I have a short story about Apple's Quicktime, and it starts with Disney's documentary “Frank & Ollie”. #uxdesign #AppleHistory #FrankAndOllie #Animationbooks #DesignHistory
"Frank & Ollie" is the documentary you need to watch. It is an important love story of an era––a rare friendship and partnership between 2 of the 9 "Old Men" of Disney Animation Studios. (You can find it on Disney+) disneyplus.com/movies/frank-a…
Both Frank and Ollie were amazing men as well as creative pioneers and great teachers. I am lucky to have spent time learning from Frank. He taught me the importance of observing life and how audio can lead in creating compelling stories.
For students of interaction I insist they read the 12 principles of animation from the best source book for animation: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, 1986. amazon.com/Illusion-Life-…
It is nearly 600 pages—a great investment and reference book. Here’s a great example of such principles:
When I sat with Frank, he taught me to look around me. OBSERVE! Anything! Like squirrels. Pay attention to details like their tail--how it sways, twitches, balances... As an animator, he would slightly exaggerate those motions to call attention to these subtle characteristics.
And in order to put interactive elements into computers, you have to help users anticipate interaction by exaggerating it using the same techniques like squish and squash. But it all starts with observation.
I was eating noodles at a restaurant with Frank & my then-young son, who was trying to put them up a straw. Frank was the kind of guy who'd say, “Stop! Look what he’s doing.” Obviously it’s stupid to put a noodle up a straw. But Frank made it entertaining & emotionally engaging.
And that’s not something you can do if you just repeat the motion itself. You have to add emotional content and a connection with the observer. “Stop. See. FEEL!"
This was important for interfaces (Quicktime) because we had to help people understand animation on a computer, which they’d never seen. We had to engage people in “this is something new” and so we had to start exaggerating and preparing people and getting them “in the mood.”
Now it’s not such a struggle because people just say “Oh, it’s Youtube.” But back then people didn’t think computers would do animation. (Like how B/W movies came with orchestras because there was no recorded audio track. No one thought there would be an audio track 1 day.)
People now think audio MUST BE related to the visuals. But back then people weren’t sure whether audio should just be background noise or if it should have anything to do with the visuals. Connecting the 2 independent media was big; Disney was already utilizing it.
At Apple, we put an icon of a finger directly on a photo in the corner that made people think they might be able to interact with it. They’d click on the finger and then a 1-second thing would happen.
Our first movies (or animations) used Eadweard Muybridge stills. We photographed all the still images and use the finger icon and users would see the horse "moving." We called them composite documents because it combined sound, images, and movies.
And so, we watch animated movies and interact with videos or animated interfaces on our devices to understand something about the content. Disney was already pioneering this effort. At the beginnings of the computer era, that was something we had to learn by trial and error.

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