This article was originally published on June 30, 2013 but we think it still rocks!
If imaginations could exist within other imaginations, a la Russian doll sets, Vince Collins would have no reason to create films. The experimental animator thrives on imagery that implodes, evolves, and degenerates into interrelated imagery, and the metamorphosis always feels too creatively-packed to have been thought up by the mind of just one person. It’s as if Collins harbors the creative brain power of twelve in one.
Collins made his mark on the animation world with his trademark morphologies, but, back then, his art was hand-drawn. After winning a Student Academy Award in 1975 for his film Euphoria, the independent animation community began to wane, forcing Collins to adapt to the changing times.
Lucky for him, and for the Apple devout, in 1984 Steve Jobs released the Mac.
Stills from Canned Heat
With a personal computer at his disposal, Collins was able to scrap the laborious pursuit of hand-drawn animation, and could now make all the working parts of an animated film on his own. Even to this day, he doesn’t regret the decision of ditching 2D animation.
Canned Heat (2011) The Creators Project: Even as you've migrated to the world of 3D animation, your films have maintained their identifying barrage of morphing images. Something you describe as a “trip through a trunk full of memories." What kick-starts that trip for you? Vince Collins: Coming up with some pure animation—sequences that could not be done in any other medium, impossible transitions of objects in motion, visual puns, surrealism. [The attempt] to create a visual equivalent to music — not just abstractions, but something that really hooks you in. Nobody has really achieved “visual music” yet, but it is probably similar to streams of interrelating images.
How dependent are those images on the technology you're using at the moment of creation?
Hand-drawn animation can do huge transformations with just a few lines, but 3D has reflections, shadows, and light effects that would be impossible to do in 2D, and that potential is incredible. Originally there was no clue that you would ever even be able to do 3D on a personal computer, but, as it happened, 3D programs like Infini-D became available years before a good 2D animation program like Flash appeared. By then I was already completely into 3D.
Magical Cat’s Journey (2010) In the late 70s, your creation tool of choice was the Commodore 64 [an 8-bit home PC released in 1982]. What setup do you use now?
Actually, I used an Apple II to make simple big-pixel movies. Next idea was to make a 16mm film off the monitor, but those old computers were too limited for that. However, you could make simple animations in Hypercard—and be able to program interactivity—which led to the revolutionary idea of watching the movie directly on the computer! Then [came] more speed, more ram, distribution on floppies, CDs, DVDs, and the internet. These days, any computer I can buy off Craigslist for a few hundred dollars is literally a million times faster than machines I spent years using, and [I] can produce as-good-as-it-gets HD quality [on it].
Your hand-drawn animations seem to possess more seamless transformations of images. Is this due to a limitation of the computer technology you're using now, or simply a new aesthetic direction on your part?
2D now seems to me very limited—like just a preliminary sketch of what the actual 3D movie will be. Although there are limitations, 3D likes straight lines—you have to convince it to do some kind of organic metamorphosis. Hand-drawn wants to avoid that geometrical style, but in fact, there was a lot of geometrically oriented stuff I made in 2D that would have looked better in [a 3D format].
Instant Clown Party (2013)
At one point in your career you decided you no longer wanted to be a part of the animation community. You now see yourself as part of an "independent personal 3D community." What is that, exactly?
It's not that I no longer wanted to be a part of the animation community—the independent animation community disappeared! In 1978, the price of silver suddenly increased 10,000%, making films much more expensive. Simultaneously, sources of funding like grants were gone, sales and rentals of prints had no markets anymore, most festivals and venues for independent film closed down, etc. These days, there are so many opportunities in 3D—feature films, short films made as a step toward a job making feature films, games, online worlds, 3D printing, visual effects and so on, that…everybody has gone commercial. An "independent personal 3D community" would be just people making experimental stuff for its own sake.
Still from Instant Clown Party
In an interview with Vice UK, you described your work as a constant stream of non-stop climaxes, which is a superb way of summarizing it. Have you discovered that style to be a better fit for today's frenetic, media-dependent world than it was for the mythical 70s?
You must be thinking of mainstream 70s movies which now seem so lame and slow-moving. There was always a lot of speed happening in countercultural movies in the 70s like Frank Mouris' Frank Film, which is image overload to the max.
To mark the end of the underground and experimental film scene era, you made Malice in Wonderland. Do you foresee the end of any eras in CGI animation?
I'm [actually] hoping that an era will begin. Rather than just having characters animated to dialogue, with the ultimate goal of selling merchandise, [it would] explore visual possibilities, stretch the imagination, make that “visual music.”
To learn more about the artist click here.