- By Nora Jovine
As a cryptic form of self flagellation I listened to Smile by Noehida while I wrote this Blog post, by no means is it necessary to join me. This song was my most listened to song since 2016 every year as I would loop it for days on end, until this year- where I seemed to break out of the loop. If you prefer songs without lyrics while you read I recommend Osho. Alright, settle in and lets get looping!
In this blog post I would like to explore how the loops in animation mirror the looping routines (I assume) many of us find ourselves in- should this looping be considered a failure of a boring individual? And why stagnation presented as the most terrifying loop of all.
From positive affirmation journals, and meal prep, to weekly workout schedules, routines are prefaced as the way to solve mental health to physical ailments alike. But at what point does a routine become harmful? Despite routine being highlighted as this cure all, when it comes to our content the loop is often considered a way of cutting corners and effectively cheapening a work. In 101 Dalmatians after analyzing the sheer amount of looped puppies the glamour of the beautifully animated movie seemed to slip away as I was left with the knowledge that animators were probably underpaid or overworked and leaned on the loop out of necessity to ensure the film remained visually exciting. The disguising of the loop via slowing certain frames or layering images to different scales emphasizes the dichotomy of the loop as necessary for production but also its ugly nature as something repetitively mundane used to create constant movement in a more economical way. So, why when we see the looping dots bouncing as these tiny dogs run do we chuckle to ourselves at the outrageous nature of stretching the same drawings repeatedly, but are awed by those who manage to wake up at 5am everyday and go to the gym. What makes it inspirational to loop ourselves but lazy to loop animation. x
The driven ideal of someone with a fantastic looping routine becomes admiration due to the amount of discipline it takes to live in such away. With the proliferation of lifestyle vloggers and influencers creating the perfect ‘routine’ is seemingly always trendy. Though the idea of looping in such a rigorous way seems to neglect the downsides of efficiency. In the video essay “The Defense of Inefficiency” Zoe Bee discusses the lack of efficiency of the creative process- and the relatively recent nature of society’s obsession with optimizing ones time. When considering that creativity requires a certain aspect of looplesness, would the creative evolution of ones own person not be subject to the same rules. How can an individual grow if they are bound by the shackles of a rigorous loop that occupies their every waking moment. If we were to expand from that, and please tolerate my humanity major ramblings, how can the loops of generational trauma, toxic masculinity, and systemic racism, ever be stopped if one is to remain stuck in the industrious loop of a admirable routine. The loops of normal behavior, while on occasion rewarding, can also distance one from the human needs of your community. The loop of school, work, buy a house, have kids, die, I assume can be fulfilling but at what point does it cheapen the growth and diversity of human nature in the same way a looping character becomes visually exhausting after the third reiteration.
However, on the other hand we cant be rid of the loop just yet. Without the repetition and practice of looping would change ever occur on a scale that isn’t individual. Additionally, there is truth to the comfort of a loop, the reliable nature of your favorite idle animation creates a sense of reassurance that may be what we all need in these increasingly chaotic times. Heck, I’m guilty of this all the time and have consumed the same comforting cute romance stories since I was young enough to read, and when everything seems utterly incomprehensible the safe haven of a narrative loop is what the heart needs every now and then. This push and tug of stagnation versus growth in its own way is a loop of itself.
Grounding this in animation again, the necessity of a little loop clarifies itself. When looking at the “12 principals of Animation” created by Disney animators in the 1930s and was outlined by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, these principals provide the foundation of most animation education till today and can all be distilled to different loops of motion. For Example, ‘Drag’ refers to the process of delaying motion of objects connected to the main body, e.g your feet moving slightly after you turn with your torso, and it parallels how ones technical abilities only catch up with ones imagination after the process of practice and creativity begins. While utilizing these 12 principals is key in creating lifelike animation, ensuring the less flashy transitions are readable is equally as important in creating a character that is as endearing in their moments of action as they are in their more passive frames. This principal of mastering the subtle motions of animation comes with the unfortunately hard loop of practice, you only have to think of the paralyzing tranquility of a Miasaki film to know that the action is often the least important part of animation. I will save you all the spiel of how revolutionary these principals were and how each of the twelve highlights a different aspect of looping frames- but mastering these 12 loops is, to a certain extent, how you become a fantastic animator.
And in a wonderfully tangential way, I think mastering your own loop is how you become a fantastic person.
Anyways that’s all- I will now finally free myself from this looping song that will surely be an earworm for the rest of my day. Oh well- also! What loops do you find yourself stuck in? Are there any loops you want to work towards? Do you think some cultures/people are better at looping than others? Either way, I hope the rest of your daily loop is rewarding!