Tim Burton Talking About Animation
There is an energy with stop-motion that you can’t even describe. It’s got to do with giving things life, and I guess that’s why I wanted to get into animation originally. To give life to something that doesn’t have it is cool, and even more so in three dimensions, because, at least for me, it feels even more real. With the large Marge thing or the dinosaur – any time we could throw in some stop-motion, the better. We could have had a lot more if they’d let us.
It was after Vincent, so I was really into stop-motion. I’d seen claymation, I’d seen stop-motion, the Harryhausen things. On Vincent we weren’t trying to push the boundaries of great animation. What we were trying to do with it in a very simple way was be more specific with the design. To me, in claymation the design elements get lost. So what we wanted to do was what you do in a drawing, but just spring it to the third dimension. I always though that Nightmare should be done better than Vincent, but at the time I was just thinking of that simple, emotional, trying to make it well-designed type of animation. I think it’s harder to do emotional stuff in three dimensions. In so many ways drawn animation is easier because you can truly do anything, you can draw anything. Three-dimensional animation has limitations because you’re moving puppets around. But I think when it works it is more effective because it is three dimensional, and it feels like it’s there.
The characters that were designed for Nightmare had the added burden of not having any eyeballs. The first rule of animation is: Eyes for Expression. But a lot of the characters either don’t have any eyes, or their eyes are sewn shut. I thought if we could give life to these characters that have no eyes, it would be great. So, after drawing all those foxes with their wet drippy eyes at Disney, there was a little subversion in having these characters with no eyes. It was funny to think of a character that had these big black holes and to try to make that work.
It’s a funky old art form stop-motion, and even though new technology was used at times in Nightmare, basically it’s artists doing it and painting sets and making things. There’s something very gratifying about that, something I love and never want to forget. It’s the handmade aspect of things, part of an energy that you can’t explain. You can sense it when you see the concentration of the animators as they move the figures, there’s an energy that’s captured. It’s like when you look at a Van Gogh painting. I remember the first time I saw one in reality. You’ve seen them in books, but the energy that’s captured on the canvas is incredible, and I think that’s something that nobody talks about because it’s not something literal.
It’s the same with this kind of animation, and I think that’s
the power of Ray Harryhausen. When it’s done beautifully, you feel
somebody’s energy. It’s something that computers will never
be able to replace, because they’re missing that one element. For
as good as computers are and as incredible as it will get and is right
now, it goes back to painters and their canvases. This project and these
characters and these visuals, the only way that it could have been done
was with stop-motion. Therefore, it is very specialized. I remember getting
shots and each time I would see a shot I would get this little rush of
energy; it was so beautiful. It’s like a drug. And I realized that
if you did it in live-action it wouldn’t be as good; if you did
it in drawing it wouldn’t be as good. There is something about
stop-motion that gives it an energy that you don’t’ get in
any other form.