In a society that thrives on innovation, transformation, and evolution, originality is the lifeblood of compelling media. This is true for all forms of media, in some sense or another, but it is of particular importance when it comes to animation. Animation has always been a medium at the forefront of technology. An integral part of its appeal stems from the abilities of animators to push envelopes both technologically and creatively.
British science fiction writer and dreamer of incredible dreams, Arthur C. Clarke, once said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” While the basic premise of this is true, it is also true that magic is more than shocking the viewer. Magic inspires awe. It transports the viewer. Animation can be magical in the technological sense, but it is only true to the spirit of Clarke’s quote when technological prowess and originality come together in a unique fusion of science and art.
Animation is a broad term and there are many different fields which contribute to advances in this art form. As we continue to see exponential advances in computing technology, we’ve also seen a disturbing number of animators rely on showcasing new technology to wow the viewer—without taking into account the need for creativity.
There are many challenges and obstacles animators need to work around. Budgets, materials, equipment—of course, it is nice when all of these things fall in line, and it makes life easier. But even when they do not, there are often fixes that can be applied, for a team that excels at creative problem solving.
There is one element, however, that is absolutely indispensable: originality. Without originality, one is quite literally not creating anything. Copying, deriving, even crafting, but not creating.
Originality is the heart and soul of animation, and this is something we must strive never to forget. No matter how shockingly realistic (or fantastical) technical effects become, no matter how much money we have to throw at a project, no matter how polished the marketing, or how revered the names behind the project are, originality is the key to creation.
When creating a new animation, the team has to create a believable world—one which the audience can identify with. However, it must also be a world that’s free from triteness and clichés; the familiarity that comes from overly derivative work can make or break the audience’s ability to engage in and be immersed in the piece. The sentiment “I’ve seen this before” can be devastating to a piece’s effectiveness.
Incredible processing speeds, enormous budgets, and sought after endorsements are prized, but they are no substitute for the very element of animation which has made it such a beloved medium for so long. Creativity and originality gave birth to this art form—and they’ll sustain it in the future. Nothing captivates an audience like the experience of seeing something new, fresh, and unique—something that not only appeals to what they already knew they liked, but gives them the gift of enjoying something new.
From a business point of view, not only does being original in our animation engage and sustain our audience, it also increases brand recognition. A unique piece of animation is much more likely to stick in the viewer’s mind, and therefore be associated with a product or brand. For example, if we asked you what a pair of animated Russian meerkats have advertised in recent years, you would probably know the answer.
If we create something that stands out from the crowd, people tend to take notice and are naturally more interested in the point we are trying to get across. Originality gets people talking, and generates excitement. No one wants to watch something that they have already seen many variations of, we want something fresh and innovative.
As animators we want our work to be watched and enjoyed, and if we cannot entice viewers with something new – be it story or style, we have not met our objective. The essence of creativity is originality, so despite it becoming harder to come up with entirely original ideas in the modern world we live in, we always bring something new to the table.