Clear Staging: The Red Flag Scene in Modern Times

Steven Greydanus on the red flag scene in Modern Times:

Witness the subtlety and comic timing of the scene in which the Tramp is arrested for communist agitation. Just released from a psychiatric ward, the Tramp happens to see a flatbed truck with a long load, trailing an obligatory red warning flag at the end. When the flag falls off the back of the load, the Tramp helpfully scoops it up, waving it to try to get the driver’s attention — not realizing that a throng of unemployed workers from his old job has come up behind him, demonstrating in the streets. To the police, of course, the Tramp waving his red flag at the head of the crowd looks like the leader of these agitators; and he is quickly bundled off to jail.

Note how gracefully Chaplin weaves together the demands of (a) his medium (although the film is black and white, we know the flag is red because it comes from the back of the long load on the flatbed), (b) his comedy-of-errors genre (an innocent attempt to help is mistaken for political agitation — just the kind of thing that would happen to the Tramp), (c) the continuity of his story (the demonstration doesn’t simply appear from nowhere for the sake of the gag, but flows naturally and logically from past events), and (d) the social concerns underlying the film (the workers’ plight mirrors real problems — as does that of the Tramp, neither the first nor the last to be wrongly persecuted for the belief that he is a Communist).

From an essay by Steven Greydanus

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Inktober 2017

Inktober 2017 is upon us. For a quick recap, Inktober was created by artist Jake Parker in 2009:

Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month.

I created InkTober in 2009 as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year.

Anyone can do InkTober, just pick up a pen and start drawing.

-Jake Parker on Inktober

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Principles of Animation

Cento Lodigiani on the Principles of Animation:

The 12 basic principles of animation were developed by the ‘old men’ of Walt Disney Studios, amongst them Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, during the 1930s. Of course they weren’t old men at the time, but young men who were at the forefront of exciting discoveries that were contributing to the development of a new art form. These principles came as a result of reflection about their practice and through Disney’s desire to use animation to express character and personality.
This movie is my personal take on those principles, applied to simple shapes. Like a cube.

Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

This week we will watch Buster Keaton’s 1928 classic silent film, Steamboat Bill Jr. on Thursday and Friday in Cartooning & Animation.

While watching the film we will stop occasionally to take a closer look at how story and characterization can be conveyed without relying on sound/talking.

Live action film had a heavy influence on the early animators; the greatest silent film makers were able to tell a story and express mood and emotion visually with a minimum of dialogue. This was achieved with a focus on clear staging, body language, and facial expression. These three concepts are incredibly important for animation, and even more so for comics.

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Preliminary Thumbnails

Norm Ferguson: William Norman “Norm” Ferguson (September 2, 1902 – November 4, 1957) was an animator for Walt Disney Studios and a central contributor to the studio’s stylistic development in the 1930s. He is most frequently noted for his contribution to the creation of Pluto, one of the studio’s best-known and most enduring characters, and is the artist most closely associated with that character.

Ferguson, known at the studio as “Norm” or “Fergy”, was also the primary animator of the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first in a long line of great Disney feature villains. He was also a sequence director on the film. After starting at the studio in 1929 as a cameraman, Ferguson switched to the animation department and rose rapidly, despite a lack of formal art training. His early animation of the dog who would become Pluto drew strong response at the studio and on-screen for giving the character a personality and apparent inner life that was considered a great step forward for the young art form of animation. Animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston paid extensive tribute to Ferguson’s work in their 1981 book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, calling his famous “flypaper sequence” from the 1934 short Playful Pluto- in which the dog is stuck to a piece of flypaper- a “milestone in personality animation…through it all, his reaction to his predicament and his thoughts of what to try next are shared with the audience. It was the first time a character seemed to be thinking on the screen, and, though it lasted only 65 seconds, it opened the way for animation of real characters with real problems.” Continue Reading ›

Schoology at Walter Reed

Schoology has come to Walter Reed.

The LAUSD is in the process of adopting a Learning Management System (LMS) called Schoology at all middle schools and high schools starting this Fall. Students will be able to use schoology to view assignments, access resources and materials, and view grades and due dates. Open up the full post to see what you’ll need to do to start using Schoology.

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The Story of the Animated Drawing (1955)

Notes on The Story of the Animated Drawing (1955):

On Thursday (8/31/17) we will watch an episode of the 1950s television show, Disneyland. The ABC Television network was an early investor in the construction of the Anaheim amusement park; along with that funding ABC got Disney to produce and host a weekly show that highlighted different aspects of the park in addition to other subjects pertaining to the studio. This particular episode is a concise and well illustrated overview of the early history of animation.

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2017-2018 School Year Guide

Welcome back to another school year!

I hope you had a great summer. I spent my summer vacation doing seven (!) weeks of jury duty. :(

My classes this year have been assigned an interesting title on your program cards and on Schoology: CAREER AWARE A: TERM AF.

The actual course titles and periods are right here:

  • Period 1: Cartooning & Animation
  • Period 3: Architecture & Design
  • Period 4: Cartooning & Animation
  • Period 5: Cartooning & Animation
  • Period 6: Cartooning & Animation

I’ll be posting more first week materials and information on this post so check back later.

Film Study: Rear Window (1954)

Roger Ebert on Rear Window:

The hero of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” is trapped in a wheelchair, and we’re trapped, too–trapped inside his point of view, inside his lack of freedom and his limited options. When he passes his long days and nights by shamelessly maintaining a secret watch on his neighbors, we share his obsession. It’s wrong, we know, to spy on others, but after all, aren’t we always voyeurs when we go to the movies? Here’s a film about a man who does on the screen what we do in the audience–look through a lens at the private lives of strangers.

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