Every morning, my daughter wakes up and asks for two things: chocolate milk and Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. It’s how we start every morning, and I can’t complain, the show isn’t that bad for a CG kids’ show. But come to find out there originally was an anime project planned by Toei, I had to check it out. Turns out, it’s animated really well!
Unfortunately, all that exists of the project is a 2013 PV (short for preview, basically a trailer/concept reel), but some of these cuts are absolutely superb! Today’s clip is no exception! Presumed to be animated by Toei ace, Naoki Tate, what caught my eye was the movement and perspective used to give this action sequence a smooth (yet exciting) flow.
We start of with Ladybug’s heroic leap from above, stylishly tumbling and twirling into a kick. The smears and snapped key poses work together by contrasting each other. Let’s look at the former first. Half way through the fall to give a sense of energy and speed, Ladybug becomes one noodlely smear with only her head having a recognizable shape. Immediately there after, the latter kicks back in, snapping our heroine into a voguish pose (even sneaking in a wink). All of this happens rather quickly before the end of the jump, as Ladybug’s knee comes towards the camera.
On the technical side of things, there are a couple of core animation principles at work here. The first being ‘Slow in & Slow Out‘, a technique used that eases our eyes into and out of an action. We have plenty of time to establish that Ladybug is falling toward the camera, which allows us to focus more on how she is falling.
Another technique employed in this shot is the use of closure, or the mind’s ability to assume movement between the drawings. I mentioned the “noodlely smear” – anatomically, the isolated drawing makes no sense, but since we are used to assuming movement, we interpret the split-second frame as speed, the motion being too fast for us to track. A real life application would be the blades of a fan, they move too fast to track individually, but that doesn’t stop us from ‘seeing’ the movement.
The rest of this scene boasts impressive ‘camera work’. I put that in quotations because in 2D animation, there is no camera. This poses the obvious problem of ‘moving the camera’, since there is no camera to move. Instead, the animator must draw each frame with a shifting perspective.
Even with a stationary object, this would be a challenge, but factor in an action sequence with rapidly moving subjects on screen… now you see just what an impressive feat of animation this is! Each subject has to remain anchored enough that the shifting perspective makes us (the camera) feel like we are the ones rotating around the action. And yet not too anchored as to feel stiff and inappropriately heavy. It’s a perfect balance that’s simply miraculous! ☕