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Tony White p4

Tony White on the need for originality in animation...

READERSVOICE.COM: Do you find that an increasing percentage of aspiring animators are more interested in story-telling; than mad about drawing, like Hokusai, in your short film?

TONY WHITE: I think that Hollywood is obsessed with a cookie-cutter, formulaic style of storytelling that has a ‘same old, same old’ quality about it every time. It’s rare that something fresh and new gets through the mix… i.e. either offering great storytelling originality or giving artists a chance to bring new ‘art’ to the ‘art-form’.
For me ‘Hokusai’ was a chance to present a great master artist’s work in a very different way. When I actually looked at Hokusai’s sketchbooks before making the film I recognized immediately that he would have been a great animator in his time, were the animation technology available to him. His various sketches of human figures at work and play stuck me as keys that could be inbetweened.
So that’s just what I did. I took a dancing figure he’d drawn sequential poses for and I inbetweened them. It kind of worked and inspired me to make many of his other masterpieces come to life in a way that he could not have done himself. I tried to remain very faithful to his style and yet bring a little of his life to the screen through the animated images.
I think this is why I’ve avoided Hollywood all my life. Studios there will interpret a subject in a way that fits into their mould or a perceived audience demographic… which is invariably disastrous for both an art and storytelling process in animation!
I ran my own studio in London for over twenty years, making mainly TV commercials, many of which won awards for their unique and versatile drawn look or idea originality. Yet it’s been impossible to move these styles and approaches into the theatrical movie arena.
I actually believe this to be my biggest frustration in life. Most of the styles I (and my contemporaries at the time in London) have worked in have never been allowed to move on to the big screen… except perhaps when Richard Williams took the live action/animation techniques we were using for TV commercials and utilized them in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Distributors and investors are only primarily interested in that ‘same old, same old’ approach and I believe the art-form of animation… specifically traditionally drawn animation… suffers as a result. There’s so much more than could be done with this amazing art-form… that would even put ‘butts on seats at the same time’. But we’re not allowed to do this and therefore animation has only really explored the tip of an iceberg of what it could achieve!

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-copyright Simon Sandall.