by Jay Spiwak
Earlier this month I had the pleasure to attend the annual Newgrounds animator meet-up – “Pico Day”. Since the early 90’s Newgrounds.com has been a home for animation and games and the site’s creator Tom Fulp, hosts this meet-up every year as a celebration of the unique community that the site offers. Doing its best to evolve with new media and practices, the Newgrounds Community has tried to spark and foster creativity, primarily through themed and sponsored collaborations and competitions such as the Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation (or NATA).
NATA 2013 was where I debuted my first ever animated cartoon. I had done motion graphics for three or four years by then but it was primarily animating logos or graphics and I had never tried my hand at creating a fully animated story. I progressed through the first few rounds of the competition, making a new short every month until a superior animator knocked me out. But not until I had my first and second animation under my belt, with scores of positive feedback and constructive critiques. I was in love with the process and now I knew that I was not alone.
You see, Animation is a slow-paced, labor intensive, precious art form that rewards hours of work, with seconds of content. As an animator/content creator can find yourself spending hours firmly planted in front of your computer drawing yet another picture, marginally different from the one that comes before or after it, slowly and methodically creating the illusion of movement. As you work harder and harder to tell your story it gets harder and harder to have basic human interaction. Some animators are smart, or lucky, and have surrounded themselves with other creative souls where they can talk and relate to the grueling rigor of replacing sleeping, eating, or relaxing with animation. You know, for fun. And if you don’t have yet have that support base, Newgrounds and its yearly meet-up Pico Day is here to help.
The lucky group of creators that are invited, and able to go, gather in the Newgrounds Headquarters in the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA. Here they are thrown into a whirling sea of talent and creativity. It is an electric environment where everyone is encouraged to meet, talk, share, and create with each other. There are sketchbooks being passed around for people to trade drawings in.
This year was my second Pico Day, and this year I had worked extremely hard to pull together a “quick” one minute and forty-five second animation called “The Guardian.”I had been experimenting with different art style and animation techniques and I wanted to show that I have advanced since the year before. I posted my newest animation on Newgrounds the day before Pico Day, and as I was there I got to watch it played on the giant projector to a room of spectators as well as personally show it to some of my most inspirational and influential peers.
After all the festivities are over, all the business cards passed out, all the kegs have been kicked, and the last pages of the floating sketchbooks drawn on, everybody makes their way back to their respective home “studios” with new ideas, stories, and hopefully inspiration to create.