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July 27, 2009

Nonfiction of the Week for July 27: Animation Unleashed (Part 1)

Book coverThe fantastic book that was my portion of the blog is the animation/illustration guide entitled: Animation Unleashed. This book is the product of two people, the author Ellen Besen and the illustrator Bryce Hallet. Today's blog will focus on my interview with Ellen and later in the week I will blog about my interview with Bryce.

Ellen Besen has had an amazing life with her experience as an illustrator, both as a teacher at Sheraton college and as an illustrator herself. I spoke with Ellen on the phone for this interview and she was an absolutely dynamic woman with great insights, a wonderful sense of humour and she had some amazing stories about her involvement in the world of animation. I doubt that I will be able to convey how dynamic she is, but I hope that by giving you some snippets of her answers to my questions you will get a sense of who she is.

Question # 1: What is your writing process? When approaching a book/manual like "Animation Unleashed" what sort of research did you do?

Answer: Teaching was a great deal of her process, the research that she did, the problems that the students brought to her, watching films in class and analytically discussing them in a group. Working with people on making films and the patterns that occur and show up during these projects, similar road blocks, how these road blocks are addressed. The book was written as a way of addressing common road blocks that many animators run into, get concrete ideas that solve or help, or you that get you to think -  a memory jog.

The writing process was delivered orally with an audience (her classroom) that helped to fine tune the material and refine it. What works for film making, what doesn't work. Writing takes a long time, starting with a huge and ugly first draft and then refining it with following drafts, the first draft stimulates so that the editing process will become more refined and finite for the themes and patterns are already there. Third edit takes away some detail and adds some, and the fourth edit is about finding what you mean and how is it best stated? Each essay/chapter has to make a clear and distinctive point and fit in with the other points and chapters. Making points that grow on each other and being clear on the different facets.

Question #2: What are some of your reading/writing influences?

Answer: In terms of animation Disney and Warner Bros. films were major influences, the classics of those two studios. NFB [National Film Board of Canada] and great Canadian animated classics. The film that galvanized the love of animation was the Beatles film "Yellow Submarine" and the music videos and songs, especially Lucy in the Sky with Diamondsand the incredible magic there.

Broad reading interests, including the short story genre, (which she hopes will make a comeback) and the process of teaching helps you to understand and learn more from the students. Great amounts of reading from many of the American classics, including Dorothy Parker (she and I both agree that Dorothy was a woman way ahead of her time) and F Scott Fitzgerald (especially his novella "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), which she feels would have worked better as an animated film, as the living backwards creates a dilemma that animation could have better solved as animation can create a better fourth wall.

Question#3: Did animation have an influence on you when growing up? What are some of the major pieces of animation that influenced you the most?

Answer: Animation was always there for her, great works that she viewed as a youth, but were really intended for adults but still viewed by children without edits. There was great benefit for her by figuring out the animation meant for adults as she developed critical thinking skills quite early on. In North America the status quo expected you to give up comics or animation at a certain age (usually about age 12) but animation was something she still enjoyed immensely. Around the early 70's little was happening in animation around the world except for some television programming. Ellen aimed for Sheraton college school of design and when applying thought she had to include a second choice on her application so she put down animation as there were no other programs there she wanted to take. She applied to the NFB and other animation avenues as a sideline, but she got into Sheraton on the spot with an interview and her portfolio and it did not occur to her that she would not be accepted. A month into the program she decided academia was not necessarily her thing at the time, but drawing and illustrating were, sitting and drawing were magic! A theatre and art background, along with dance and music (all of which animation use). She came into it by "accident", along with many other animators of her generation

Question #4: What other projects are you currently working on?

Answer: They are all animation related, working on a film that is organized by TAIS (Toronto Animation Image Society) with a grant to bring 11 animators to life. Of course there is promotion for the book "Animation Unleashed" which includes a book tour, she is on her way to New Orleans in a month for promotion and other destinations include Los Angeles.

A second book is in the works with a more comprehensive theme in terms of classic animation features and analyzing them in terms of production and how they work. Using the same kind of analysis as this book and applying it toward other forms of media.

So there you have it, the summary of my interview with the lively author of Animation Unleashed. I have to say that I immensely enjoyed myself for this experience and I wish I could interview people like Ellen everyday!

Jr. Mint is a youth librarian with the Toronto Public Library, mainly because he refuses to grow up. He reads as much esoteric stuff as he can.


Animation + story = darling combo!

Isn't it "Sheridan College"?

Pretty unique!

I wanna read this one too!

wow looks really good that i want to read it i enjoy reading books that looks interesting

The fact that i absolutley love the title is because its called "Animation Unleashed" And that its not an anime, its a regular nonfiction!Kudos on the title pick!I used judge book by their cover (earned me the wall of shame..kidding) i always used to judge book by their cover like that covers with black and white or ugly drawings or no drawing at all and i always used to pick the cover with good art or has sparkles and has cool stuff (this was in grade 4 or something) and i realzed on my own that it was totally wrong for me to do that because the author might want to spend more time on the book then on the cover right? so that occured to me and i felt so mad at my self cause judging a book by its color is like judging a person by there looks! So ever since that day that i realized my mistake, i began going to the library more, and becoming more active in reading books and let me remind you i am probably the book-worm in my home! "Animation Unleashed" sounds great and the interview gives me more info about the book!I've never read a book by Ellen Bese so hopefully i'll see this book somewhere! I also encourage more interviews with authors more of the books you recommded!

Hey. LOL, this is a fun book to read

I want to read this book!

And i like the cover!!

wow that book looks cool and i think i have read one just like that i really that book b it's cover

Sounds COol =)

it's pretty gud i think

I love animation!

I really want to read this book.

This book looks so interesting to read!!
the fact that the cover draws you towards the book right away makes it so outstanding!!

I find it so funny that a novella "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was made into such a long movie!

it's a really good book. Very well writen. quiet intersting.

I wanna read this one also!

I love animation and it's really cool how this book is about animation and even entitled animation unleashed yet it's a non-fiction book full words though it is very interesting.

I wanna check this out.coz it sounds really interesting ...

oh this is AWESOME , the title totally caught my eye and i definitely find it interesting, plus i love animation this is probably going to go in my to read list lol

I love anything anime. so i'll for sure look tis book up.

Righnow i started reading a book called 'Twisted' by Laurie Halse Andreson. any books by this author is A W S O M E. I personally adore her books. One of my favourite author. And so far this book is so good!!!

I personally recommend a book called 'Snowed In' by Rachel Hawthhorne. Those teens who love reading Romance book will surely aodore this one. If you are looking for a romance novel then this one is the one to go to! ;)

Oh and any books by Rachel Hawthhorne are always romance novels. So if you like romance books look for a book by this author

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