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Phil Tippett's History of Animation

reported by: Jinger Roy

Phil Tippett, creator of Tippett Studios, presented his audience with his view of how animation has progressed since its early beginnings of cave drawings and etchings all the way up to the 3D digital animation of movies such as Disney's Dinosaur and Hollow Man. Tippett preferred to let the pictures and clips he presented to speak for themselves, only jumping in to the presentation to introduce different animators and sections of artwork or to tell anecdotes from his years of movie making.

Tippett started the presentation with a reel of artwork stills set to music from cave drawings and etchings, Aboriginal statues and carvings, and even paintings from the Renaissance and other important movements in art history. He explained how the first animations were made by cavemen who utilized the natural indentations of cave walls and flickering candlelight in order to make pictures that seemed to dance as light moved underneath them.

Tippett's main focus was on the history and evolution of stop-motion animation. The work of George Melies was shown for its revolutionary matte and collage animation properties that led the way to stop-motion animation. He showed examples of many Czech and Russian stop-motion animators who used their art form for political purposes. He also included the work of his major influences, Willis O'Brien and his mentor Ray Harryhausen. O'Brien's films include King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, and The Black Scorpion. Harryhausen is famous for films such as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Clash of the Titans, and Jason and the Argonauts. O'Brien and Harryhausen's groundbreaking work paved the way for the digital artists of today.

He also showed clips from the beginnings of 2D animation, such as Disney's early work like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and the original Superman cartoons. There was also a section featuring anime such as Akira. Tippett said that he liked the fact that more and more full animated features today are being made with adult audiences in mind instead of just reserving animated movies for children. He also said that 2D animation is still keeping the original mystical and fantastic qualities that animation originally started with intact while a lot of today's digital technology is aiming to make what is animated look more realistic and life-like.

Of course, Tippett's presentation included a large section of his work on films such as Dragonslayer, Robocop, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Dragonheart, and Hollow Man. He also included a story of how the idea for Disney's Dinosaur started at the taping of Robocop with Paul Veerhoven. Their original idea was to have a complete stop-motion animation movie with only an orchestral soundtrack instead of dialogue. However, when they presented their idea to Disney, Disney didn't agree and made the movie themselves with voices intact.

Tippett's presentation revealed a lot about how the style of animation has changed over the years and how digital animation is beginning to overtake the stop-motion industry. However, the presentation ended on a lighter note, with Tippett showing a short he and his studio made for Ray Harryhausen on his birthday, featuring Tippett singing "Happy Birthday" with the skeleton warriors Harryhausen animated in Jason and the Argonauts.


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