March 27, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 36°F


Professor combats popular 3-D trend with hand-drawn animation in film

As more movies are being released in 3-D format, Jason Harrington, assistant professor of cinema, photography and media arts, is bringing film back to the basics with a hand-drawn animation that took more than three years and 12 crew members to create.

Harrington recently began screening his newest short animation, “My Mind,” a film about the adventures of a small butterfly girl. During production, Harrington used bitmap software like TVPaint for animation and Photoshop to create digital brushes that mimicked pencil strokes in order to duplicate the realistic sketched look of the images. The images are meticulously hand-drawn pictures with specific and deliberate pencil strokes and crosshatching.

“My Mind” is based on a poem Harrington wrote when he was living in Astoria, N.Y., about his desire to escape the small apartment and the discovery that, with some imagination, he could.

“It was the juxtaposition of my tiny apartment within the massive city of New York that inspired many of the size illusions and tricks within the film,” he said.

Teresa Scott, programming coordinator of the Anchorage International Film Festival, one of the festivals “My Mind” was entered in, said there has been a decline in the amount of 2-D animation films submitted to the festival, and usually 2-D films are created by individual artists who are not affiliated with a studio. This year there was a significant drop in the usual amount of 2-D animation submissions, but the quality of the films has gone up, she said.

“I appreciate films that an artist worked on for a long time and put a lot of effort into more than someone who just moves a mouse and makes a digital film,” she said. “Especially when the quality of the art and the story are high. I watched a lot of films during the submission period, but ‘My Mind’ was one of the ones I remember well.”

Harrington said he was excited to see there were other 2-D films entered in major competition.

“A lot of the realism and traditional artistry in animation is sacrificed for a cartoony look in order to save time, energy and money,” he said. “It was tedious work, and there were days I felt like I was going crazy, but I remained dedicated in order to stay true to the traditional style.”

Harrington said he wanted students and alumni from the schools he had taught at to be a part of the production and creative process, and many former and current students helped with the “tweening” of the film, the in-between movement between key poses in animation.

Rory Magnus, who was one of Harring

ton’s students at Framingham State College, said this project is rare because the animation was created digitally and he enjoyed the experience he gained from the project.

“It meant a lot to me that my film teacher had such confidence in me and respected my opinions and feedback,” Magnus said. “I truly felt like a collaborator.”

Harrington said he decided to do this project to revisit artistic aspects that attracted him to animation in the first place.

“The arts are more varied and integrated,” he said. “It was that curiosity that led me into animation.”