Insights for Non Artists:
The Library as an Animation Resource
until I spent a bit of time unemployed that I really spent serious
time at my local branch library. Though aware of where it was
located, the building was closed for renovation when I first moved
into the neighborhood. After it re-opened, I found myself just
too tied up in work to stop by and check out the facility until
finally boredom of my own four walls drove me to find places I
could cheaply go.
On my first
visit, it struck me that I had actually been ignoring of a valuable
resource for non-artists to learn more about animation. I'm not
meaning the history of the medium -- though that's certainly not
bad to be aware of -- but depriving myself of access to information
on many areas of the industry. Los Angeles even has a system that
allows me to browse the library catalog from the comfort of my
home, put books on hold for pickup, and if the books are not available
at my branch I can request that they be taken from other locations
and sent to my nearby branch for checkout.
list of suggestions is geared toward the American readership because
those are the only library systems with which I have familiarity.
See how this compares to your country if you are elsewhere in
Depending on your library system's offerings, and on
how much competition there is to read them, you may be able
to peruse industry publications such as ANIMATION MAGAZINE,
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, or VARIETY without needing to subscribe
to them. Though these should be easiest to find in major metropolitan
areas such as Los Angeles and New York, you might find them
in other areas depending on a variety of factors (including
whether or not there are film schools in the area).
If you want to write for animation, you may be able
to check out books on animation screenwriting depending on the
size and stock of your library system. There really weren't
any books on the market until in just the last few years with
any animation information, so this is really a recent option.
Take a look at the videos -- and DVDs if your library
has them yet -- that are stocked on the shelves. When I visited
my local branch library here in Los Angeles, I truthfully was
surprised to see then-very current titles such as BOB THE BUILDER
or DORA THE EXPLORER (the latter offered on DVD, I believe).
What will take a little more time is what you can learn from
observation and research. Are there older animated titles that
the children themselves request Mom or Dad to get, versus the
parents picking them out? If you don't see any of this firsthand,
see if you can get one of the librarians to spare a moment (which,
given the small staffs these days, may take several visits to
actually accomplish; these good people are often overwhelmed).
Perhaps they can give you insight as to what are their most
popular checkouts, particularly the perennial favorites. Even
if demand is such you can't check them out directly from the
library, locate copies of these shows or movies and analyze
them. Discover what factors make them so appealing to a wide
audience for the long term. You can bring this lesson to bear
whether you work on serious pieces or comical ones. The keys
are universal themes and characters that resonate with the audience,
and the discovery is finding ways to communicate them effectively.
See what animated properties have spun off into childrens'
books and gauge the book popularity by how many of the titles
are checked out.
some areas where a library is not useful for the non-artist, which
is not the fault of the library but something that arises out
of a lack of materials on the market. Practically no materials
exist on honing skills for non-artists interested in animation
careers other than writing, with the exception of one book on
the market (at the time I'm writing this), though there are some
areas such as post-production where materials geared for live-action
can be utilized.
At least consider
visiting your local library every four to six months and assess
these resources to get some glimpses into what appeals to the
here to discuss this column in the dFX
is known in the animation industry for her work as a production
coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as
a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production
Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished
writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker
at conventions like Comic Con International.
to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately
8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business.
Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality,
whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles
about the industry.
You can email
Shannon Muir at email@example.com.
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