The Stranger in the Photo is Me-Donald M. Murray

I felt like The Stranger in the Photo is Me was one of the strongest memoirs we read. Although I can't completely connect with how he feels looking at old photos, I still feel like this was an important memoir. The lesson I got out of this one was that you can only live through something once. You can always revisit that memory through photos, but you can never relive that memory or be the person you once were. Looking back at the photo of his soldier self, he writes about how innocent he used to be. He hadn't yet gone through the war, or anything else that happened afterwards. He can't relive that time of his life. He is, however, able to go back and revisit the memory of that time when he was younger. I liked this memoir because it made me think about the fact that people say 'people never change,' yet in reality, people really do change, and it doesn't matter how much you try, you can't go back and be that person you once were again.


From Idea to Film, Part II: 1

To Run... Running

"When I was starting out, several senior animators told me how difficult it was to animate people running and walking. As I was learning my craft, I was full of energy and strength, and, putting myself in the place of the characters, I made them run for all they were worth-here, draw! here, run!-whatever they were doing-and I felt satisfied that their movements were good. But recently, I've come to think that depicting movement really is difficult." If you draw the picture by shifting the subject and then shoot it frame by frame, anything will look like it is moving. It is time consuming, and may take a lot of effort, but that is all it takes. You draw countless movements that are labeled "come," "go," or "run." But when it comes to running and walking in a way that impacts the viewer-an exhilarating way of running that communicates joy; a character, full of life, walking with his feet on solid ground; his emotional state conveyed through the way he walks and with his walk communicating the feel of the ground as he climbs up a slope-that is the ultimate.

Running's Basic Form

Our depiction of running has to rely on a basic form, a repetition of a set pattern. A sequence of four running steps over twenty-four frames per second, that is, six frames per step, is the most established way to convey a running rhythm. Though we define "running" as requiring a moment when both feet are simultaneously off the ground, when you use this basic form, you don't use drawings of steps in the air. "We use just three poses to depict one step in double-frame drawings for the six frames allotted to each step. Any mid-air frames would have to be inserted by cutting out the minimum necessities of the sequence-gathering up power, stretching, and kicking up.


Knucklehead-Jon Scieszka

Next to Fireflies, Knucklehead was my favorite. This one was a less serious memoir compared to the others we've read. Knucklehead is an entertaining collection of memoirs about the happenings in a family with six brothers. And of course, having that many boys growing up together in the same house would be a handful. One of the stories is about their father. Their father was a principal, so school rules would often be brought home with him. Jon talks about how his father would find ways to incorporate learning into their normal home life. He would find fun things that the boys liked, and he would find ways to teach them while still allowing them to have fun. In one of the other stories, he talks about how he found an ad on the back of a comic book for a hundred piece army that comes in a footlocker. When he showed this ad to his father, he was warned that it may to actually be what he expects. His father refuses to pay for the army since he doesn't want to waist his money, so Jon saves up his allowance the following weeks and buys it himself. Over the time it takes for the company to ship the toy and get it to their house, he builds up his hopes and excitement just to be let down when he finds out that his father was completely right. However, just like expected from older brothers, he manages to sell it off to one of his younger brothers.


From Idea to Film: 2

"An animator's work primarily consists of drawing storyboards and creating a detailed plan for the overall film. All the available ideas are sifted through to create a story, which in turn is concentrated into storyboards and given shape. Then the work is divided into a series of tasks, and therein really begins the huge effort hat eventually results in a finished film. Specifically, what we do is to split the story into a series of scenes, and then-while visualizing the settings, structure, movement, and speech of the various characters of drawings-we try to construct scenes so vivid and emotional that they will make viewers' palms sweat from the drama, or their sides split with laughter from the gags."

The Animator Applies the Decoration

"It's importaint to have a clear theme. When I say ''theme,'' some people may imagine a big billboard sort of theme, something involving a critique of civilization or advocating world peace, but I am talking about something far more basic and simple-the theme is the very foundation of a work." Now there are films that are like war comics, with the stench of death floating over them, and everything justified by an abstract pursuit of world peace. There are also works that try to glorify their heroes, that are lined with scorn for average people living ordinary lives, living good lives. The bigger the billboard, the more likely it is to be acting as a cloak for what is really a silly and shallow work.
"What's really important, I think, is to have fully fleshed out characters, characters who are life0affirming and have clear hopes and goals, and then to make sure that the story develops as efficiently and simply as possible. If a scenario fulfills these requirements, then the animator's job just consists of applying decoration."


Fireflies-Julie Brinckloe

Fireflies was a wonderful memoir written as a children's book. This was a story about a young boy who catches fireflies after dinner. However, after he caught so many fireflies in a jar, he brought them into his room and they started to die. Out of guilt he let set hem free before their light died completely. The lesson I got out of this would be that no matter what or who you love, eventually you will have to let it/them go. I felt like this was the lesson since the boy really liked the fireflies and was proud that he caught so many of them, but he set his feelings aside in order to allow the fireflies to live. But with the way this particular story was written, I believe that depending on how you look at things you can get a completely different lesson than the person next to you. One way this could happen would be that while I feel like the lesson is letting things go, someone else may feel like the darkness of the night could be bad things, and the light from the fireflies could signify good things and/or safety. Someone else could get this lesson more by studying the illustrations, rather than thinking about the story itself. One of the illustrations is of the backyard. In this illustration the boy's tree house, the fence, and the landscape itself has been drawn as if it were out of a horror movie. But when the fireflies come out everything seems more uplifting by adding light to the dark of the night. This would symbolize the light in the dark, the good in the bad. But yet, some people might not think as deeply as others, and may just believe that this was a harmless story about an event that every child experiences.


From Idea to Film: 1

"To my way of thinking, creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality, or suffering from a nearsighted distortion of their emotions. When the audience is watching animation, they are apt to feel either light and cheerful or purified and refreshed."

The Idea-the Origin of Everything

"Is the starting point of an animated film the time when the project is given the go-ahead and production begins? Is it at that point that you, the animator, first go over your ideas for that story? No, that isn't the starting point. Everything begins much earlier, perhaps before you even think of becoming an animator. The stories and original works(excluding manga originals)-even initial project planning-are only triggers. Inspired by that trigger, what rushes forth from inside you is the world you have already drawn inside yourself, the many landscapes you have stored up, the thoughts and feelings that seek expression."
When someone talks about a beautiful sunset, do they hurriedly riffle through a book of photographs of sunsets or go in search of a sunset? No. You talk about the sunset by drawing on the sunsets stored inside you; feelings deeply etched in the folds of your consciousness of the sunset you saw while carried on your mother's back so long ago that the memory is nearly a dream. Or you talk about the sunset-washed landscape you saw when, for the first time in your life, you were enchanted by the scene around you. Or the sunsets you witnessed that were wrapped in loneliness, anguish, or warmth.
Those of us who want to become animators already have a lot of material for the stories we want to tell, the feelings we want to express, and the imaginary worlds we want to bring alive. "At times these may be borrowed from a dream someone related, a fantasy, or an embarrassingly self-involved interior life. But everyone moves forward from this stage." In order for it not to remain merely egotistical, when you tell others about your dream you have to turn it into a world unto itself. As you go through the process of sharpening your powers of imagination and technique, the material takes shape. If that shape is amorphous, you can start with a vague yearning. "It all begins with having something you want to express."


Mother Tongue-by Amy Tan

Just like with Once More to the Lake, I can't make connections to Mother Tongue. Mother Tongue is a memoir about Amy Tan growing up in a bilingual household. Throughout her childhood she called her mother's English "broken" due to her mixing English and the way she speaks Chinese. Due to this many people couldn't understand her, and she would make Amy talk as her during phone calls, and translate for her in person. The only language used in my household is English. By living in a household that consists of one main language that we all know equally, I can't fully understand what it's like having to translate for a family member who doesn't know a language as well as everyone else does. Amy grew up embarrassed by her mother's "broken" English. But, as she grew up, she learned to love her mother's English, and that it isn't broken after all. Throughout the story, Amy would switch between paragraphs of whether the loved her mother's native language and spoke positively about it, to seeming more negative and calling it "broken." I personally think that was my favorite part of this memoir. Rather than keeping one side and one opinion, she showed both. If I were to reflect on this memoir as I write my own, I think I would use that quick transition from good to bad.


On Creating Animation-Nostalgia for a Lost World-Part Two

If I Were to Create it...

Miyazaki mentions at the beginning of this section that a film named Hakujaden(The Tale of the White Serpent) was the main reason why he chose to become an animator. He says that "In the more than fifteen years since then(when he first watched Hakujaden), I have had one constant theme in my work: 'To watch good animation, and then to make something that surpasses it.'" I don't know if he really did surpass the animations that inspired him to make a new one, but I do know that every one of his films, whether it was boring and not well known, or popular and exciting, I've loved every film of his that I have watched. I have watched a lot of different animated films, all different styles, studios, and stories, but I haven't found a single film that I've loved more than any of Miyazaki's.
"I saw Hakujaden over and over again. But eventually I came to believe that the film was a sham... Because of this, while I dearly love Hakujaden, I was increasingly plagued by doubts about it, and I begun instead to excitedly imagine how, if I were to have created it, I would have done this or that differently." Since Miyazaki started to see flaws in his once most loved animated film, he rarely watches any animations that amazes him, or makes his heart pound with excitement. He states that he would, just like anyone else, love to watch animations that does amaze him, even if it were only once a year. But creating animation of that caliber, great enough to blow people away and leave them wanting more, requires a HUGE amount of concentration. Even just drawing the individual characters, whether plain and simple or very complex and detailed, requires all of your concentration. "The animated film won't come to life unless the animators themselves pour their hearts and souls into their work." But in reality, they rarely have the luxury of doing that, and even when they do throw themselves into their work, in this industry they can never expect commensurate rewards or treatment.

At the Core, There Must be a Sense of Realism...

"In Japan today, animated TV shows filled with all kinds of fancy robotlike, mechanical creations are all the rage. I have certainly drawn lots of

A mecha robotmecha, or mechanical things, myself. But the general theme of currently popular shows seems to be that the protagonist jumps in a giant machine he couldn't possibly have created on his own, battles the enemy in it, and then boasts about winning. I frankly hate these kinds of shows. I don't care what types of robots are featured. For me, in a truly successful mecha show the protagonist should struggle to build his own machine, he should fix it when it breaks down, and he should have to operate it himself." In modern society, humans have become slaves to machines. So much that machines currently hold the keys to our collective fate. But that is the real world; in the world of anime, by contrast, humans control and operate the machines. Yet, despite the fact that anime has been granted the special freedom to show things this way, most works don't really take advantage of this.
Everyone is attracted to power and strength. This is true even in ancient Japanese tales in which superheros, such as Kurama Tengu, appeared. People were able to identify with these heros and to enjoy imagining themselves as superheros. But today's supermen also have machines and technology at their disposal. And even if only one person operates a specific machine, that machine presumably required multiple designers and mechanics to reach the point of being operational. "In the world of fiction, I believe that we have to depict this background to give the machines an air of reality. I despise shows that fail to do so."


Once More to the Lake- E.B. White

April 27, 2015

For me building a connection to E.B. White's memoir Once More to the Lake. One of the main reasons for my inability to find connections with his memoir would be my age. I'm not old enough to connect and fully understand how he felt about going to the camp after so long, and especially since he used it as a way to get closer to his son. I can't understand what it's like to live within the past through your child like he did with his son. I don't have a child to bring somewhere that was important to me at some point in my life, and I can't watch them do the things I used to do at their age, in that place. The other main reason why I can't make any connections to White's memoir is due to camping. His memoir is about him camping on a lake with his son, but I've never been camping. I don't know what it's like to be in the environment he was in. I don't have a lake that I can go canoeing on early in the morning, and I don't know what it's like to spend a day fishing on that lake. But aside from my inability to make connections and fully understand this memoir, it was still an interesting and powerful thing to read. His lesson showed through the story well, which did help to understand it a bit more. His lesson was about aging, and about the fact that no matter how old the memory is, it will always be there. Just sometimes you may need to revisit a place where those memories are the strongest. Knowing this lesson helped me understand what was happening. Without knowing the lesson, I wouldn't have been able to understand how he connected his memories from the visits he made there in his childhood, and the things his son was doing during their visit together. It helped me understand how much this lake and camp meant to him. He has strong memories of this particular place, and by revisiting this place helped him reconnect with these memories and made him feel like he was a kid again.

1 comment

On Creating Animation-Nostalgia for a Lost World

April 14, 2015

What Animation is to Me

"If I were asked to give my view, in a nutshell, of what animation is, I would say it is "whatever I want to create." To Miyazaki, animation isn't about entertainment, and it isn't just about an animated series, but it's also commercials, experimental films, and theatrical features, but rather it's something he wants to create. Something he really wants to work on. It isn't just 'animation' to him, it's an experience. During the creation of his animations, he tends to struggle and suffer a lot throughout his process, and sometimes he'll also have to compromise in order to make his films the way he imagines them. This is why one of his older films, Future Boy Conan, wasn't just animation to him. It was something he wanted to create, as well as something he greatly enjoyed working on. In other words, he is doing something with animation that can't be done with manga magazines(Comics), children's literature, or live-action films. He's talking about building a truly unique imaginary world, tossing in whatever characters he likes, and then creating a complete drama using them. That is what animation is to him.

Wanting One's World

According to Miyazaki, animation, or anime, has become an extremely popular topic and interest among "mid-teens," and especially among middle school students. During the preparation of his college entrance exams, Miyazaki had been more passionate about manga than any other time of his life. This, he believes, is due to that period of time in a young person's life where we appear to have a great deal of freedom, yet in many ways are actually still very oppressed. He believes that when people find themselves to be powerfully attracted to a member of the opposite sex, that they really have to start cracking into books. In order to escape from this depressing situation, people often find themselves wishing that they could live in a world unknown to even their parents. To young people, anime is something that they can incorporate into this private world of theirs. Miyazaki often refers to this feeling as a yearning for a lost world, a world where you can let go of your constraints in the real world and can do all sorts of things. It's that feeling that he believes is the reason to why mid-teens are so passionate about anime. I, personally, agree with his theory of young teens wanting their own personal world. I tend to daydream about my own little world in many occasions. When I'm on a long car ride, waiting for someone or something, and even when I'm just laying in my bed. I like to have my own world that no one else can visit and imagine. This world of mine helps me feel human. It helps me get away for all of the stress currently built up in my life, and it helps me calm down when I need it. My little world is how I fall asleep at night. I travel to that special place in my mind where I can be alone without any distractions, where I can do whatever I feel like doing at that very moment until I drift off to sleep, often dreaming about my world.

Due to the fact that everyone, regarding their age, experiences nostalgia, and the fact that as we age the depth of nostalgia increases, it is one of the fundamental starting points for most people involved in creating animation. Since human history exists in a continuum holding both the past and the future, the moment someone is born into this present instant, in the case of this memoir 1978, he or she has already lost certain opportunities or possibilities, including the chance to be born into other ages. Yet we can still enjoy ourselves in different fantasy worlds. And this yearning for other, lost possibilities may also be a major motivator for animators. Though not mentioned, I believe these lost possibilities and personal worlds are the main inspirations for many films, both animated and live action. To me, I think these two things were very important for the creation of many Ghibli films. All but one or two of Miyazaki's films that I have watched were based either in made up worlds, or realistic, even actual places, but with a twist of some sort of spirits, made up creatures, and even unrealistic objects and technology/machines. All of these unrealistic and strange things in Miyazaki's films were obviously extracted from his imagination, but I can't help but wonder if they really cam out of his own personal world.

1 comment

Foreword- "The Cat Bus and Pure Cinematic Magic"

April 13, 2015

The first section of my memoir is called Foreword, the only part of this section is titled "The Cat Bus and Pure Cinematic Magic." This first section is an interview of John Lassete, a Pixar animator, and his ties with Hayao Miyazaki. The first two paragraphs talk about John's first encounter with "Miyazaki-san"(That's what John calls Hayao) in Los Angeles. Miyazaki had just finished a film called Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro(I couldn't find an English dubbed version, sorry!). John had only seen small reel clips of the movie, but was so impressed by Miyazaki's animations that he brought the clips to Walt Disney Studios and showed them to various people there. With the help of some of his friends who were on the organizing committee of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition, John had managed to show the film on the big screen at Filmex, in front of a live audience.

John's next encounter with Miyazaki was when he visited Tokyo to give a lecture in 1987. After meeting a man who used to work with Miyazaki, he had managed to schedule a meeting with Miyazaki. When John arrived at Miyazaki's work studio, he had asked him about the film he was currently working on. Miyazaki showed him the concept design for the Catbus, the famous bus from one of my personal favorite Studio Ghibli films(aside from literally every other Studio Ghibli film I've watched, and I've watched tons of them),

The CatbusMy Neighbor Totoro, a movie about a man and his two daughters who moved to a small country village, where the two girls found some Totoro sprites and the Totoro spirit(The small ones are the sprites, the large one is the spirit). My Neighbor Totoro had left such a huge impact on John that his five sons had grown up watching the movie. He would even use clips of the film as teaching tools during parts of his lectures to Pixar animators. One way he would incorporate My Neighbor Totoro into his lectures was by saying, "To me, one of the basic elements in defining the personality of an animated character is to show the same action performed by two separate characters. No one does the same thing in the same way-no one. By using this technique, the characters really take on a personality of their own. There's one scene in Totoro when Mei and her older sister Satsuki are exploring their new house. Satsuki is running around and opening random doors. Then Mei comes in and does the same thing, but she does it like a young child. This scene tells the audience that Mei is the younger of the two girls. Nothing else needs to be said. It's so clear. These are two different characters, two different ages, doing the same thing, but in completely different ways. I've always admired that particular scene, both for it's simplicity and for the believability of the characters it portrays."
For A Bug's Life, John and the other Pixar animators who worked on it had studied the rescue scene from Castle in the Sky(Released as Laputa in Japan), one of my other favorite S.G. films. Rather than coppying the rescue scene, John's team picked it apart to help identify why it worked so well. The rescue scene in Castle in the Sky has always been John's favorite scene in that movie, and whenever Pixar would get compliments on how well their rescue scene worked in A Bug's Life, he would always remember what a great debt of gratitude he owed towards Castle in the Sky.
To me, I think that it's amazing an animator like John Lassete would have taken the time to learn techniques used by Hayao Miyazaki, and I think it's even better and more amazing that films and animations made by Miyazaki and the other animators from Studio Ghibli an have such a huge impact of people's lives.


My memoir, Starting Point 1979-1996 by Hayao Miyazaki

-Why did you select it? Where did you find it?

I chose my memoir since Hayao Miyazaki was the creator and main animator of Studio Ghibli, my favorite animation studio.
I found Starting Point by annoying my sister about who's memoir I should read until she told me to see if "the Studio Ghibli guy" has one, then googled it and found it on Amazon with his second memoir.

-What does the back say or reviews by other readers?

"The starting point... of the greatest career in animation history
In the first two decades of his career, filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki laid the groundwork for his legendary movies. Starting Point: 1979-1996 is a collection of essays, interviews, and memoirs that go back to the roots of Miyazaki's childhood, the formulation of his theories of animation, and the founding of Studio Ghibli.
Before directing such acclaimed films as Spirited Away, Miyazaki was just another salaried animator, but with a vision of his own. Follow him as he takes his first steps on the road to success; experience his frustrations with the manga and animation industries that often suffocate creativity; and realize the importance of bringing the childhood dreams of the world to life.
Starting Point: 1979-1996 in not just a chronicle of the life of a man whose own dreams have come true, it is a tribute to the power of the moving image."(What was written on the back of the book)

-What connections do you have to this book?

My memoir is about Miyazaki's journey through animations, and I have an interest in animation, especially old school animations that are hand drawn like his.

-What do you hope to learn?

I hope to learn about his inspirations of his movies, and any tips he added throughout his book.