The Importance of Traveling as an Animator
by Nadine Promes (Edited by Colin Wheeler)
As an international student and coming from a family that moved often, traveling has become second nature to me, within time, it turned into some sort of addiction. To give you an idea this summer alone I visited 4 different countries, almost 20 cities/towns and stayed in 12 different accommodations. In the past it would shock me whenever I encountered someone that said to me they didn’t like (or minded) traveling. I then realized that many factors go into this lack of interest, a major one being the fear of leaving your comfort zone.
However the more I travel the more I understand how incredibly important it is to me, not only as a person, but also as an artist; more specifically an animator/storyteller. It not only opens up your mind to things you didn’t know existed, but it also introduces you to new cultures and new ways of understanding our brothers and sisters from all over the world. I fear to say that stereotypically speaking, animators are thought of as introverted people that spend most their time hunched over a desk or in front of a computer or game console for hours on end. Although I know this is partially true, I would like to break the stereotype by believing in a new generation of animators with no boundaries.
World Building as an Artist
As an artist, when you travel, you are open to different kinds of geographies, different city arrangements, new architecture, and new vistas you are not used to. You are also introduced to new cultures that encompass the different kinds of people you will see. These different cultures and rituals along with the history behind everything will help you towards understanding the world better. All of this new knowledge can be added to your repertoire of ingredients, which you are then able to add into your drawings and designs. From personal experience, you can read as much as you want from a place, or see countless of movies and images, but it will never be as good as visiting the place in person.
Actually traveling to a place can lend itself to something important in the animation world called Location Research. Something which was thoroughly done when the team from Up! went to none other than my natal country, Venezuela, to properly capture not only the look of the movie but also the feel or atmosphere, all of which make up the essence of the settings. The only way you can properly explain a feeling is if you have actually felt it yourself, and like that as an artist you will then be able to transpose these feelings with color, lighting, composition and camera angles etc.
Enhancing Storytelling for Animation
As a storyteller, when traveling one must take full advantage and really explore locations that are new to you, always staying safe of course. The French term Dérive is the idea of going in an “unplanned journey”, where you never really know where the roads will take you. Although somewhat unsettling, the idea of exploring rather than following a planned route allows a person to experience a location with a fresh mind and new eyes and not by the words and paths of countless of others.
Not being afraid to try new things is essential when traveling, like that you might end up discovering your new favorite dish, or meeting amazing people you never thought of meeting. All of these experiences add on to your memory vault, which then as a storyteller, you can open up anytime and dig in for ideas. For example, if you have an idea for a story but feel like your characters are boring, perhaps thinking back on what you learned from the people in one of your travels will make it all exciting. Mundane activities for a person in a little village in Asia are not the same as that of a resident in New York City. Gathering inspiration from reality is what storytelling is all about, and with fictional storytelling you can transform it into anything you need to make it work for your story. Nothing is better than believing your story to be real, and if you have actual knowledge and experience on something, you will understand it well enough to integrate it to your story. When I visited Ireland I was able to understand personally the importance that mystical creatures truly have to some Irish people nowadays. This allowed me to understand the true importance the Irish company, Cartoon Saloon’s movie “Song of the Sea,” has; which deals with the fact that Irish people are forgetting their ancestor’s beliefs.
A Cultural Perspective builds Understanding
As a person, in conclusion to how much traveling matters in this non-stop world we live in; people forget that country boundaries are merely means to control populations in an organized manner, however they are not meant to keep us in like prisoners. The different cultures are simply ways in which humans adapted to a specific location. Something that might shock you might be normal for someone else because it’s how his or her culture has been doing it for years in order to survive. If you were born and raised somewhere else you would have a different culture as well. Traveling makes you understand things like this, it opens up your mind and allows you to accept things and not jump into erroneous conclusions quickly. In modern times, it is very common to work alongside people from different countries, so in order to have a healthy work environment and relationship with your colleagues, it is important for everyone to be open-minded and understanding.
Finally, I would like to leave you with a note on one of the most important means of traveling that has always been around; imagination. Years ago an editor for French Fashion Magazine ELLE called Jean Dominique Bauby suffered a stroke that paralyzed his whole body leaving him with full control of only one of his eyes. One has to reflect upon the idea that this man had a huge liberty before literally losing it all. The one thing Mr. Bauby did different from the many others that have suffered what he suffered was the simple fact that, while paralyzed he wrote a book. His book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” dictated to his nurse with his blinking eye, is a short autobiography of his past and what he felt while in the hospital after the stroke; ‘The Diving Bell’ representing his paralyzed body, and the ‘Butterfly’ representing his mind that unlike his body was still free.
Keeping your mind open and your imagination free to travel wherever it pleases is a really important characteristic to have as artists. People get stuck on the stress that surrounds them every day, or get stuck on the idea of having a ‘boring life’, which leads to artist-blocks. However the imagination has no boundaries apart from the ones you set for yourself. So have fun with it, keep your mind open, step outside of your comfort zone every once in a while and explore the endless possibilities the world has to offer!