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Animation grows up: How to convey adult emotions

Somewhere in between the pop-coloured pixels of Pixar and the golden days of Disney, animation went through a growth spurt. No longer is this colourful and complex art reserved for Saturday morning kids’ TV screens. In fact, animation’s grown up so much, you’d hardly recognise it.

With the vast range of styles and tones out there, it’s fast becoming the perfect medium to communicate serious and often emotional adult themes – in ways words can’t. Rather than relying on costly actors, locations and crews, it can offer the ability to craft every element of your narrative and landscape, all from the comfort of your own screen. With the development of new animation software and a pool of increasingly talented designers, the opportunity to engage with adults through the medium is greater than ever and you’d be surprised at how easy it is.

Taking FlightEmotion-in-animation-coming-of-age-pilot

Now we’re away from the kids’ table, let’s take a moment to talk about 2D. Recently, we gathered together some of our best tips and tricks for conveying emotion in 3D animation but in reality, 2D has just as much emotional scope. 2D animation and more traditional hand drawn styles offer a simple and streamlined way to connect with your audience, with buckets of artistic, animated flair.

In this stripped back piece of hand drawn animation, for example, we take flight with a world-weary pilot as he looks back on his life. From golden, hazy skies to the pockets of red dotted throughout, every element works together to tell a heart-wrenching story of love and loss, without the sugar sweet coating often associated with animation. We learn about his heartbreak through the subtle 2D designs as the character’s narratives weave together into a complex tapestry of emotions. It’s a great example of how when it comes to communicating through 2D animation, the sky’s the limit.

Abstract Emotion

Love and loss aside, there are far more feelings in our everyday arsenal of adult emotions that could do with illustrating and luckily, there are more animators on hand to help us. When we think about animation, our minds naturally wander to the types of brightly coloured characters we might see in films. In modern life, however, emotions and narratives aren’t always so clear cut.  This, is where abstract animation comes in.

Any one who uses technology will have, at some point in their lives, experienced the dreaded wheel of death. You’re mid way through a document, or at the end of the perfect social post and the loading wheel pops up on your laptop. A sentiment not often expressed in animation, Raphael Vangelis used a mixture of stop motion, clay-mation, real life footage and 3D modelling to capture this regular stress us adults can’t escape in our technology fueled world. By animating together a series of abstract elements, he successfully communicates this everyday woe in a unique and surprising way, which delights just as much as it frustrates.

Being HumanEmotion-in-animation-coming-of-age-anomalisa

Before we fall too far down the abstract rabbit hole, a final animated style it’s worth shining a light on when it comes to conveying adult emotions is puppetry. If you think you misheard us, that’d be understandable, but a recent film by Paramount turned the idea of animation on its head when seasoned animator, Charlie Kaufman, brought to life his remarkably touching ode on what it is to be human in puppet form.

A study in love, loneliness and just the plain old everyday, he created a miniature masterpiece about one man’s mid-life struggle and his search for what it is to be human. Animating each element into a sequence of almost photo real scenes, ‘Anomalisa’ captures emotion which is rarely expressed on film and isn’t afraid to take a walk on the dark side. By experimenting with a different medium, one which is not often associated with such complex feelings, the film connects with the audience on a much deeper level and offers a more considered perspective.Whilst animated puppets may not be the right tool for every film, in this instance it shows the breadth of animation and just how far it’s come from the early Disney days. Animation is a serious business and quite easily stacks up against more traditional forms of media when it comes to expressing complex, adult emotions. Now it’s come of age, the future’s certainly looking bright for animation.

Whilst animated puppets may not be the right tool for every film, in this instance it shows the breadth of animation and just how far it’s come from the early Disney days. Animation is a serious business and quite easily stacks up against more traditional forms of media when it comes to expressing complex, adult emotions. Now it’s come of age, the future’s certainly looking bright for animation.

If you’re looking to create an animation get in touch!
Amy Durrant

Amy Durrant

Amy is a copywriter and all round creative type at Pebble Studios. With bundles of agency experience at Karmarama and her past life as a music, technology and design journalist, she has a love for all things creative.

Creative, Pebble Studios

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