Gene Deitch’s Definition of Animation

Academy Award winning animator Gene Deitch has a few thoughts on THE POLAR EXPRESS and the definition of animation – and I am taking the liberty of posting them here (because I agree with him):

polarex.jpgI’ve been reading in various film journals, and in the popular media that POLAR EXPRESS is being referred to as an “animated film,” and is hoping for an Oscar in the Animation Feature category. This greatly concerns me, as a threat to our art and craft.We’ve seen plenty of technological development in animation, from the praxinoscope, through paper and cel animation, CGI computer animation, Flash, etc. but they all adhere to the same basic principles. Whatever the merits or demerits of POLAR EXPRESS as a film, I don’t believe that Motion Capture, being basically the same as any live action film, that is action created in real time, is consistent with the definition of cinematic animation. I would say the same for string marionette film, TEAM AMERICA, which is also not cinema animation.Many years ago John Halas invited me to construct a technical definition of cinema animation, which I attempted to do, avoiding all limited terms such as “frames” or “film,” but getting down to the very basics.POLAR EXPRESS, it seems to me, opens up the possibility of a whole new category, which may possibly develop; Motion Capture, as a way of creating a special kind of virtual reality. Whether it’s a good thing, or a blind alley, is another subject for discussion. In the meantime, here follows my personal attempt to define what animation basically is, technically. So far, no one has challenged it, and it has been part of my book on animation for many years.”CINEMATIC ANIMATION: The recording of individually created phases of imagined action in such a way as to achieve the illusion of motion when shown at a constant, predetermined rate, exceeding that of human persistence of vision.”