Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe - Term Paper

When viewing a movie there is a certain amount of suspended disbelief the movie can pump out before critics start to bemoan. Physics is an element in a movie that filmmakers often tweak to get their story told the way they want it to happen. When physics is pushed too far the mind takes in the action on the screen and automatically thinks -- well that could never happen-- However, if the movie only fidgets with the physics and spaces out the scenes with the law breaking physics in them, the mind will accept the action as being plausible. The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop motion animated movie based on the book of the same name written by Roald Dahl. Wes Anderson directs the movie. In the movie, Mr. Fox is a reformed chicken thief who is going on one last poultry heist, tangling with the three most dangerous farmers around. The film strays from the world of physics by using gravity defying movement, sizes that are continuously morphing, and objects that move on improper arcs. 
Early on in the film we are introduced to the Fox's, who are anthropomorphized and walk around on their hide legs. While in this "human" state they are able to perform some super human tasks. They are able to jump and do somersaults with an incredible hang time in the air, and appear light as a feather while doing it. While in the air, the Fox’s manage flip after flip that would not be physically possible for even the most limber of animal. 
A similar style is displayed in the scene when the Fox's are moving into their new tree-home. The squirrels, who make up the moving company, defy gravity. They start by walking upright towards the tree and then continue walking straight up the tree in a supine position on only their hind legs. This is also done again later in the film when the Fox's are digging to get away from farmers. They begin digging in a normal "human" fashion, then the camera cuts and they continue to dig downward. As they continue digging their hole, they walk down the side of the hole in the same horizontal style as the squirrels walked up the tree-home. Gravity is defied many times in the film, but the sequences are spaced out far enough that each time it is used, it is still appealing and entertaining.
What seems like a quiet running gag through out the movie is the continuous morphing of the sizes of characters and objects in comparison to the Fox's. This is first noticeable when the Fox's move into their new tree-home. The tree looks like any other normal tree, however it houses three foxes in spacious living quarters. When the tree is viewed from the inside then shown from the outside it boggles the mind on how they could wrap that small of a tree around such a large interior. Buildings are not the only objects morphing in size, but the characters do too. This is most notable when the characters are compared to the Fox's size. A badger, beaver, rabbit and rat are the same size as the Fox's. In real life they would be a wide variety of sizes. The Fox's are the main characters, which is why the other characters have the same proportions as them. However, the Fox's change size in relationship to the human characters in the film.  
In one scene you see almost an accurate representation of the size difference between a fox and a human. As the films progress, you see the Fox's shrink and grow in size to the humans. Mr. Fox gets his tail shot off by one of the farmers while in a smaller size comparison, in the next scene you see the farmer wearing the tail as a tie but the tail has grown in size to fit the human characters large stature. With all of these morphing sizes, one size that stays in correct ratio to the other characters is that of the mouse tailor who stays his small unchanging size.
Continuing on the path of law breaking physics there are two noticeable variations to what would be considered a typical parabola arc. The first is demonstrated when Mr. Fox pops a cork from a bottle of alcoholic cider. The cork is sent from a diagonal plane and then returns to land in Mr. Fox's hand. The cork acts much like a boomerang in its arc path. The second case of an improper arc happens when the animals are trapped in the sewer, ignite pinecones, and then proceed to throw them up out of the manhole at a very high arc. When the camera cuts to where the inflamed pinecones land, the arches are lower and the pinecones seem to be self-propelled as they hit each of their targets. 
In contrast to these examples, when the Fox's or other characters are doing their gravity defying jumping and other aerobatics throughout the film, they maintain a consistent parabolic arc. It makes sense that some aspects of the laws of physics are held onto while others are being broken. While breaking some laws, the other laws must be kept or else the suspended disbelief that was established would be destroyed completely.
When developing a story, especially an animation, it can be easy to forget a thing like physics. However, when it is forgotten the audience notices. The use of these physics defying scenes is done with entertainment as the driving point. A movie with proper physics in place and staring animals may not be interesting and entertaining. A movie strictly following physics couldn't tell the story that Dahl had written. The scenes where the laws of physics were being "bent" helped to pull the audience into the film and forget reality. The audience is sucked into the universe with those furry characters, and maybe in their universe they aren't breaking any laws of physics but adhering to their own laws. This is the whole purpose of entertainment, for the audience to forget time and reality, if for only a moment.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe - Term Paper Outline

Fantastic Mr. Fox - stop motion animation

Fantastic Mr. Fox strays from the world of physics by using gravity defying movement, morphing sizes and improper arcs.

Defying gravity
  • The squirrels moving the Fox's into their tree-home defy gravity by walking on their hind legs in a supine position up the side of the tree as if there is no gravity pulling at them. In the same manner when the Fox's are digging to get away from the farmers trying to kill them; they dig in the same supine manner seeming to walk down the side of the tunnel as they dig.
  • The Fox's and other quadrupeds walk around on their hind legs like humans. The Fox's will jump great heights from a standstill and do flips and cartwheels appearing weightless.

Morphing sizes
  • The tree-home the Fox's live in is bigger on the inside than what is physically possible from the outside of the tree.
  • The size of the Fox's and other animals will change in size ratio to suit their environment. In one scene Mr. Fox and Rat fight with the rat being the same size as the fox. In another scene Mr. Fox is the size of an apple cider jug then his tail is blown off and worn by a human as a normal sized necktie.
  • One character that stays the correct size ratio to the other animals is the field mouse tailor. While the other animals with no credence to what their actual size comparison is are all an equal size to each other. 

Improper arcs
  • When Mr. Fox pops the cork out of a champagne bottle (which is at a 60 degree angle) the cork has an arc that acts like a boomerang defying it's natural arc so that Mr. Fox can catch it with out moving.
  • They also throw ignited pinecones out of the bottom of a sewer which appear to travel at a 60 degree angle. The scene then cuts to the pinecones entering at an angle of 30-40 degrees, and seem as if they are being self-propelled landing at specific destinations at different distances.
  • In contrast to these improper arc paths, whenever the characters are jumping or moving they follow a true arc.
The use of these physics defying scenes is done with entertainment as the driving point. A movie with proper physics in place staring animals would be pretty dull. The scenes where the laws physics are being "bent" help to pull the audience into the film and forget reality.