Saturday, April 23, 2011


Okay, due to popular demand, notes from my seminar. (This could get pretty dry. If you start to drift, go watch a John Ford film until I get back to talking about the fun stuff. Just saw Long Voyage Home again. Even better than I remember.)

Before we can start making informed evaluations or developing critical opinions about our work or the work of students, we need to get on the same page philosophically. So pull up a chair and let's have my usual "young wanna-be artist emotional encounter session". (Ugh. I hate this part.)

"So you want me to spend the few moments I have left on Earth before God drop kicks me into his eternal people furnace teaching you what I know, huh?"

"Uh Yeah. What people furnace?"

"You'll find out. So you're an artist?"

"Yes absolutely. Ever since I was a kid I've always felt a burning passion to expresses myself."

"That's called Narcissism, everybody has that. You'll get over it or go into show business. How does that make you an artist?"

"Well, uh I just know... I mean all my friends say... look at how cool I dress."

"Calm down, I'll make this part easy. An artist is someone who creates Art every day. Can we agree on this?"


"So if you aren't making Art what are you?"

"Uh, not an Artist?"

"Right. And when you are getting drunk, or talking about what a great artist you are, or dressing up like idiot for attention, or trying to bullshit some girl/boy at a party, are you making Art?"


"So can we agree that being an artist is not about you, your feelings, what others think or tell you you are, or whether or not your Mommy loves you today?"

"Do I have to?"

"Nope. There's a world of self deluded schmucks outside thinking themselves Artists because someone told them they were. I think they have your club jacket ready. You'll like it, it's got a corporate logo on it and everything."

"Okay fine. Jeez, you can be a jerk. An artist is only defined as someone actively engaged in the process of making Art."

"Good. So... what is Art then?"

"I walked right into that one. didn't I?"

"Everybody does, kid. Okay, let's skip the next three weeks of reading, research, trick questions, and discussion and I'll just tell you."

Definition of Art
(In the well considered and researched opinion of Mike Disa.)

What is Art?
Art is a stylized form of mass communication intended to communicate specific information to as broad a segment of humanity as possible regardless of culture, place or time.

What is Commercial Art?
A specialized form of Art intended to induce a single emotional state, vicarious desire, or to communicate specific data.

What is Fine Art?
A specialized form of Art produced with skilled draftsmanship that effectively communicates a concept, series of concepts, or emotional state that can be understood and experienced by the viewer divorced from cultural context or extended contemporary social idioms. (If it can be more fully appreciated in cultural context, so much the better.)

What is Pop Art?
A specialized form of Art, produced with or without skilled draftmanship, that is primarily dependent on external cultural context to communicate meaning.

What is Animation?
A form of Art that communicates through the use of sequenced still images designed to be displayed at a fast enough rate to to created the optical illusion of motion.

What is Character Animation?
A form of Animation that specializes in creating the impression of humanized thought process through the use of crafted graphic symbols and varied timings.

What is Experimental Animation?
I have no idea. You want to get experimental? Try to telling a story with no money or time. You get inventive and experimental fast. Style is not Form. Any artist can choose any style they wish, or create a new one. That does not relive the artist of the fundamental mandate to communicate effectively with a broad audience.

So... Animation = Art = Communication.

Therefore the primary task of an artist is to develop a set of skills and tools that allow him/her to effectively communicate their intended message through the medium they have chosen. Those skills will require study, experimentation, and practice to perfect, but those techniques are universal and can be taught and critically evaluated regardless of the specific information the individual artist wishes to communicate.

Therefore though technique is not Art, technique can be critiqued and improved separately from the development of the individual artist's philosophy or evolving intentions.

Which means shut up about yer great ideas and learn to draw. It won't make you an artist but a singer needs to know scales, right. Trust me, this is the fun part. Fill up a sketch book or two this week and we'll start talking about specific techniques next Classroom.

Here's a link to help you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest blog on the Huffinton Post

Not my usual dry film technique stuff. More of an opinion piece.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NIU lectures

Thanks to all the NIU students who turned out for my lecture and seminar on Animation last week. I have received about a dozen very good questions and requests for expansion or clarification of several points. I will be going through these in detail as soon as I find time. Here are a few of the subjects requested.

The evolution of the hero and story from antiquity to today. (Essentially an examination of my proposal that a radical change in the nature of storytelling and heroes since the Enlightenment has been responsible for the recent rapid advancement in social and Western ethics. What's not important about movies?!)

The Seven (and only seven) story types or gags.

A examination of the 12 principles of Animation.

The Major Studios as fast food chains and why that is a good and/or bad thing.

Why cutting isn't funny.

What Pre-production and Productions steps are obsolete and why the Big Studios still use them.

How to storyboard faster and better.

Why in-house animators can be a very bad thing.

How to design a static shot for Stereoscopic 3D.

Animation as fetish instead of film making.

Why California and New York pizza should be outlawed from civilized countries. (Okay, that one is just obvious.)

Great to experience such interest and enthusiasm! I'm grateful I got to spend time with you all.