Survey of Animation: Final Project Essay

Darien Waldron

Survey of Animation Essay

11/29/16

Yuri Norstein is renowned across the world for his intricate cut-out animations that bring to life a variety of characters through stop motion. Crafting this specific technique into his own personal style of animation, Yuri Norstein was able to achieve an almost storybook appearance in his animations without using modern digital technology, such as computers.

Famously known for his autobiographical film, “Tale of Tales”, Norstein uses a multi-plane camera with multiple glass plates to give off a three-dimensional look. By using this special camera, placed facing downwards towards several glass plates, he can move each plate individually in horizontal and vertical motions either towards the camera or away. By placing his cutouts in several different plates, Norstein gives off the impression of foreground, middle ground, and background while creating a sense of depth in his animations. In “Tale of Tales”, one scene that exemplifies the use of the multiplane camera is when the group of people in the beginning of the film are dancing. The background consists of a dark colored glass plate, while the middle ground and foreground are made up of a cutout lamp-post and several couples made to appear as though they are dancing. Occasionally, the glass plates are moved in a vertical direction, both towards and away from the camera, to show off a change in view and give us close ups of several of the dancers. Similarly, in his short film “Hedgehog in the Fog”, he also uses the multi-plane camera to achieve the same three-dimensional effect. This technique is used in many aspects of the film, but one scene that strongly emphasizes dimension and depth is when the hedgehog character picks up a leaf in the grass, puts it down, and then disappears into the fog. His use of cutouts can be clearly seen, especially with the leaf and its placement, as well as several of the film’s characters in regard to their movement and actions. In another one of his films, “Seasons”, the intricacy of his uniquely fashioned paper dolls and the amount of detail put into them is rather astonishing. One scene of the film in particular has bright, vibrant colors in the background and middle ground which contrasts with the earthy tones of the figures. His use of color palate creates a sense of unity and balance within his animation, and brings it together as a whole. In addition, the use of the multi-plane camera gives his scenery in that specific scene a sense of depth and almost as if one could actually exist in Norstein’s animation. Washington Post writer, Peter Finn, acknowledges Norstein’s “ardent perfectionism” when it comes to hand-crafting figures and the process involved to make the animations, all without the help of a computer to “speed up the process”. Norstein’s approach to cut-out animation and use of the multiplane camera generates an aesthetic in his animations that computers simply could not recreate, and gave his animations his own auteur, or voice.

Yuri Norstein in many of his animated works, uses highly detailed cut outs to create beautifully crafted stop-motion films. “Hedgehog in the Fog” most impressively uses figures with detail made to appear as fur, feathers, and quills. His attention to small details like strands of fur or ruffled feathers is why many people around the world refer to Norstein as the “Golden Snail” for his self-inflicted, rigid perfectionism while working on animated films and his slower-than-average pace. “The Heron and the Crane”, in terms of movement and fluidity, is impressive in the way it consistently has a smooth flow of movement with Norstein’s cutouts of a crane and heron. The birds’ elaborate necks, especially when one of the bird’s twists their head around to face the other, and movement of their wings is appalling for cut-out animation since each individual motion of the birds’ had to be made so that the three-dimensional aspect of the character was retained, rather than look flat.  M. Leary describes, “Sometimes his world seems as thin as paper, and then a character makes a sudden turn, revealing depths previously unimagined.”  In his film “Hedgehog in the Fog”, similar fluidity of motion is present with his hedgehog character and his frequent head turns as he observes the scene around him. One scene in particular where the hedgehog turns to look behind him really emphasizes Norstein’s ability to preserve three-dimensional aspects while using two-dimensional figures.

In conclusion, Yuri Norstein is praised for his beautifully animated films and delicately crafted figures. Using a multiplane camera and no computer technology to help aide his process, Norstein creates whimsical, fantasy worlds and characters that push two and three dimension to unreached heights in the animation world. By layering his cut outs on several glass planes, moving them in horizontal and vertical directions, he is able to bring to life a two dimensional scene and give it a strong sense of perceptual depth. His cutouts are equally just as well-thought out and put together as his scenery, being able to give his characters fluid movement and preserve their depth during motion. Norstein’s adamant perfectionism, attention to small details such as textures, and mastery of cut out animation in terms of motion and depth is impressive in its entirety and traversed his own sense of style to viewers across the world.

Works Cited

“20 Years of Toil, 20 Minutes of Unique Film.” The Washington Post.

WP Company, 2005. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Leary, M. “Yuri Norstein and the Hedgehog at USC.” The Other Journal. N.p., 22 Feb. 2010.

Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

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