No individual experience of Los Angeles is ever quite the same.
Some love it. Some hate it. And some, like animator James Curran, are able to document it in a unique style all their own.
Curran’s delightful compilation of 30 animated GIFs, entitled LA Gifathon, tells the story of his recent stay in the city of angels.
Many experiences Curran depicts are ones that long0time angelenos are all too familiar with: A burger at In-N-Out, hiking to the Hollywood Sign, the grind of freeway traffic, street tacos, a trip to Amoeba Hollywood.
After spotting Curran’s work via r/LosAngeles on Reddit, I reached out to him to learn more about his inspiration and process.
Our email exchange is provided below if you’d like to know a bit more about him, his L.A. adventure, and his background as an animator.
Brian: How long have you been animating for? What’s your background?
James: I graduated with a degree in animation in 2004 and I’ve been working since then. I originally made music videos, then worked in video games for a few years, then did motion graphics for commercials, before starting to direct animation mainly for advertising. GIFs are the most recent thing I’ve got into and I’ve been doing them for over 3 years now.
How do you use GIFs to tell a story?
I try to find a way to tell a story that makes sense within a loop, so it should be a character doing something forever instead of doing one self contained action that repeats. There ideally shouldn’t be an obvious start and end point, keeping the animation continuously moving forward.
What was the goal or mission with the Los Angeles project? Was there a specific reason you chose L.A.?
I’d previously done the same project in New York City a few months earlier, so it seemed like a good idea to do another on the opposite coast. A lot of people have a very strong opinion about which city they prefer, so I thought it would be interesting to have the same project from each city to compare.
How carefully conceived were each of the locations/activities you chose to animate for L.A.? Did you research for months in advance or was it more improvised once you got here?
I made a quick list beforehand of a few locations and activities that I thought might be interesting to animate, but I more or less made it up as I went along. If I woke up without a specific idea for that day I’d look at the list and pick something that I was in the mood for, that wasn’t too similar to what I’d done the previous day.
I noticed you also did a ‘gifathon’ for New York City. When you take on a project like this what’s the best part of exploring a new location? Do you plan to do more cities in the future?
The NYC Gifathon last November was the first of these projects and was a bit of an experiment to see if I could do an animation every day, while also giving me the chance to live in a different city for a while. It also gave me a reason to get out and do something every day, which as an animator doesn’t happen that often because you’re usually stuck in a studio working for hours.
I think I’ll just do one more next year in a different city, probably on the opposite side of the world…
What was your favorite thing you did while here in L.A.?
I actually really liked driving there, because nobody really drives in London so I don’t get chance to do it that often. I’m sure the novelty would wear off quickly though…
Where can we find more of your work?