A great animator once told me to always reject the first idea I have when I begin a scene of animation. When he would approach a scene he would thumbnail out his first acting choices — and then not do it that way. Why? Because your first acting instinct is most likely cliche’,
When you reject that first cliched instinct you will already begin to set yourself apart as a better animator. Cliched acting is nauseating no matter what medium it’s done in, be it TV series, movies, stage or animation. You might be a skilled animator, but if your acting is cliche you will be forgotten.
Cliched acting is expected. It’s common, and it’s cookie cutter. Cliched acting is not character driven. Character driven animation is tailor made. It’s unique to the character. No two characters will react to the same thing the same way. But in animation, where stories tend to be cliche to begin with, we have the greatest temptation to be cliched actors. On some projects cliched acting is not only acceptable, it is expected. This contributes to the “juvenilization” of the animation medium.
By rejecting that first acting instinct you are forcing yourself to get into character and think in acting terms. And if you have a story and a character that is not so cliched and there is room to flex some acting muscle, then take advantage of it. Even though you may have a footage quota, you still have to create a credible performance, so spend a few minutes thinking different approaches. A little thought and preparation beforehand will go a long way.
One of the values on our projects is that we want character driven animation that is not cliched. We want to have those moments where our performances transcend the obvious knee-jerk ideas and bring us to the unexpected and surprising.
Get into the habit of rejecting your first ideas if they 1.) have been done before, and 2.) you have not thought about more than one possibility of acting decisions.