Nonverbal Expression in Animated Movies. With Timothy Reckart.

Currently, I’m writing my master thesis about Nonverbal Expression in Animated Movies. Therefore, I will analyze some works, amongst others, Head Over Heels by Timothy Reckart. The animated short won lots of awards. 2013, it was even nominated for an Oscar. Not surprisingly, because of the sensitive story and its lovely realization in stop-motion. It beautifully shows the relationship of an elderly couple.

For my thesis, I had some questions about the making of this short and I was very honored to get answers from Tim Reckart himself. His opinion and point of view will certainly enrich my work. I will outline some of his answers within this blog entry.

One interesting topic which came up is the different approaches to making animated movies with voice actors. In western animation, it’s very common to animate by using the sound reference as a guideline. Disney, for example, proves the success of this strategy, as other big studios of America do. They often work with famous personalities performing their fictional characters. But in stop-motion, you obviously have to go the other way: First, you animate the whole movie, then the voice actors improvise on top of the images. Even though the movie is nonverbal, it also requires human sounds. But the importance of the actor behind the figure is not that significant, though.

To be honest, I find it more exciting to go the second way, as Timothy Reckart did in Head Over Heels. First pictures, then sound – as also used in eastern animation, by the way.

Another aspect that interests me very much is how the creator/animator establishes a relationship with his/her figure. Timothy thinks, that the technique of stop-motion allows the animator to live through every shot the same way the puppet does. For this reason, stop-motion, more than any other medium, requires empathy between the animator and the character, Timothy further comments:

“You have to put yourself in the mind of the character, and understand what decisions, what movements, a character would or wouldn’t do, so that you can confidently improvise if you have a new idea.”

Finally, it’s very interesting, where the ideas for such wonderful characters came from, with whom we share so much empathy. In many cases, real people inspire the artist, as Timothy Reckart got the inspiration for his main characters in Head Over Heels from his grandparents. Conclusion: Insights into human nature becomes essential for creating authentic, emphatic characters.

If this arouses your interest in my work, let me know, I’d love to discuss the topic.