We had this interesting conversation at work today about the temptation to try and make every scene be the most incrediblest amzingest scene you'd ever done in your life. Shoot, I've done that before. Guilty as charged, yer honor. While the goal is admirable (striving to be and do the best), I think the end result of that desire is to force things out of what they ought to be. Some scenes come with a certain groove to them before they ever end up on your desk. Trying to turn them into something else in some effort to prove you're worth your salt as an animator is a bit misguided. Generally folks aren't coming to the movies to bask in the glow of you, the genius animator. They're coming to enjoy the ride of the story and the characters. Don't jump the car off the rails by doing something out of place just because you've got something to prove. You've got a story to tell first and foremost. Take what the story gives you, turn the character where they need to go naturally. Our job is to guide the ride where it needs to be.
Linking animation to another art form- singing, I came up with this analogy. We've all heard singers who are trying to impress you with their voice and their ability to ramble through the notes. A simple, elegant song is turned into a painful beating on the ears when Ms. Pop-Star decides to run scales on every stinking lyric. National anthems seem to be abused the worst. "Home of the free" is 5 notes on the music sheet. Invariably some singer decides she needs to run that into 23 notes. The audience is left cringing. Just sing the song already! I can see this temptation in animation, too. It whispers to me with it's cool silky voice of doom. We want to show the world how amaaaaaazing this shot is. But if it's supposed to be something subtle, sublime, in context, well, that's where the fruit is. Shoot, this stuff is hard enough as it is without trying to do animation acrobatics on top of it.
If you feel like looking at some really sublime, masterful animation take a gander at the work of James Baxter. His work on characters like Belle, Rafiki, Quasimodo are stunning in their elegance. I love his work for how clean and simple it is. Simple, but so darned good! The point isn't showing us how many notes you can hit. The point is knowing just which ones to hit and hitting only those with style, grace, elegance. Sometimes a 3 note scene is just a 3 note scene. Hitting 10 notes in there doesn't make it better. Quite the opposite I think.