40 Million Minutes to Live

3D for Beginners: Animating the Hitme Character

The Art of Robots Book Review

The Animation Pimp: Doofs

The Future of Game Animation

Lions Gate Ent. Drops Out of HIT Bid Race

SpongeBob SquarePants 4th Season Premieres on Nick May 6

Pixar Poised for Future

Discovery Kids & WGBH Presenting Time Warp Animated Series This July

IDT Brings Hair High & Other Features to Cannes

 Sunday, May 08, 2005

Page One
Voice Acting
Editor's Notebook
Dr. Toon
The Animation Pimp
Producing Animation
Career Coach
Vilppu's How To
Anime Reviews
Concept To Creation
Current Issue
Back Issues
Articles by Date
AWN Media Kit
Contact AWN
AWN Home
AIDB - Animation
Industry Database

AWN Book Corner
Headline News
Career Connections
Student Corner
School Database
AWN Store
Animation Showcase
Web Animation Guide
Calendar of Events
Upcoming Theatrical Releases
Trivia Quiz
Toon Institute
Animation Schools

The Future of Flash
Greg Singer speaks with Cartoon Network, Atomic Cartoons, Augenblick Studios, Six Point Harness, indie animators Michel Gagné and Jayson Thiesson, Sandro Corsaro and Cliff Parrott, authors of the new book, Hollywood 2D Digital Animation, to learn how they make Flash animation look so good.

January 31, 2005
By Greg Singer

Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppet Show is an improvisational, silhouetted Flash animation from independent animators Michel Gagné and Jayson Thiessen. © 2004 Michel Gagné.

Once upon a time, in a land not too terribly far away, there beat a tiny dream in the hearts of independent animators. This was in the early days of the Dot Bomb Era, when inexpensive software was threatening to democratize the production and distribution of animation. Yet, perhaps it was all too much, too soon. While financiers and startups shook hands and agreed on the coming revolution, there was no real business model to support the golden goose once it laid its egg. Incubating properties online with hopes of hatching a fat deal in other media rarely proved successful. As far as major studios were concerned, the promise of the new software was a flash in the pan.

During the last few years, however, as more traditionally trained animators have become conversant with Macromedia’s Flash, we have begun to see the software emerging as a credible and viable production platform. Now, with a few outstanding examples of broadcast television animation being produced, it’s only a matter of time before theatrical and direct-to-DVD Flash features become commonplace, as well.

It seems like the early days of Flash animation are yielding to the glory days, as diehard visionaries have stubbornly persisted in their experimentation and cultivation of the medium. In this article, a handful of these patient and persevering pioneers speak about their experiences with the software, and how they foresee its future role.

The “F” Word
People do not generally think of Flash animation in flattering ways. A common assumption is that Flash animation is simple and crude, both in terms of its content and execution. As one artist observed, “Using Flash is like using a baseball bat to play golf. It works, it’s about the right size, it does what you want it to do, but it’s not exactly what it’s supposed to be.”

To be fair, when Macromedia introduced Flash in 1996, it was intended more as a Web development tool, not as a means for producing high-end animation. While the developers at Macromedia have always been supportive and open to feedback, incorporating animators’ suggestions into newer versions of the software has probably not been first on their mind. Compared to its primary user base, the number of artists using Flash for animation production must be small. Even so, with the momentum of recent history moving in its favor, word on the street is that Macromedia is poised to release the latest version of Flash with several new production valuable features rolled in.

In the meantime, artists are left to bend the software to their creative will. Innovation in its use is often limited as much by one’s imagination for what is possible as by any technical complaint.

Independent artist Michel Gagné, who is well known for his conceptual design and special effects work on the likes of The Iron Giant and Star Wars: Clone Wars, years ago made a fun short film called Prelude to Eden. He is now in the midst of making a new short film, Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppet Show, with the help of Flash.

Teaming up with Jayson Thiessen, a talented animator in Vancouver, Gagné says, “The main reason I’m using Flash is because of Jayson’s expertise. I was pretty much open to any software that could achieve the look I was after. The main challenge is to get the software to do what I visualize in my head. Jayson has already pointed out some of the limitations and we’re working on ways to come around them. I want to use Flash for high-resolution material so we’ll definitely have to push the boundaries. Having said that, I think Flash is a really good tool for the style I’ve come up with, since the show is all done in silhouette. My main goal is to keep the integrity of the vision. I want these shorts to be works of art.”

Thiessen has worked on the Flash-animated series Mucha Lucha at Bardel Animation, as well as Yakkity Yak and Being Ian at Studio B Prods. He says, “Flash is the best animation program for 2D digital that I know about, because of its simplicity. It doesn’t take long for a novice to learn it and the functions are versatile. There is more than one way to do the same thing. Plus it’s cheap to buy and you can do an entire production, if you have the energy. The challenge is making the animation not look like it was animated in Flash. Too many people just slide around symbols and pass it off as TV quality. I treat Flash like just a fancy high-tech pencil and paper.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8 Comments Posted

pedram goshtasbpour: It could be said that Flash is to Classical-2D Animation as a Polaroid camera is to a Hasselblad. The...

peter wassink: i'm a fully digital 2D animator. all my drawing is done directly into the computer(thanks to my Wacom)....

Don Perro: Sure Todd, Antanas' comment was negative but the point is a good one. I've been pushing Flash on my...

More Comments...

© 2005 AWN, Inc.