Inspired by ghosts

Michael Barrier continues to carry on a very interesting discussion about greatness in character animation. I’ve blogged previously to play the devil’s advocate against his position on the merits of casting by character. But in a more recent post, he said something that really resonated with me:

What I see in the Disney features I love, like Snow White and Dumbo, is the shadow of animated films that never got made—not just films whose animators were cast by character, but films that tapped the potential of the medium for the mature artistic expression that is almost never found in films of any kind, and only in the greatest work in other mediums. It’s those ghostly films that today’s animated filmmakers should have in their minds, not Peter Pan or Lady and the Tramp.

I’ve never read words that more perfectly summed up my feelings about the golden age Disney films. They were great achievements, but looking back at them decades later, you can tell that there’s something even better out there, just beneath the surface. If you close your eyes you can almost see it. You might catch a glimpse of it as you drift off to sleep one night, only to forget it the next morning. And very occasionally you don’t forget, and you wake up with a bright and shining mystery in your head.

This, and only this, is what keeps me in the business. If I’m diligent enough, and keep honing my skills, then one day, when the right idea finds me, I’ll be ready for it. Until then, I’ll do my best to deliver to the screen the ideas of the people who pay me. Hopefully I won’t scratch them up too badly in the process.