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My Life as a Zucchini minimalism animation

Friday Roundup: Embracing Minimalism In Animation

Animation often depicts the “real world,” but when animators embrace limitations they’re able to tell rich stories with the most unrealistic heroes.

VR animation is on the rise, CGI is getting downright scary, and even traditional 2D cell animation looks more “realistic” every year, but there’s power in simplicity. Sometimes the most compelling stories don’t come from the real world. Here’s a look at what happens when animation captures the essence of a story that makes you believe in the impossible.

Idea Blog

Monday: Sales Pitch Explainer Videos: Best Practices

Tuesday: What Makes a Great Animated Training Video?

Wednesday: New York City Football Club: New Animated Video!

Thursday: Stop-Motion Auteur “PES”

ICYMI: The Best VR Animated Videos

Minimalism & Embracing the Strength of Simplicity

In a recent interview with Cartoon Brew, Claude Barras, the director of the already acclaimed 2017 stop-motion film My Life as a Zucchini, was asked why he embraced such a minimalist character design for such a serious subject (orphans struggling with domestic abuse). His reply says it all:

“Simplifying is not weakening, but going to what is essential.”

The search for the essence of something is the whole point of animation. Animators break a simple thing—a movement, a smile, a tree blowing in the wind—down to its base parts. Then they recreate that thing in the most economic yet true way possible. When animators capture the realistic nuances of everyday things, the animation comes to life. Literally, it animates. However, embracing the essentials is more about feel than fact.

Animation: When Less is More

Barras continues:

“It’s been shown in a number of studies that the more realistic a face, the more details and realism are needed in the animation in order for the viewer to believe it. So I chose to simplify to the maximum in order to convey the emotions very simply. My faces are like emoticons, they have such a simple aspect that the emotions rise to the surface simply by imperceptibly moving an eyelid. It’s a very exciting and creative interplay for the animators.”

This stripped down approach and focus on one aspect—facial features—lets Barras tell a compelling story about heartache and loss with brightly colored, crude stop-motion characters. He embraces the limitations of the medium, and the story is stronger because of it.

When Form Meets Fiction

The particular style of stop-motion auteur PES (video games and making guacamole) is just another example of the narrative strength of animation.

Stop-motion so perfectly captures the essence of 8-bit video game animation—especially from the 70’s and 80’s. The limited graphics capabilities at the time are captured in each flickering frame of animation in a way that instantly transports you back to that noisy neighborhood arcade. It’s a refreshing look at how artifice makes art.

Embracing creative and practical limitations can define and even elevate a story. Something to remember in an age of increasing animated realism.

Animation News

The Voice Cast of Lego Batman is Amazing — Hollywood Reporter

The newest Lego franchise movie hits theaters today, and from all reports it’s going to be fantastic.


Starring: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Mariah Carey, and Billy Dee Williams.

Seriously, look at that cast. This is going to be amazing.

Buddy Thunderstruck — Netflix

What happens when you combine The Care Bears (seriously) with animation team behind Robot Chicken? Apparently a stop-motion kids show that looks like The Fantastic Mr. Fox had a baby with Talladega Nights.

Monster truck racing. Weasels? I don’t know, but the animation looks amazing, and the jokes are solid. Look for Buddy Thunderstruck on Netflix, March 10.

Animation Culture

Fresh Guacamole — PES

The 2017 Annie Awards (animation)

The future of animation is a constantly moving target. Stay tuned for more animation news, culture, and video marketing tips every week!

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