An Executive Summary of an Animation Called 'Untitled'

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Executive Summary

The objective of this report is to elucidate my thoughts and demonstrate the means by which I came up with the idea for the animation “Untitled”. I will guide you through the mental and physical processes that I undertook while creating my work. I will be explaining my research, influences, and problems I encountered as well as my methods for solving them in detail. I recorded my creative process while working on the project, and I will be expanding on my process throughout this essay. This report will conclude with the use of the information gained to create a successful animation.

1. Introduction

The animation “Untitled” is based on a concept that I thought of during my first year. I had already the written down the story before beginning this project, but had not yet gone into full detail. The main story was intended to be about a man and his dog getting chased by soldiers. The reason for the chase was purposely left unknown. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

I took this simple route because I had a limited amount of time to show the animation and I felt that having too much narrative would make the viewer feel like a particular interpretation was being forced on them.

My animation is heavily influenced by Japanese cultural tropes. I was inspired by media such as videogames, anime and film. The main character’s model was based on those of the protagonist and a supporting character from “Kingdom Hearts”, a Square-Enix videogame created by Tetsuya Nomura. His clothing was inspired by a character named Killua from the “Hunter x Hunter” anime series, who also appears in the “Kingdom Hearts” series of games. I also took inspiration from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (known as “Full Metal Alchemist” in the UK) main character Edward Elric, who has a metal arm and leg.

The dog/werewolf in my animation was inspired by the character Akamaru from “Naruto” in his normal puppy form, and when in his werewolf form, European folklore’s wolf-like creature, the Lycanthrope. The soldiers in the animation were heavily influenced by the designs of SOLDIER 3rd Class troops from Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy VII”, from their style to their colours. The narrative was somewhat inspired by a teaser trailer for Final Fantasy 15. The background was the only thing that was left uninspired by media tropes, as I simply wanted the setting to be a barren wasteland where there would be plentiful space with no interaction between characters and inanimate objects.

The intention of this report is to make the reader understand my thought process, research, and work process during the creation of the animation “Untitled”. By fully understanding how and why I created the animation, and what I was feeling at different points in the process, you will understand what I did and how. You should also come to understand the narrative a bit better while reading this report. I will also show you the research I performed, which influenced characters, animation, and the storyline.

The objectives of my research were significant because they helped me produce an emotionally driven animation.

Research Objectives:

•What was I thinking during the animation process?

•Why did I choose this sort of animation and narrative?

•How has the research affected the animation and narrative?

The first research objective is to determine what I was thinking during the animation and modelling process, as well as post production and sound, and understanding why I chose such roots and made the animation look the way that I did.

The next objective is to understand why I chose this style of animation and narrative, and why I didn’t go with a more Disney-like or Western style. Also, why my narrative wasn’t the main focus and what I could have done to improve the animation and narrative.

The third objective is to explain how all the research helped me develop the narrative and animation. I would like to explore the feelings I had toward the research, the idea, and other animations and styles that influenced my own animation.

3. Methodology

This research was necessary because it affected the overall feel and mood, as well as the style and content of the animation. The research also had a dramatic effect on the look of the characters and the overall narrative. Because the Asian style of animation is foreign to this nation, it was important to me that my depiction of this style of animation was accurate. It would have been especially problematic if the animation had an impact on its viewers that was uncharacteristic of the anime and Eastern videogames art form.

My main source of information came from the careful research of online reviews from viewers of certain media. These reviews allowed me to understand the vast differences between Eastern and Western animation styles. Other sources I used were in the form of media, such as anime, games, manga and Japanese 3D movies such as “Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children”. “Advent Children” and many other computer-generated animations were some of my best reference sources, because 2D anime animation could not be fully translated into 3D movement.

I employed the archival research methodology to gather this information. I decided on this strategy because it allowed me to reduce bias (since the articles were not written for the sake of this research), as well as find highly reliable accounts, due to the fact that they were created by people who personally observed the depicted events. The remaining research data was found in documentaries. Archival research can potentially be ineffective when data is skewed or mistranslated as a result of changing cultural understandings over time.

2. Literature Review

I had to deal with problems in my narrative before even beginning my character designs and animations. First, the story consisted of a vast amount of action and gore, and I had to come up with ways to show this. The animation initially contained too much narrative and overran the 1-minute time limit, so I had to do some research to figure out ways to shorten it. After doing extensive research on Eastern animation, I came to understand that the creators of anime films often have to handle a great number of events taking place, but only have a limited amount of time to show everything. Using this information, I came up with the strategy of making the narrative very simple; a boy and his dog get chased by an army. The Eastern cultural references would be shown through the character models and animation rather than the storytelling style.

From reading a multitude of books and articles on anime, videogames, manga, and other forms of Eastern media, I gained further understanding of the reasons the characters fight, the sort of movement they use, the type of animation and direction. I could have looked up martial arts videos for references of live-action fighting, but animation differs in that there are more exaggerated aspects, such as high jumps, special abilities, physics-defying stunts, and other things that heighten the visual impact.

Without doing all that research I would have been creating the animation blindly, produced something that lacked depth and wasn’t visually compelling. The storyline could have been overly exotic and confusing. I did not want my viewers to be unclear about what was happening in the scene due to a lack of balance between the narrative and visuals.

4. Ethical Issues

Because my animation has violence and death in it, I had to do some research on the cultural opinions with regard to violence in animation. Western and Eastern animation styles have many different approaches to violence and I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries, so I focused part of my research into the action and gore genre.

Western culture is mostly OK with heavily violent content in the right context and people only begin to raise a concern when it gets entangled with culturally sensitive matters, such as sexual or exceedingly realistic violence. That is when parents begin to complain. That said, our live action is just as bad.

Human history is covered in bloodshed and nearly every society was either built upon a warrior culture such as the Romans, Spartans, and Vikings; or had a warrior class such as Medieval Knights, Japanese Samurai, or Aztec Jaguars. Some of the most innovative weapons came from societies that professed peace, such as the Shaolin monks, who invented the twin hooks.

And violence is still quite commonplace today, from the civil wars that ravage developing nations, to the entertainment industry. To prove my point, you may use the internet to perform a thought experiment: Name 10 films that were not about fighting, martial arts, fist fights, aggressive sports, crime, or wars. I'm sure that list isn't so hard. Then try listing films that contain no violence, period. Not one fight, not one punch thrown, not one domestic disturbance, not one object thrown at another person. No violence at all. This will severely limit your choices.

So why does anime get singled out? Well it has more to do with the fact the animation has violence in it then the fact the animation is violent. I know that doesn't make much sense, but work with me here.

Most of the world has fallen into an animation age gap, where animation is solely the domain of children’s cartoons. Why is this important? Because we justifiably want to limit the amount of violence children see, like we want to limit the amount of sexuality they see, until they are old enough. Unfortunately, parents don't always read warning labels very well, or look at the cover art, finding out too late that it wasn't meant for little kids. And like sexuality, this bugs parents. There is also the fact that different countries and cultures have different viewpoints on what is acceptable to show to kids.

For a good example, take a look at the anime show “Naruto”. It is clearly aimed at those between 12 and 15-years-old, but it had to be edited to remove blood before being shown on American television, despite being a PG -13 anime. This is funny because “Dragonball Z” was shown uncut earlier, and the uncut version of “Naruto” was nowhere near as violent.

That said, I'm still seeing “1,000 Ways to Die” much earlier than that, so the double-standard is showing.

In any case, since the whole world claims to know the destructive effect that violent content has on its youth, why do we still depict it in all of our entertainment mediums? After all, isn't the battle cry of the moral watchdogs "Think of the children?"

Because conflict is a key component to any story, and violence is one of the central human conflicts. It’s not the only way to depict conflict, nor is it necessarily the best way, but it is the most fun. It is also universally understood and doesn't easily get lost in translation. It makes us laugh, cry, get angry, excited, and even terrified. It can make a character heroic, attractive, or completely vile. It gives us scale, and a depth of a situation. It also shows us who the bad guys are, who the good guys are, and only rarely do we not know who to root for.

So what is the problem with anime and its violent content? Just like with the issue of sensuality and anime, it has something to do with the fact that people assume that if something is animated and it must therefore be appropriate for children, regardless of the maturity level of the intended audience. Moreover, it's another case of picking on the foreign things, as all other nations have just prolific problems with their own violent content in their live-action media.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.269240-Anime-and-the-Issues-We-Have-With-It-Violence

5. Results/Findings

The data and information that was gathered from the research showed that there are many differences in Western and Eastern animation that go far beyond the most obvious observations of variation between art styles. Because I focused on implementing the Eastern style of animation, I had to research just what makes it so different from our own.

The primary differences between Eastern and Western animation come down to the important factors of culture and value. A areas humour, in general, is determined by its morals. This is because in order to be humoured by something, you must be able to relate to it in some sense. If the subject matter is entirely alien to you, the comedy aspect is lost. It is this fact that leads many filmmakers to make their movie's humour as universal as possible.

The prevalence of slapstick and absurdity in mainstream cinema should come as no surprise- these humorous subjects are universally understood and thus have the advantage of being able to appeal to a wide audience. Despite the usual conformity to the standard of mass appeal, there are some animation philosophies that only Western animators seem to favour. Animated movies like "Rango" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" are great examples of these regional differences of perspective. In the West (United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom), there is a much greater preference for unlikely heroes than in the East. You will therefore see small ordinary animals saving the day, social miscreants rising to hero status, and impossible odds being overcome by quick thinking and courage.

Rango is for all intents and purposes just a household chameleon; he's not fit to take on the role of sheriff in a lawless town. The clumsy and socially inept genius, Flint, can’t be expected to save the town- surely he'll just make things worse. Westerners love rooting for the underdogs and seeing them overcoming their challenges.

In Eastern animation, such as that of Japan and Korea, you will instead find a preference for established heroes and competitive plot points. The concepts of rivals and honour are often highly significant and there's generally a lot more at stake than could reasonably be expected given the context of the story. For example, in "Yu-Gi-Oh: The Movie," a card game determines the fate of the world. Fortunately, the protagonist is a master of all games and rarely loses. More often than not, the main character is a supremely talented person with more than enough tools at his disposal to come out on top in the end. Instead of “underdog saves the day” plots, Eastern animation shows a preference for storylines based upon competitive rivalry or a global scale of danger.

(http://voices.yahoo.com/rango-western-animation-vs-eastern-animation-7962470.html?cat=40)

Understanding the difference between the two cultures showed me that I would have to make this animation follow a more mature and consequential plot arc than the normal dramatic or slapstick plots that Western culture provides. I looked into many serious action animations, both Western and Eastern, finding results such as Bleach, Tenjou Tenge, and the Final Fantasy series from Eastern culture (virtually all of the Eastern animations all have some sort of fighting or martial arts involved; this was helpful as there would be a fight scene in my animation). I was able to find examples from Western animation, such as Avatar, Aang, and Boondocks that were heavily inspired by Eastern culture.

After all the research, I used my newly gained knowledge to start animating in the way of Eastern culture. The animation starts with a run scene so I used a typical Sonic the Hedgehog-like run with the arms flailed out that they use in many different animations such as Naruto; martial arts vs. weapons like is seen in many different anime; and an important character dying near the end. These are things that I have seen before in many of the anime I have watched and videogames I have played.

6. Conclusion

The intention of this report has been to expand on my journal and show the thoughts and actions I took that made my animation a reality. From the research I performed, the narrative became clear, and the style of my characters and animations was set in stone. Choosing the Eastern culture as my main influence was the correct choice because it gave my animation the ability to do what it needed to do to tell the story I wanted to tell. Using the information that I gained from multiple sources of culturally correct animation styles, I was able to accomplish this, as well as imitate and portray the anime and manga style through 3D animation.

There were some limitations to the research I performed. It was limited by the time I had available to spend on it; with more time, primary research in the form of a case study could have been done.

Although there were limitations, all three of the research objectives were met. Understanding why I chose this sort of animation and narrative was successful, as it had the most influence over the animation. My research on the views and opinions gave the final animation more depth and emotion, which allowed me to sculpt a better narrative. Without my initial investment in research, the final product wouldn’t have been as great in quality it was.

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