From Concept to Cartoon: Pathways Into Alanta's Animation Industry
“When it comes to paper and pencil, I feel like we still need to return to that. I certainly feel the need to return to that, to just scratching out a drawing and figuring stuff out on paper and seeing how threadbare the paper is from how much you've erased. It just shows how much work it takes to just draw something out of the paper. I think that's still important. I hope it doesn't become something only crazy people do in the future. Like, she actually carries around a sketchbook … ‘What a Weirdo.’ I hope that people still see the usefulness of it,” Davidovich said. As she held up an invisible sheet of paper to an off-camera light source as a talking point in her description it became clear what was missing: the archive.
Davidovich recalls how visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Store in Perimeter Mall was greatly influential in her development as an animation artist. Even though the retail store was not an archive (and sold merchandise, instead of preserved objects) there was something about the tangibility of illustrations that inspired her creativity. Like the Warner Bros. Studio Store and The Disney Store (another defunct shopping mall retail chain) these places offered a closer look at content created for the screen and was accessible from all over the country.
ASIFA collects and preserves actual animation production artifacts at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Margaret Herrick Library in California. While ASIFA-Hollywood is the organizing chapter overseeing the project in partnership with the Academy, it is a major resource for animators who wish to see and study the materials of pen and paper illustrators of the past, as well as, today’s born-digital animators. Tontaveetong imagines a Southeastern archive as a personal mission, but admits it requires more bandwidth than is currently available in the region.
Students and professionals alike still require access to historical content created for their screen and have relied strongly on a handful of resources, according to Tontaveetong.
Every year, ACM’s SIGGRAPH, a Special Interest Group of the Association for Computing Machinery hosts an annual art show. In an effort to aid scholarship, research and teaching, the organization has preserved art show content that acts as a platform for the newest and most up-to-date contributions to computer graphics. Jerry Beck, editor of Cartoon Research, has composited a rich collection of animation history and information in categories according to famous animators on his website, www.cartoonresearch.com. In 1987, Dr. Harvey Deneroff founded the Society of Animation Studies which publishes a journal, Animation Studies, a blog, Animation Studies 2.0, hosts an annual conference, and maintains a members-only directory. Born-digital content may have altered the form of the archive by making material available online, but has allowed the community to serve a wider and more diverse public.
Dragon Con, Comic Con and other animation conventions also act as living archives providing spaces and platforms for research, the embodiment of characters, the preservation of images, community building, and keeping tradition alive. Dragon Con 2021 is the 35th annual event and returns with costume contests, live performances, reading sessions, burlesque shows, workshops and more. This year, visitors had the chance to meet Disney illustrator, Bryan Scott Fyffe, DC Comics and Cover animator, Zu Orzu, and 2021 Guest of Honor, William Stout, American fantasy artist and illustrator, as well as, a slew of comic writers, voice actors, podcasters, costumers, editors, vendors etc. In Atlanta, the archives are located in the people.
As an Animation Executive at ASIFA-South, Tontaveetong is concerned about representation and advocacy in all parts of animation production culture. ASIFA is an UNESCO-affiliated non-profit organization, which means centering neurodiversity through social justice initiatives is also part of their mission. Part of her job is to connect animators with other professionals to help tell better stories. For example, she might connect you with Signing Animation if you are designing a deaf character, or Women in Animation if you are seeking to promote the influence of women behind the scenes or in front of the camera. ASIFA is not only a resource for animators and other career professionals, but also a pathway into the workforce for artists who have been systematically ignored or overlooked.
While much of production is streamlined with digital and web-based processes, studios also believe the lived experience is key to good stories. Floyd County will actually hire live models and study facial expressions to create their reference photos. The animators of Raya and The Last Dragon actually traveled to Southeast Asia to study the culture. While characters do not have to represent all persons of a community (obviously impossible) the key is including the unique perspective of someone that has that lived experience.