore it further. Although the animal characters of Interval are covered with realistic textures, they are strongly anthropomorphized. They have all sorts of unique visual touches, like a bird having an arrow go through its eye.
Verbinski leans into the endless possibilities of animation to create something unpredictable and ridiculous and happily throws off the shackles of reality. Crushed armadillos can talk and roam the world of Interval, just like trees deprived of water. Meanwhile, the stylized action scenes and sense of comedy that populate Interval feeling at peace with the kind of spectacle and gags that Verbinski has always doctored as an artist. To no one’s surprise, a man whose live-action films often seem to draw inspiration from vintage Bugs Bunny shorts is tailor-made for animation.
In the same way, Wes Anderson excelled as a filmmaker in stop motion animation when it came to Fantastic Mr. Fox and isle of dogs. Anderson’s love of ornate production design thrived in an environment where everything had to be handcrafted. You have complete control over your sets and miniature characters when it comes to making a stop-motion movie and it allowed Anderson’s visual imagination to reach new heights.
Best of all, Anderson’s trademark style of discreet online deliveries proved to be a lot of fun when it came out of the mouths of animated foxes and dogs. Hearing these creatures that seem to come from a Rankin-Bass TV special chatter about existentialism or family feuds never ceases to be fun. Better yet, Anderson was able to unearth that juxtaposition without sacrificing pathos in the process. His underrated gift for extracting strong emotion from stories that might have been a heinous oddity is evident in works like Fantastic Mr. Fox, where Anderson makes you fall in love with a conversation between a fox father and his fox son. Ironically, this commitment to engaging character designs and moving storytelling ensured that Fantastic Mr. Fox’s decidedly unrealistic animals evoked more palpable emotions than Favreau’s The Lion King. Such is the power of a live-action filmmaker who draws on the virtues of animated cinema.
Guillermo del Toro and ‘Pinocchio’
Then there’s Guillermo del Toro, who, like Verbinski and Anderson, thrived as an artist in animated settings. In Pinocchio, del Toro approaches his favorite themes (namely love for social outcasts and children growing up in times of war) so uniquely that he achieves a classic fairy tale that can only exist in the animation. Pinocchio the Wooden Boy’s design alone, all fragmented and riddled with imperfections (like a series of nails protruding from his back) is something that would never quite work in live-action but looks downright adorable in stop-motion animation. motion.
The character designs of Pinocchio showing so much imagination on the part of del Toro and the other artists working on the film, especially a new take on the blue fairy known as The Wood Sprite (here voiced by Tilda Swinton) it’s just kinda creepy and more reminiscent of an angel character from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Best of all, unlike del Toro’s live-action works, everyone in Pinocchio looks quirky and weird. In movies like Hellboy II, del Toro tells stories about recognizable human characters interacting with fantastical beings. There are no “normal” humans here, everyone, including Geppetto (David Bradley) and the villainous ringmaster Count Volpe (Christopher Waltz), look as lifted as possible. Likewise, all of Pinocchio’s settings are as biased and daring as they come, with even a child soldier training camp featuring buildings with expressionist leanings. It would be hard to pull off this wall-to-wall deluge of over-the-top sets in live-action, but in animation, del Toro works without limits – and moviegoers are all the better for it.
Simply put, this view of Pinocchio is fantastic that beautifully builds on themes and concepts that have always fascinated del Toro to create a story that can only properly exist in the realm of animation. In this film, we can see the ideal way in which a live-action filmmaker adapts to the exciting possibilities of working in the medium of animation.
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When Live-Action Directors Make Animation – The Shining Highs And The Crushing Lows – GameSpot
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