This is a really interesting exchange. It reminds me of some of the conversations I used to have on this site with Time Lord. I can tell that you are a person who knows and cares about animation. I don't suppose you used to be Time Lord before you became Anonymous, did you?
That pilot for "Song in the Sky" is a fascinating specimen. It's effective, gripping, and memorable. There is beautiful stuff in it, but there's essentially no animation in it anywhere. It's a slide show with flat graphics moving against a background -- left and right, up and down, in and out -- without changing their outlines. It's the epitome of anime: all flat graphics, music, SFX, voice acting, and video editing, containing practically no animation except for a few explosions and sinuous wavings of arteries trailing from flying skulls. Making it required a lot of skill and artistry, but almost none of the skills of an animator.
There are two poles to the technique and esthetics of drawn film. We can think of them as Eastern and Western, though many Western animators adopt the Japanese approach and some Eastern animators cleave to the Western tradition.
The Western tradition is summed up in Chuck Jones's dictum that "You don't draw a funny door opening; you draw a door opening funny." This principle is embodied in a training exercse that was developed in the Disney studio and is still commonly given to students of animation: you draw a sack of flour, and then you produce sequential drawings that make it hop, wiggle, creep, and twist onscreen in ways that express fear, amusement, joy, caution, suspicion, and so on. See the flying carpet in Disney's Aladdin
. All the expression resides in changes of shape.
At the opposite, Japanese pole, you don't draw a door opening at all. You draw (say) a closed, creepy-looking door. You cut away to a closeup on someone's eyeball while we hear an ominous creak on the soundtrack. You then cut back to a still drawing of the door, now open and looking creepier than ever.
Both modes can be effective, and most animation combines both in various proportions. The Japanese mode requires artistry, but the arts involved are chiefly those of the comic strip and the slide show: striking graphics and precisely timed transitions. The art of the animator, the artist who dances with a pencil and makes drawings move, plays only a small role at the Eastern extreme of this spectrum. Personally, I tend to find most films at that extreme kind of stiff, withdrawn, and annoying.
As for the money issue: the greatest single innovation that Walt Disney brought to animation was that he treated his animators like artists. At other studios in the 1930s, the animators were expected to learn on the job, and they were paid by the foot -- the number of drawings needed to fill one foot of 35-mm film. They never knew whether what they produced was gold or shit until they saw it on the screen in the movie theaters. Disney, by contrast, paid his animators a salary. They got paid the same amount whether they produced or not. If what they produced was no good, it never got beyond a black-and-white test reel of 16-mm film, which they reviewed when it came back the next day after being photographed. If it needed more work, they redid it until they got it right. They learned fast as a result -- and faster still because Disney paid for them all to go to art school (at the local school that he turned into CalArts) and had practiced animators write manuals and give lectures on technique and theory. Of course, if animators produced nothing promising after a few months of this, their contracts weren't renewed; but they went away with a huge increase in skill and understanding, and other studios were glad to hire them on a dollar-per-foot basis.
Artists have to eat, and so they need a source of income. But if what drives them to produce art is a desire to make money, they will produce market-driven shlock. They won't produce great or even good art unless they are internally driven, by what used to be called inspiration. Some god, demon, or muse has to pick them up and shake them like rats until they bleed art all over the page, canvas, or screen.
This is really hard to achieve in a communal art form like animated film. The vision that leaps out in sketchy clarity on the storyboard (another Disney invention) gets diluted, because it has to pass through a succession of hands belonging to people that haven't been possessed by that god or demon. Different arts have to be combined --graphic artistry, layouts and backgrounds, animation, script writing, music composition, music performance, and film editing -- and so other artists get brought in and the original fire gets banked and damped. This is true of almost all film (and other arts of communal performance), but it is especially true of drawn film. This one of the reasons why most animation is crap. In the absence of inspiration, money spent on art will produce nothing but highly polished turds. The dreadful products of the Wolfgang Reitherman era at Disney -- The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Aristocats
, and so on -- are examples of this. The Mouse Factory didn't recover until Don Bluth left Disney, set up a cheapjack animation studio staffed with ex-Disney people who cared about animation, and shamed them into taking their art seriously again.
Modern computer technology allows small, inspiration-driven operations like the "The Moon Rises" team to produce Disney-quality film. The problem is to figure out ways of supporting them while they do that. Patreon, YouTube dollars, commissions, con sales, and so on represent possible partial solutions. The culture is working on it.
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