Several days ago I posted a list of some of last year’s best-received independent films. One of those was Waking Life, a filmic adventure into philosophy using a trippy animation technique called rotoscoping. Rotoscoping at its most basic is the tracing of a photographic image, projected onto animation paper or an animation cel, in order to create a series of animated frames. Director Richard Linklater uses this to great effect to exagerate parts of the dialogue that deal with dreams and the philosophy of dreams. Sometimes it is obviously caricaturized and at others it appears vividly real, and this has sparked some discussion in animation circles. (Article from Animation World Magazine).
“While rotoscoping’s initial use was met with praise — critics found rotoscoped animation amazingly fluid and “realistic” — it has since then been generally looked down upon. The most obvious reason for this is that it appears less “artistic;” the hand isn’t creating something out of thin air, rather it’s following the lead of a mechanical apparatus.”
“But there are artistic possibilities hidden in the act of tracing and rotoscoping has never been a purely mechanical process; it produces its own peculiar artifacts. Waking Life is the first animated feature to embrace those artifacts and actually compound them until they make up a coherent artistic vision.”
“Like dream and like memory, the characters and the world they inhabit in Waking Life are constantly in flux. There is a jittery wobble that seems to arise from the rotoscope process: the accumulated imperfections between the eye, the hand and the rendering surface. It’s a sense of inconstancy that worked well for Koko the clown, but which was ordinarily the bane of the rotoscoper’s existence during the photochemical era of the technique. In Waking Life it’s wholly embraced, and almost set on a pedestal of aesthetic principle. The caricature becomes a liquid caricature, with the physiognomic exaggerations erupting and then subsiding, almost as though these physical particularities were merely adjuncts to a deeper animating force.”