The Power of Empathy In Animation

Empathy - the ability to understand and to some extent, share the feelings of others as our own - is a skill that all of us are capable of demonstrating. Nevertheless, there is a varying degree in the depth of our abilities to demonstrate this particular skill and implement it in beneficial ways.

First of all, the immediate thought that comes to mind when hearing about empathy is probably not animation per se - since empathy is closely related to interpersonal skills.

Though the previous sentence bears some truth to it, empathy can undoubtedly pose as a tool that can complement one's animation skills. 

Animation and empathy should go hand-in-hand - as many aspects of animation rely on the animator's ability to understand how certain portrayals of the human experience could be translated into their works.

In this blog post, we break down why the ability to empathize with others can elevate your career as an animator. 

1. Understanding People's Emotional Reception 

Woman with empathy

At the barest of its form, empathy means that we can understand and even predict how people would feel in various situations. In the context of animators, empathy plays a significant role in understanding the audiences' emotional reception

Animators who have good empathetic skills can distinguish and organize their content to match the audiences' emotional reception. This aspect of their abilities come in handy when animators are researching their animation content.

What is meant by research in this context is almost exclusively limited to specific topics such as:

  1. Videos that are depicting a person's life story;
  2. In general, videos involving human beings.

What comes next is fitting relevant content into the animation. If animators can understand how their videos will influence people's emotions, they will also find it easier to identify resources that best fit the animation.

This can enhance their ability to translate the information available at hand into animation without adding unnecessary expressions.

2. Creating a More Universally Accessible Content

People working together

A skillful animator and empath will be able to create videos that are well-liked by many people. One of the reasons why this is possible is because they can generate easily comprehensible content. 

It is easier to watch videos from people who understand well why the elements inside the video were there in the first place - as they portray a ray of emotions and actions that are appropriate in the audiences' eyes. 

Creative content that is deemed appropriate will also appeal more to people's emotional side. And this is something that animators would want to achieve - after all, appealing to the emotional side of the audience would leave a more lasting impression as opposed to merely focusing on their rational side. 

Videos that do not use elements to appeal to the audiences' feelings - such as using appropriate jokes and speaking tones - would fall flat. The video might still be perceived as useful by spectators; nonetheless, it will not leave a significant impression. 

In addition, when animators are able to tackle the aspect of appealing to the audiences' emotional side, people will also find it easier to elicit the intended reaction that the animator predicted.

When an animation is deemed appealing, it will certainly reach the hearts of many people. In general, more people will find the content relatable since they can quickly identify certain portrayals of emotions that have parallels to real life. 

Moreover, when the animation is relatable for many, more people will also find the content to be positive. Positive in the sense that at the very least, across cultures and demographics, the animation will receive good reception.

This can only be achieved when animators fully understand how people across demographics might perceive the video.

Good reception also means that there is a higher chance of the animation leaving meaningful insights for the viewer. It is no easy task to create videos that are meaningful for a broad audience.

However, this can be accomplished if animators are able to extract specific patterns within society that are closely related to people's emotions

Granted that specific experiences might be too subjective for the general viewer, animators who possess excellent, empathetic skills can tell how to pack the animation in a way that will generate meaning across demographics.

Although we have only talked about its impact on a broader audience, empathy can undoubtedly leave lasting impressions on the video's specific demographics. For instance, the animation “Coco” by Disney gave the general viewer a heartfelt tale - but it left an especially remarkable impression for Mexicans as it portrays numerous elements of their culture

To rephrase it, many unique issues that an animator conveys through his animation might possess meaningful messages to particular audiences - and as discussed earlier, this can have a powerful impact on the overall quality of the animation.

3. Producing Visually Alluring Content

woman's hand and drawing tablet

We have only touched upon the audience's emotional side through the animation's substance in the previous points. But empathy can also help animators produce a visually appealing design

In this regard, empathy means that the animator cares about how the viewers feel when they watch their work.

In other words, they will care enough to make their videos aesthetically pleasing. And this caring does not just extend to making an animation that is beautiful. An animation can be beautiful but fall short to the viewers. 

A beautiful animation that is empathetic means that the visual cues speak to the viewers; it is tailored specifically for the viewers' needs. It is similar to the case that there are aesthetically pleasing movies with great stories, but there are other movies that might at first be ordinary, but somehow speak to the viewers. 

4. Making Emotionally Compelling Stories and Characters

a man who is amazed with a story

Another important feature that relates to video animation is how the characters need to appear in the audience's face. In understanding this, it must be known that there are two sides to empathy - the more emotional aspect and the rational one

When we are able to empathize with others emotionally, we can feel what the other person is feeling without having to experience what they are going through. Similar - but distinct - to the previous idea is the ability to understand on a cognitive level what other people are feeling

Empathy is also closely related to the storytelling aspect of animation. When the animator fully grasps the concept of human emotions, the audiences can feel at ease when witnessing the characters in the animation. 

Furthermore, because the viewer feels that the experience of seeing the animation as something positive, it is more likely that they would think of it as a rewarding activity.

Through the latter (or the more rational means of empathizing with others), animators are able to construct a sequence of events - or stories - relating to people's emotions that is reasonable. 

What is meant by reasonable in this context is that the portrayal of emotions follows a logical series, with equally matching designs and styles. For example, when the characters feel sad, preceding events are subjectively meaningful for them. 

Their reaction to a said event would be easily understood by the audience. Thus, viewers will not only feel like they "get" the feelings of the characters in the animation, but they will also be able to justify their actions.

Compelling stories and characters with depth also make it easier for the viewer to resonate naturally with what they are going through. Even though the audiences may not fully understand the events that the characters or stories portray, they could still deem watching it as a worthwhile experience. 

According to a study, realistic portrayals of the human condition in the media may result in a higher content engagement rate.

Associated with the previous point, when the audiences can resonate with the characters naturally, they would be able to draw more meaningful messages from the animation - as they would feel like the characters and stories within it understand their unique circumstances.

Put it another way, the viewers would, in turn, find it easier to empathize with the characters that they are witnessing in the animation when the designs and styles matched the overall sequence of the video.

In Conclusion

Empathy is a skill that is unconventionally associated with animation. In this article, we unravelled the importance of demonstrating empathy as an animator as it can elevate the way animators use stories, characters, and information for their animation.

Through empathy, animators will better understand the character's feelings, the story's overall flow, and even how the audiences might perceive the product. All three are crucial in determining the success of their works. 

What do you think about utilizing empathy as an animator? Did you find this post to be insightful?

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