Some notes about animation after reading Munitic


Ranko Munitic wrote excellent book about animation aesthetics (Estetika animacije, Belgrade, Film Center of Serbia, Faculty of Aplied Arts, 2009).


At first he compare animated movies and standard movies (documentary and fiction). The main difference is in source of the movement. In standard movies, movements exists in reality, usually as a movement of an actor. Movement is RECORDED frame by frame. In animated movies, movements is CREATED frame by frame. Movement only exists during projection, on the screen.


Animated movie is much more then standard movie under total control of author. It's a perfect artifact, in which author creates:

  • visual appearence
  • movement
  • time

Animation is similar to illustration, but it would be wrong to understand animation as extension of illustration, as animated drawings. As Norman McLaren noticed animation is not the art of drawings-that-move, but rather the art of movements-that-are-drawn. What happens between each frame is more important than what happens on each frame. 


There are 2 main categories of animation: classic and modern.


Classic animation formed mainly in United States of America, started by Winsor McCay and continued by Pat Sullivan, Fleisher brothers, Disney. These animations are based on iconography of comic books and caricature, creating surrealistic illusion of reality. Very important element of animation is a surrealism. It creates interest and engage imagination and mental processes. For example, umbrella on operation table. Micky Mouse is surrealism, he's neither a human or a mouse.


Modern animation is formed mainly in France, started as experiments of abstract painters, but formed by works of Władysław Starewicz, Alexandre Alexeieff, Jiri Trnka. These animation are lyrical, authentic art forms. Modern animation isn't reflection of life, it's an reflection of author's interior world, his manifesto of animation.


Classic animations usually follow rigid standards and mannerism. Classic animation is an industrial product, single model which is developed and improved. Modern animation decline models, it's an experiment, individuality, freedom.


Animations aesthetics values are the same as for any art media, following the formula given by Wassily Kandinsky (Über das Geistige in der Kunst, 1910). He said the every art media have specific use, it's own unique language and features which must be discovered and used. Use of specific art media must be justified, artwork must verify specifics of a used media.

Classic animation usually has lesser aesthetics values then modern animation. If we compare Disney's Pluto and Kolar's dog from Vau-vau, frame from Pluto animation can exists as an illustration of a dog, but the frame of Kolar's dog cannot. Kolar's drawing denotes a dog only in form of animation, so Kolar's dog verify media in greater degree then Disney's dog. Kolar's dog have greater animation aesthetics value.


Nevertheless, Munitic gives Walt Disney credits for being the first author which realize importance of synergy of a picture, sound and movements. Disney realized this synergy isn't just a possibility, it's an obligation for good animation. This synergy Munitic calls PICTO-PHONO-KINETIC sign, marking it as an atom of animation.


As an example of modern, aesthetically valued animation, Munitic point to group of animations from Zagreb, known as Zagreb school of animation. One of these animators is Dusan Vukotic, famous as Oscar winner for best animated short Surrogat, 1961. Animation is treated as an abstract game. Space, objects and characters are formed when needed and dissolved when not needed any more. On screen only existing elements are those which affects the story. These elements are usually in movement. If doesn't affect the story, if it's static, probably it shouldn't be in animation.

Excellent example of these aesthetics values is Norman McLaren Blackbird, 1958. This is cutout animation. Peaces of paper freely transforms from abstract forms into abstract signs or into character, verifying essence and unique features of animation media.