The Already Exhausted Importance of Quality in Animation

I need to start this with a bit of back story.

Back in 1999, I was a High School student about to start a new life as a University student. I had already decided what to study for: I wanted to be an animator. I actually knew it long ago; two or three years before finishing school I was already looking for the place in town where I could learn how to make animated films. I wanted to make movies, TV shows, short films, whatever moved in the digital and relatively new realm of media at the end of the 20th Century. I was eager to learn, so I had already looked around, scoping the papers and asking around. I had even made some very early incursions in 3d modelling and animation on my own.

circa 1996, with Bryce3d

circa 1996, with Bryce3d

There was only one school in Guadalajara with that type of curriculum, a very small place that assured their potential students that the doors of the animation industry would open if they took their Bachelor in Graphic Design, Multimedia and Digital Animation. So I took it, I studied through 5 years with a small hiatus in the middle where I took a semester off and met my future wife, and I graduated in 2005.

I spent the following years perfecting my recently acquired skillset in digital animation, went on to learn Maya and pay for my animation diploma at AnimationMentor. I studied under some of the best animators in the industry, my first Class mentor was none other than Kevin Koch (Shrek 2, Rio, Hotel Transylvania). I learned very important lessons about quality, about dedication to motion, to credibility, to weight, balance and silhouette. I got impregnated with the Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks mentality of beauty, clarity, mottos like less is more, K.I.S.S.*, Story is King, make every frame count to communicate (that last one is mine).

I got my first animation professional job shortly after graduating from AM. I also had the opportunity to teach animation fundamentals in a University. I was excited. Years of indoctrination in the importance of quality, beauty and clarity would finally pay off and be passed to the next generation; in a school that didn’t even exist when I took my first classes.

I was going to make a difference here. On my first classes with my brand new room of students, I wrote down those same mottos on the drawing board, making sure they would remember them. I fought against the ignorance and the apathy, I constantly pointed at bad animation examples so they could recognize what to avoid and why. I ranted in my classes against the low end quality of animation, and the urgent need of beauty, clarity, dedication.

Over the years I got increasingly frustrated with it. I kept seeing awful, stiff and floaty animations being shown off as “the best of Mexican animation”, and I had the constant urge to scream from the background, like a banshee “Where’s the clarityyyyy!!!???” I rambled and ranted everywhere about the need for better quality in local productions, in short films, in attempts to monetize on animation. To me, it was simple: the problem was that there was not enough quality. Quality needed to grow.

So with this mindset I would have been understandably upset at something like this. Some guy in Mexico just made a full movie filled with each and every one of my animation nightmares. He even kind of started his own company to promote it. I’ll just drop the teaser trailer here.

I said I would have been upset. That’s no longer my mindset. The truth is, I’m actually happy about this.

Quality has been leveled out. Hollywood animated Films and VFX superhero flicks have grossed billions worldwide. The level of quality that each movie piece has is outstanding. If you watch the amount of money, work and dedication that people put into every single frame of their work, you can find almost nothing that doesn’t look good, that isn’t clear or dedicated, or beautiful. Absolute visual masterpieces, most of them. In 1999, you could tell a good movie from a bad movie from its visual appeal. But in this day and age, it has been leveled out. They both have gorgeous quality, both good and bad movies.

Remember when you saw this and thought: "There's no way they can get MORE REALISTIC than this!!"?

Remember when you saw this and thought “There’s no way they can get MORE REALISTIC than this!!”?

And this guy dares making this film. The Youtube comments have been merciless. From the simple “what is this sh*t” to long essays about him needing to watch some tutorials on modelling and animation fundamentals, badly. And that’s understandable, but like I said, it’s no longer my mindset. I just had to go to that comment section and praise him for that refreshing load of bad animation.

“Don’t listen to them”, I told him. “Keep doing this. Keep creating. Don’t believe what they say. This is gold”. And I meant it, at least in a way. What I found so refreshing is that he is so passionate and at the same time doesn’t give a crap. He’s going to make his movies, with his characters, stories and sets, and let the world burn. He’s an Ed Wood of the 21st Century. He doesn’t care. He just creates.

I also want to no longer care. To just create my own stuff, to stop worrying about the ever frustrating quality level that I want to achieve, the high bar for everything animated. I used to tell my students that I preferred if they made 5 seconds of good animation than 50 of a crappy one. This guy here made 100 minutes. Granted, the quality level is so low, it’s not that much of an achievement. But he created, nevertheless. He’s making movie posters and promoting his film on Facebook. People react angrily and mockingly, like I used to. But me? Not anymore. I’m fine with this. I want more of this around. There’s already too much quality around me, it’s all leveled out; it feels boring and unimportant.

My own search for quality will continue in a better way because of this. I can never be like him, not even when I first started animating. I did awful crappy stuff, but it was always meticulously reviewed, fixed and refined as much as my skill could handle. I can never make something crappy like this intentionally. But it’s a great thing that I get to watch it on Youtube and feel so much lighter. No, not because it makes me feel better about my work, mind you. It’s the fact that he dares. I find it so inspiring. Also, I had a lot of fun watching it. I was entertained. Isn’t it what this media is all about?

Which brings me to this: From time to time, art should jolt you out of your comfort zone, out of your stupor. I personally prefer when I get jolted to a positive place, of wonder, awe and pleasant feelings. But to be jolted to the bad quality, to the negative, to what doesn’t make sense, but it’s nevertheless entertaining: that should exist too.

So please, if you ever read this, make more animations. I want to see more of this in the world now. Let me take a rest and refresh my eyes in it, so I can appreciate beauty, clarity and quality again.

*Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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About Eduardo

I'm some dude with a huge love for animation and film. I've been working in TV animation for the past 6 years in New Zealand. I love dragons, pointy metal things that can cut dragons, and flight simulators.
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