American Animation Versus Japanese Animation
While Sitting On My Couch . . .
In the little indent that I have made for myself, I was watching one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. He is a genius animation director who directed such movies as "Kiki's Delivery Service", "Spirited Away", "Howl's Moving Castle", and the character which Studio Ghibli uses as a mascot, "My Neighbor Totoro", among others. (Side note: The South Park episode "Mysterion Rises" actually parodies "My neighbor Totoro". The whole beginning interaction between Cartman and Cthuthulu is almost the same as what is seen in that movie.)
While watching my movie, my mother comes walking into the room, eating so she could go into work. She watches my movie a little bit and then says one thing to me, "Japanese animation is a lot less detailed than American cartoons."
My mother said that. My mother, raised off of "Scooby Doo" and an avid watcher of "South Park", said that Hayao Miyazaki's work seemed to be less detailed, less complex, and less well drawn than American cartoons. Putting aside my amazement that the beautiful work of my favorite animation director was just dissed, I began to think about the difference between Japanese animation and American animation.
"Pencil" Animation program
"Tweens" Tutorial for Animation
Bare Basics of Animation
To understand how cartoons can differ, one must first understand the art of animation, at least at it's most basic level. There are a few methods that one can use to make an animated sequence or film. One is filming each picture, frame by frame. You take a drawing, take a picture of it with a camera, and then get another slightly different drawing and shoot that. It's a long, arduous process. This is pretty much the process for claymation--the movement of clay figures like Gumby. South Park was originally done this way, as well.
Of course, there is also drawing the animation by hand. The old Disney animation movies and such were done like this, using the stop-moving camera filming mentioned up above.
Computers have helped stream-line the process. A computer installed with a certain type of software can really speed up the process and makes shooting each and every frame obsolete. But this type of animation is done in layers. Each frame has at least one layer to start with. You can just draw everything using a mouse or a drawing pad, or you could create symbols that have repeating movements or are alone. If you use a symbol and have it move, however, you need another layer. For each moving piece, there will be another layer added to that one frame.
In the video I have here, you can see the animator teaching how to use "tweens", or shortcuts to make an object move or change shape without actually drawing it out in every single frame. He is working with at least three different layers--each shape is on a different layer. As a final note, the more frames that happen per second, the better the animation. The average in animation is about 24 to 36 frames per second, or 24 fps.
This is the bare, bare, bare basics of animation and it is still a LOT of work.
Seriously, How Big is That House!? I'm Thinking They Must Have Harry Potter as A Decorator
Now For Drawing
That above section is the bare, bare basics, as stated before. It seems pretty complicated for just basics, right? Right! But once you get a hang of it and start to know the program you're working with, it isn't too bad. Still, a lot of work is put into it. Drawing frame upon frame, coloring, adding effects, background, and adding sound can make the process very difficult, no matter where in the world you are.
So that means, determining if one style of animation is better than another would primarily be centered on the effort put into it by the animating team and/or the style that the animation is in.
It's pretty safe to say that animation has come along way from "Steamboat Willy" and the never-ending home walking scenes that happened all the time in cartoons like "The Flintstones" (You remember them. Even as a kid, you wonder how big their house is or if they're just walking around in circles.)
So a lot needs to be decided on and figured out before the animation work is done. First, what is the plot of the cartoon? Japanese anime usually follows a comic, or manga, that was published. Rurouni Kenshin was a manga of over 200 chapters before it was a 90+ episode cartoon, a movie, and an OVA (which is an animation made that goes outside of the original series). There is a drawing base, usually, for many animes. American cartoons usually start off with an idea or a little drawing on a napkin (which was how Spongebob Squarepants started).
Once an idea is in place, a storyline is made. People will create rough sketches and a lot of corrections for any type of animation that is being created. Drawing style, character design, environment design, and a lot of other parts to the animation is decided on. And if it's coming from a previous drawing, like frequently seen in anime, there is a lot of trouble in adjusting it for television. (To see what I mean, watch the first minute of the second episode of Cromartie Highschool. I won't post it in the hub because I would be posting the entire episode. Also, it has a curse word in it.)
Afterwards, it goes into the animation process.
So I Guess It's Up To Opinion
I presented how complex animation can be, from planning it to drawing it. However, this doesn't really show which animation is better. I think back to old cartoons, like "Looney Toons", "The Jetsons", "Rugrats", "Ah! Real Monsters", and many other American cartoons and can point out a lot of flaws in the design or drawing. I think of anime that I have seen and can do the exact same thing. It's just a different drawing style and they both ignore and follow-through on different aspects.
Anime may have unrealistic, out of proportion characters, but the background and environment can be really realistic. American cartoons may represent humans better, but the backgrounds are just really simplistic. Animating speaking is different in both styles as well as the creation of action sequences!
So I present to you some pictures of both as well as a video. You be the judge.
Are both animations equal, or is one more detailed and better than the other?
For the record, I love them both and will watch both very willingly!