Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Unit 5: Animation - Animator Profile - Michel Gagne 1965 - Present

Figure 1. Michel Gagne

Gagne’s work is broad, pushing the boundaries of what one may or may not be able to understand. Each of his ventures show that he is not afraid to leap into the unknown, it is his will to create on multiple levels. One could say that his work is rhythmic drawing from the playbook of Norman McLaren, conveying his characters and objects through composed exposition.

Best known for:

•Animated Film “An American Tale”
•Animated Film “The Land before Time”
•Animated Film “The Iron Giant”
•Cartoon Network Series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

Figure 2. Sensology

Gagne has worked on numerous mediums, ranging from special effects to comic books, it is his will to create & convey an experience through his works. Gagne has no set style, adapting to an experience at will or expressing such with strong illustrational gesture. As much can be said when one considers Gagne’s “Sensology” a 6 minute Rythmetic short that was composed by improviser Paul Plimey. Gagne had a strong sense for Paul’s music imagining the animation in his mind as the musician played. An abstract short was later devised by Gagne from the Rythmetic direction of Paul Plimey. Michel Gagne observes:
“Like Kandinski taught us, every shape and sound has an equal vibration in the soul. When Paul Plimley saw a portion of the film for the first time, he said to me with tears in his eyes, "It's like you read my soul”. (Gagne: 2010)
One has to consider the message portrayed by Gagne’s short Rythmetic, the music is both chaotic & diminished, yet there feels as though each section has a resolution. Every key stroke is expressed by a rollercoaster of movement or explosion of white like one is watching an abstract fireworks display. Nothing is overly complicated, expressed diligently with shape and animation. While it is difficult to establish any formal character one can consider the music to have a personality by the very prescience of Gagne’s abstract animation. Every key stroke evokes a reaction of sorts which causes one to visualise Plimey’s instrumental.

Figure 3. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

From this we will move on to look at Gagne’s abstract experience with the video games industry the game of note being “Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet”, an abstract video games title that makes use of silhouettes with a bright colour pallet to express on screen items of note. The concept was devised by Gagne as a Halloween television short which was then adapted for the video games industry. Michel Gagne’s signature animated flare springs through in this video game adaption, showing significant similarities to those of prior works. Each animated movement, explosion or tantalising situation is vitalising & expresses Gagne’s experience with the abstract diligently. Button Masher Reviewer Gage Cloutier observes:
“I was immediately impressed by the art style. The most comparable Xbox LIVE Arcade title art style-wise is Limbo. While its eeriness does resemble Limbo, it isn't black and white and it actually has a very diverse color pallet. There are various zones in the game such as organic, ocean, ice, mechanical, and electrical which all have different color schemes and puzzle mechanisms”. (Cloutier: 2011)
To build on our understanding let us consider Norman McLaren who used shapes & their movement to define character in a fictional capacity. “Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet” (ITSP) expresses McLarens ideals perfectly all while utilizing Gagne’s fluid and expressionistic ability. ITSP’s digital world has the ability to scare on numerous levels with its bold demonic silhouettes & yet one is still stranded in awe about the identity of these onscreen animated shapes. Shapes which can be considered shapes on their own but with Gagne’s animation, they are alive, they are characters. Considering these ideals one would have to say that the shape no longer matters, perhaps it never did... how it moves is what matters, giving it an identity of its own.

Figure 4. The Story of Rex

Michel Gagne has a bold approach to all forms of media forever wanting to expand his horizon. In the world of Animation the character is given an identity as much can be found in the movement of Gagne’s visual works, whether the character is notes on a keyboard or a protagonist spaceship sent to destroy demonic evil. One can best describe Gagne’s work as that of a comic book, expressed through fine line with colour if & when needed. Gagne is not afraid to work with the simplistic of forms & somewhat likes to combine these mediums to show just how motion can convey an experience with beauty and vigour be it for good or evil. Animwatch Steve Ogden observes:
“Michel Gagné allows his imagination to run away with him. Whether creating lavish or bizarre illustrations, comic book epics, or visual design, he leaves the mark of his unique creativity on his work”. (Ogden: 2007)
The truth is Animators are to expand the horizons audiences hold great in order to find that place where mediums expand. One could say that Gagne has taught our generation that everything has a point and an experience to convey. It is the job of animators to express that experience however it may manifest, to truly reveal ones individual style to the world. The basics of shape and form are the tools of our generation, they have to evolve & thrive as something more, something unique to us as individuals. The more one inhibits their freedom or resolves without conflict the more they will never find their way through experimentation the way Norman McLaren had when he found his medium.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Michel Gagne. (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 07/03/12)

Figure 2. Sensology. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 07/03/12)

Figure 3. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 07/03/12)

Figure 4. The Story of Rex. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 07/03/12)



Gagne, Michel. (2010) SENSOLOGY - 6 minutes - Canada/USA 2010. At:
(Accessed on: 07/03/12)

Cloutier, Gage. (2011) Review: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet At: (Accessed on: 07/03/12)

Ogden, Steve. (2007) The Insanely Twisted World of Michel Gagne At:
(Accessed on: 07/03/12)

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