There are two main approaches to animation. The first is known as Straight Ahead Action because the animator literally works straight ahead from his first drawing in the scene. He simply takes off, doing one drawing after the other, getting new ideas as he goes along, until he reaches the end of the scene. He knows the story point of the scene and the business that is to be included, but he has little plan of how it will all be done at the time he starts. Both the drawings and the action have a fresh, slightly zany look, as the animator keeps the whole process very creative.
The second is called Pose to Pose. Here, the animator plans his action, figures out just which drawings will be needed to animate the business, makes the drawings, relating them to each other in size and action, and gives the scene to his assistant to draw the inbc-tweens. Such a scene is always easy to follow and works well because the relationships have been carefully considered before the animator gets too far into the drawings. More time is spent improving the key drawings and exercising greater control over the movement. With Pose to Pose, there is clarity and strength. In Straight Ahead Action, there is spontaneity.
Both methods are still in use because they each offer certain advantages for different types of action. Usually they are combined in a way that keeps the Straight Ahead Action from getting out of hand. The scene is planned with a path of action laid out, and rough drawings are made depicting the character's probable progress; although none of these will be used later in actual animation, they still serve as a guide for size, position, attitude, and relationship to the background. They offer as much control as might be needed, even though some animators feel that the very lack of control is the element that gives the spontaneity. They say: "The animator should be as surprised as anyone at the way it comes out." Most wild, scrambling actions are probably more effective with this method than with too much careful pre-planning.
Straight Ahead Animation will seldom work if there is strong perspective in the layout or a background that must be matched. One man animated a dog jumping excitedly and turning around, trying to attract attention. While he achieved a funny action with much spirit, it could not be used because he had failed to match the action to the limitations of the layout. There was no way to tell how high the dog was jumping since he never really contacted the ground, and the relationship of the drawings was thrown off by the perspective he had failed to consider. With a flat background and a clear arena in all directions, there would have been no problem.
However, many pieces of acting require a different approach. If Mickey Mouse is discouraged, he turns away, jams his hands far down into his pockets, looks back over his shoulder one last time, kicks a stone out of his path, and walks off. This must be done with Pose to Pose because each of the positions must be handled carefully for maximum clarity, appeal, and communication. They should be worked over separately and together, until they do their job as efficiently as possible. Once these poses relate well to each other, it is a simple matter to time the intervening drawings and to break down the action.
Another element that should be considered in choosing the method of animation is "texture." A series of animator: Woolie ReitHerman—El Gaucho Goofy.
Example of ' 'Straight Ahead" animation. The animator is often as surprised as anyone at the way the scene ends up.
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