Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe: The Emperor's New Groove

                The Emperor's New Groove is about a young emperor named Kuzco whose selfishness gets him into trouble.  Kuzco summons Pacha to help him with his plans for a summer home, which uncoincidentally meant knocking down Pacha's home.  Upset with the emperor's plans and his feeble attempt to reason with the emperor, Pacha gets escorted out of the palace by the guards.  Just moments before, Kuzco fires his adviser, Yzma for stepping out of place and in retaliation she tries to kill him with poison.  But the plan backfired when Yzma's henchman, Kronk, mixes up the potions and accidently turns Kuzco into a llama. While in an attempt of disposing Kuzco's llama body, Kuzco ends up on the back of Pacha's cart which Kronk loses sight of while following him. Once reaching his village, Pacha realizes that Kuzco is in his cart and their comedic trek back to the palace ensues.  The movie takes place in the Inca Empire and the physics in this world is similar to that of our own, for the most part.  The laws of physics were either pushed or sometimes broken to accommodate the comedic and hilarious scenarios that the characters go through in order to keep the story moving.
                To emphasize the stature and power that Kuzco has over his empire, the emperor is seen being carried in an elaborate chair up a steep and narrow staircase by a tiny servant.  In this case the use of weight and size is exaggerated for comedic effect where someone with a smaller mass is able to carry a much larger object and character without feeling the weight.   Another example of this super strength is when Kuzco was able to quickly pull Pacha from the falling cliff side and throws him onto solid ground behind him without much effort.  Kuzco is a lot smaller than Pacha, who is a meaty, bulky kind of guy and even as a llama, Kuzco is very scrawny.   In order to be able to pull Pacha from the falling cliff side, Kuzco would have to have a lot more momentum to pull then throw Pacha from the cliff to solid ground.   
                In the scene where the old man gets tossed out a high window he somehow miraculously survives the fall by landing and getting tangled up in a flag pole.  From the height he fell from, it would have been nearly impossible for him to escape without harm and to only have the flagpole broken partially while still hanging off of it before Pacha shows up to untangle him.  Even if he is smaller than the average height and weight of the men in the movie, the air resistance from the fall would not be enough to slow him down while the speed and velocity he traveled would much less allow him to walk away without bruises or broken bones after getting caught up in the flag pole.  
                Another example is in a scene with Yzma and Kronk where they attempt to fly over a gorge to reach the other cliff side.  As they are flying over the gorge they suddenly get struck down by a random bolt of lightning yet survive the fall from an extreme height and end up back at Yzma’s lab unscathed.  Before the fall the two had a set of wings that were attached to the tent that Yzma was sitting in; this allowed the two to glide over the gorge.   As they were struck down, there was some hang time before the two fell.  Unless there was a sudden, strong wind coming from below, Yzma and Kronk would not have been in that same spot for roughly two seconds as gravity would have not allowed it in the real world.  In the animation however, it takes a while for the audience to react to an unexpected event, such as the lightning bolt strike over the gorge, thus the hang time is there for the audience to realize what just happened and to anticipate the fall.
                To add a sense of urgency, the speed at which a character moves can become unrealistic.  Such example is when Yzma zips from Pacha's kitchen to the main room to talk to Kronk while Chicha (Pacha’s wife) is distracted.  Yzma is changed into a smudged, blurred figure as she quickly goes from one place to another, yet there is no follow-through motion or some sort of recoil action once she’s done zipping around the house.   
                In the scenes where Yzma is “tarred and feathered” by Pacha's kids, the speed in which the two travel is unbelievable and breaks the continuity of the film.  Yzma is seen tripping and falling into a wheel barrel and speeds down the steep hill.  The kids on the other hand don’t run to catch up with her, they magically teleport from one point to the next.  Also in this example, Newton's third law of motion is ignored.  After getting launched from the wheel barrel, Yzma ends up in a rope which was used to hold up a piñata, but rather than having the rope swing once she replaces the piñata due to the momentum and extra energy, she stays put as if the rope was made of something stiff that would absorb a large impact.  Once again the main objective for the animators is to give the audience time to react to the character’s action before the reaction could be performed.  Yet this time it was at a quicker pace oppose to the hang time and falling.  If Yzma was to keep swinging around before the kids begin to smack around the piñata, the humor would notbe as effective since the reaction would not be quick enough for that surprise factor. 
               The Emperor’s New Groove is a good example of how physics in animation does not necessarily follow the laws of physics in the real world, and for good reason.  In animation, the characters have to exaggerate movement in order for the audience to feel the action.  From a comical stand point, the actions have to push the laws of physics in order to have the most impact on the audience. 

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