ACTING for ANIMATORS
ED'S MONTHLY NEWSLETTER:
"ED HOOKS HEADING WEST!"
My wife, Cally, and I - along with Nugget the wonder dog - are moving from Chicago to LA within the next few weeks. We have lived in Chicago for ten years and, as cool as it is, I have known for a long time that I belong on the West Coast where I have so many close friends and associates. And, to be candid, I have shoveled just about as much snow and ice to last me a life time. <g> All of my personal contact info will remain the same of course.
NEW ACTING FOR ANIMATORS WEBSITE
The objective was to put both of my domains - EdHooks.com and ActingForAnimators.com - under the same cyber-roof. I have kept them separate for all these years because one is primarily for stage and movie actors and the other is for animators. My sense of things is that actors and animators are increasingly crossing paths, so the new site will give everybody the opportunity to look in the other guy's bedroom. Don't be shy about checking out the archived newsletters for actors. BTW, my good friend and actor extraordinaire Tom Hardy designed and built the new site, and I think he did a swell job. We are still hanging pictures and laying carpet, but the place is move-in ready. It's okay to kick your shoes off at the door, and help yourself to whatever is in the fridge.
CHRIS WILLIAMS MOVING TO
Chris has been my guiding light at Teesside University for the past twelve years or so. He is responsible for the continuing success of the Animex International Festival of Animation and Computer Games as well as being a top notch animation teacher. Chris told me a few days ago that this Fall he will be the new Associate Dean of Computer Animation at Bournemouth University, which boasts an award-winning professional-level animation program. I have taught at Bournemouth and am frankly a fan of Peter Cominos and his tireless and inspired teaching staff. Chris and Bournemouth are an excellent match. Cheers, Chris! You're the man!
CRAFT NOTES: ParaNorman
ParaNorman was produced from what I think of as a “television script”, as opposed to a “movie script”. It doesn’t have a whole lot on its mind but is good-natured company and is visually fun enough to keep folks from clicking away during commercials. Television scripts, particularly for prime time episodic programs, are typically constructed around the lead character(s) and, because everything in television is done at double-speed, the supporting characters are not fleshed out. They are included for utilitarian purposes, giving some kind of plot information to the star so that he can go catch the bad guys. In ParaNorman, the Mr. Penderghast character, voiced by John Goodman, is like that. He is a wild and crazy, extremely colorful character that I am sure Mr. Goodman and the animators had a ball creating, but he shows up only to enunciate the plot of the movie to Norman Babcock, the 11-year old star - and us in the audience. If this were more like a movie script, Norman would figure out the plot for himself, like Indiana Jones or Jiminy Cricket. Or even like Coraline, the young title character of Laika Studio's previous movie.
The basic story structure of ParaNorman is also not quite right. Norman reminds me a lot of Flick, the lead character in A Bug’s Life. Flick was a bumbling outsider who was forced to save an unappreciative ant colony; Norman is a bumbling outsider who is forced to save an unappreciative community of humans. Neither character is noticeably empathetic, and neither experiences a transformative character arc. They are pretty much the same bumbling outsiders at the end of their respective movies that they were at the beginning. The supporting characters do most of the evolving. In A Bug's Life, the circus insects were brilliantly conceived and developed. At the end, they possessed pride and confidence. In ParaNorman, the unappreciative community does all the evolving, learning that it is not cool to bully and make fun of a guy just because he is a little strange and talks to dead people. At the end, Norman is still just, well, Norman.
Chris Butler wrote the script for ParaNorman and also co-directed, with Sam Fell (Flushed Away). This is evidently Chris's first screenplay after working some years as a storyboard artist. He did a really excellent job considering it is his screenwriting debut, but the production probably ought not to have been green-lighted. Mr. Butler has not yet grasped the Golden Rule of screenwriting: “Show, don’t tell.” This movie uses dialogue as a default mode: When in doubt about where to go next, let the characters talk about things for a little while, until one of them gives the other one a good idea. Stage plays are about talking; movies are about moving, which is why they are called movies in the first place.
A lot of media attention has justifiably been devoted to the beautiful look of ParaNorman. Laika used a combination of traditional stop-motion technique and rapid prototyping color 3-D printing. The result is a visual delight that does indeed set a new standard for what can be achieved on screen with puppets. ParaNorman is worth seeing just for that. And, yes, spring for the extra money to see it in stereoscopic 3-D. Be sure to stay in your seat until the lights go up in the auditorium. There is a really neat bit at the very, very end in which the animators cut up.
Until next month ...
"Actors and Animators are Shamans!"
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