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Ballet in Animation


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24 replies to this topic

#1 i_like_to_draw

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 02:33 AM

Hello everyone,

My name is Lex and I'm an animation student and about to start my honours year. The animation that I want to make incorporates a lot of ballet movements or at least ballet inspired movements. Of course, I know pretty much nothing about ballet. Nothing a few books can't fix! Now where did I leave 'Ballet for Dummies'? ...Haha, just kidding, don't hate me.

Seriously though, I would like to ask for a bit of advice from people who do know about ballet. Namely you guys. So here are a few questions to start me off.

Do you feel that ballet is misrepresented in cartoons and animation and if so, why?
How do you like ballet to be represented?
What sort of particular ballet moves do you like to see?

Hm, that's all I can think of for now.
Here's the blog for my upcoming animation: http://viola-animated.blogspot.com/

#2 EricMontreal22

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 08:33 PM

I can't think of too much technical ballet, animated that sticks in my memory. I do think the Dance of the Hours in Fantasia is hysterical and gets osme of the ballet parody spot on (they actually filmed Ballet Russes de Monte Carlos dancers for test film) and always liked the fairies dancing to Waltz of the Flowers in the same film which is gorgeously animated. Not quite ballet but there's the animated dance with Gene Kelly in Invitation to the Dance--I believe the dancing was all rotoscoped completely though and it suffers a bit from that.

Not animation, but I'm a huge fan of the famous 1970s Japanese manga (comic book series) Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi. Most of it is translated into English--it's about a young ballerina but is a pretty realistic view and has amazingly drawn scenes of ballet dance which give the illusion of movement.

#3 bart

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 11:05 PM

I'd really like to hear the responses on this.

I don't know how to put this into words, but my problem with animated ballet has to do with physics.

Dancers in animation have no mass, no weight. They just seem to float up and around much too easily. They don't defy gravity so much as they ignore it. They have no real contact with the floor, even when the animators put in little shadows to suggest that their figures are actually standing on a floor or leaping from it.

I realize that ballet dancers attempt to create the illusion of weightlessness in the air, to disguise as much as possible the preparation for their turns, etc. But they can go only so far. The drama and beauty of the leap comes from the viewer's sense that this IS an illusion. Of course physical effort is masked as much as possible, but it is always there in real life.

For me, the success of the hippos in Fantasia comes from my sense that they are overcoming -- or trying to overcome -- the handicap of their size and weight. The fact that they appear to be oblivious to this handicap merely adds to the charm and makes you love them. They overcome the handicap by illusion and the skill of the animators. Similarly, the success of the ostriches comes from their slightly desperate attempt to overcome their physical limitations, especially the awkwardness and unreliability of their limbs.

#4 EricMontreal22

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 01:48 AM

Right--but I'd say one reason the Dance of the Hours is a success is because the animated forms DO appear to have weight (or lack of), etc. When dancers were simply rotoscoped to be Gene Kelly's partners in Invitation, even though rotoscoping is just tracing over real dancers, for some reason there is a complete lack of sense of weight--this is why it's not a success for me.

I'm trying to think of some other examples of ballet in animation, but I'm blanking...

#5 innopac

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 02:23 AM

You might want to have a look at this post of Christian's about Lev Atamanov's "Ballerina on a boat".

#6 EricMontreal22

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:07 AM

At the risk of seeming redundant--I also think Disney did a great job in Fantasia 2000 with their Shotakovich piece, Steadfast Teen Soldier. Brilliant animation and a moving little story--and the ballerina dances as well as any animaed ballerina should.

#7 i_like_to_draw

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 05:19 PM

Thanks EricMontreal22, I'll definitely have a look into Fantasia, I had totally forgotten about that scene. And I'll have a look around for that Manga too, I want to absorb as much as possible. And yes, rotoscoping is rarely successful. Animation is about going beyond real life movements, it's about exaggaration, so it always feels like something is missing when you watch something that is rotoscoped.

Bart: Thanks for the comment, it was very helpful. As an animator, weight is one of the first things that we learn. I really want to portray a sense of weight in my animation, it's very important. Weightlessness is something that occurs in bad animation and it's definately something I want to avoid. I would like moments of weightlessness, when is is en pointe perhpas, but only moments. For the most part I want a real sense of mass. I've been watching ballet, real life and on dvd and I want to be able to show which parts of the body are carrying the most weight in particular movements, when it transfers and all that sort of stuff.

Thanks for the link innopac, that was very helpful as well.

#8 innopac

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:04 PM

And I'll have a look around for that Manga too...


You might want to go over to Ballet Talk for Dancers and search on anime and manga. There are a few threads there. Here is one.

#9 Amy Reusch

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 07:52 PM

I don't know if it would be helpful to you or not, but there's a blog for animated dance:
GreatDance.Com

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 09:07 PM

...and here is another soviet cartoon with a lovely ballerina on it...
http://ballettalk.in...mp;#entry238139

#11 EricMontreal22

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 02:10 AM

Thanks EricMontreal22, I'll definitely have a look into Fantasia, I had totally forgotten about that scene. And I'll have a look around for that Manga too, I want to absorb as much as possible.


You're welcome. As a kid obsessed with Fantasia, I remember my mother who was into ballet saying how great she found the Dance of the Hours because it mocked so many ballet conventions (as a kid I thought she might not like it because it seemed to be basic fat/skinny mockery--but I see it for so much more now).

Swan, the manga, has some sample pages here and a review by a friend of mine who works for Viz comics http://shaenon.livej...663.html#cutid1 There's an even better loved manga from the era in Japan that hasn't been translated, Arabesque by Riyoko Yamagishi but the art isn't quite as breathtaking inhow it uses montage. But the way ballet has impacted Japanese comics by women for women/shoujo in inescapable. The Queen of shoujo manga, Moto Hagio (sadly, barely translated despite all her awards and fame in Japan) did her own series, Flower Festival in the late 80s and has done others--even travelling to Russia and Italy to capture dancers.

#12 i_like_to_draw

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 10:15 PM

I don't know if it would be helpful to you or not, but there's a blog for animated dance:
GreatDance.Com

Wow, thanks so much for that link, it looks incredible! :(

And thanks to all of you for your help.

#13 dirac

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 07:30 PM

Right--but I'd say one reason the Dance of the Hours is a success is because the animated forms DO appear to have weight (or lack of), etc. When dancers were simply rotoscoped to be Gene Kelly's partners in Invitation, even though rotoscoping is just tracing over real dancers, for some reason there is a complete lack of sense of weight--this is why it's not a success for me.

I'm trying to think of some other examples of ballet in animation, but I'm blanking...


Thanks for those examples, Eric, and I agree with you on both counts.

I seem to remember a Bugs Bunny cartoon with a ballet theme, but it's been aeons and I could be wrong.

And thanks to all of you for your help.


Thank you for the great topic. In recent years we've seen the virtual abandonment, on the big screen anyway, of hand drawn animation in favor of computer animation, although the former still has some advantages over the latter. I think that dancing characters can look quite good in hand drawn animation, but movement in CGI can still be very clunky. And classical music can go very well with cartoons.

#14 Alexandra

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 07:51 PM

Thos interested in this topic might want to check out Mindy Aloff's new book:

Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation

about Disney animation. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it looks gorgeous -- very handsomely produced, with lots of illustrations. (And Aloff is an excellent writer, of course, with an affinity for the subject, so it should be excellent.)

#15 stinger784

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 08:51 PM

I am surprised nobody has dared to mention the Barbie catastrophes.

What always gets me about those movies or just ballet in general in cartoons is the lack of properly using turnout and pointing of the feet. These are things a dancer pays attention to whereas a "normal" person may tend to brush over. Hands as well and the por de bras I feel is also often overlooked. When there is no shape even to the finger tips it bothers me dearly!

I hope when you make your animation, you can pay attention to the details of the hands and feet and actually having the ballerina using her pointe shoe box correctly. And yes, make the guy actually lift the girl with some strength.


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