Saturday, February 14, 2009

From the eyes of a newbie...What is a cartoon?

Scott McCloud is a comic author and theorist, who has pushed the boundaries of comics (and all the visual arts in my opinion) to unimaginable dephts of understanding and innovation. I just recently came to know about his work and I regret so much not having familiarised myself with it before. Thanks go to my director at Red Star studio, Benjamin Smith, for the recommended reading... cheers Ben!!

From the vast amount of amazing facts and theories that Scott explains, I wanted to post here something that has bugged me for years, since childhood, and probably the main reason that things like animation and drawing, as we all understand it in a commercial sense, are mainly tagged as "something just for kids" of the many "million dollar" questions...

What is a cartoon?

Most people will relate cartoons either to animation or drawings, and will not take it seriously at all (most people that I've met in real life anyway) since its main element is most of the time "humour". But I always thought the definition of the word "cartoon" had much more depth than such a simplistic assumption, and finally, thanks to Scott, I can safely say that it definetely comprises a much richer meaning.

The word cartoon, as defined in wikipedia, has changed and evolved over time. But its main essence, and the reason why we instantly think "2d" when we talk about cartoons, is because it's nature is that of an "resembles" whatever the creator of the cartoon wants to represent, in whatever level of detail desired. Scott Mccloud states that "by stripping down an image to it's essential meaning, an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can't". What does this mean? In my opinion cartoons can reach different depths in telling a story than realism can. Obviously the opposite could also be true (I'm not a liveaction film maker nor photographer so I don't understand the full capabilities of such mediums, and I don't mean to dismiss any of these by comparing them to cartoons), but many people like me, who love animation and cartoons, who create their own and who try to tell stories through such mediums, identify themselves with the cartoon not because of its simplicity and efficiency to reach an audience in emotional ways, but also because of its universality.

Scott McCloud simply states that when who the messenger is matters less, what the message is matters more. That's why cartoons are so simple, rounded, childlike, efficient and understandable. Cartoons deal more with inner realities than the physical appereance, and this is why we can bring inanimate objects to life, because we emphasize in the idea we want to represent, not the original thing we want to represent...we can idealise our own little world, create our own stories, and populate them with our own characters....we have the freedom to play like gods....yet we can risk to go way too abstract as to no one understanding us...and this is when the element of "cartoon" kicks in: by getting inspired from elements of our reality, borrowing their essence, their appealing features, and whatever we want, we enrich and humanise those phantasies far more than a photoreal representation. We enhance the emotional value, the appeal, the empathy, and the communication of our story.

This is what cartoon is, and further more, in my opinion. This is why I'm doing animation, drawing and whatever releases my creative juice, because I feel free creating my own visions. I don't necessarily feel that cartoons should be just about humour. Is a form, not a genre. Is an artistic medium to express, whether animated or still, the essence of it is always "drawing". Drawing is predominantly 2d. And since I love drawing, I love cartoons too!

That's all for now. As a conclusion, I'll recommend to those of you haven't heard of Scott MCcloud yet, to purchase his book "Understanding comics", and absorb all that knowledge he exposes pure gold. And don't think just because it has the word "comics" in the tile it limits itself to that medium...we all know that comics are another artform and therefore share lots of conventions with any other art...including animation!!

And here's a video of him giving a speech at about the power of comics, and the bright future that awaits.


1 comment:

Niya said...

Really good article. Thanks....

2d and 3d animations