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369 pages, Hardcover
First published January 31, 2017
"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories .”And so, that's exactly what Mel Vaughn and Sharon Kisses, through the exciting medium of animation, chose to do. At its core, The Animators revolves around the intense emotional journey two young women embark on as they probe, explore and use the narratives of their very dysfunctional childhoods, while striving to master their craft.
"In her weird , exhibitionist’s way, Mel likes the intimacy of what we do, of placing herself at the center of what we make. I love the work for the opposite reason: for the ability it gives me to abandon myself, to escape the husk of my body and fly off into the ether. I know a day of work has been really good when I have to look up from the board and recall who I am and what I am doing."Just as they are beginning to enjoy their success, two life-altering events derailed their plans and ultimately mark a turning point and serve as catalyst for what follows.
How silly it is to assume that what we’re dealing with is not something that will, in turn, deal with us.
“It’s the greatest thing you can do for something,” [Mel] said. “Giving it movement. Possibility.”
When she looks up at me, her eyes are big, blank; they seem separated from her face. And I see something I have never seen before in Mel: self-removal. Inside, she has fled. The ability of anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of something violent to grasp the details that remind them of their humiliation—smells, colors, sounds—and blur these details so that they become foreign, someone else’s property. It is a cultivated skill, requiring time, experience, unspeakable mental real estate. It is, for the desperate, the only chance to leave what happened with the part of yourself that is still yours. Children learn it. Boys, but more often, and more closely, girls. When girls learn it, they learn it for the rest of their lives, inventing two separate planes on which they exist—the life of the surface, presented for others, and the life forever lived on the inside, the one that owns you. They will never forget how to make themselves disappear. To blend into the air.
A project always begins like a pimple on the back of the neck. You can’t see it, but you can feel it, rising just under the surface. And it drives you crazy. It swells, gains definition, becomes visible. The bigger it gets, the more it presses into the back of your spine. The more it presses, the less you can focus on anything else. Working on it every day is just a way of scratching the itch until you’ve finished its business and it slowly starts to shrink back down.
I spent years trying to outrun myself, Mel says. Trying to make enough noise to drown myself out. It makes me ashamed to admit this. But it’s okay to let yourself catch up. It’s okay if you work to catch up to the things that have happened to you. You do it for yourself. But also for the people around you. The people who deserve to experience you, undiluted, honest. Your genuine self, given to them.
The work will always be with you, will come back to you if it leaves, and you will return to it to find that you have, in fact, gotten better, gotten sharper. It happens to you while you are asleep inside. The world in which we work is a place where no one is a ghost, a world in which the potential for anything walks and breathes, alive. And this is reason enough to have faith. To keep going.
“She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.”
“The work will always be with you, will come back to you if it leaves, and you will return to it to find that you have, in fact, gotten better, gotten sharper. It happens to you while you are asleep inside.”
“I used it to hate it here. How could I have possibly hated this? This is me. I sprang from this place.”
“Anything that makes you in that way, anything that makes you hurt and hungry in that way, is worth investigating. … When you take the things that happen to you, the things that make you who are, and you use them, you own them.”
When you need something so huge that you lack a clear objective, you will make do with whatever is there. It's a story of consumption.