I'm Thor, Clod of Blunders. I was one of the original judges for TOFA the first two years it ran. If you saw the contest back then, you might remember that I was the Simon of the judges. I'm very hard to please and I can pick apart just about anything. You might remember me from a couple tutorials I wrote on animation. Most likely you'll remember me for writing a 2/10 review on one of Egoraptor's cartoons on this site.
(Ego, I think you're a fine animator and a belated congrats on getting posted on the front page of cartoonbrew.com, which, if you haven't heard of it, is pretty much the premiere animation blog in the USA, if not the world)
Anyways, Nitwitt has asked me to step in to help judge again, as such, I will be reviewing your entries** and I will be giving you completely unwarranted feedback. HOWEVER, I will not be assigning numeric values to your reviews. Whatever I say will have absolutely no bearing on what your actual score is or whether or not you move onto the next round.
My purpose here is to help you become a better animator. Having studied this stuff extensively through college, I will try to help pass on what I know to you to help you make better cartoons. Believe it or not, there's an actual science behind animation, how to compose a shot so that the viewer's eyes are directed where you want it to be, how to utilize colors to help create moods, how long it actually takes for the human mind to recognize something (1/3 of a second by the way), how long to hold a title, etc. The animators and filmmakers that came before us figured this all out, from delivering a sincere performance to how long to to hold an awkward pause to make it funnier. It's basically mind control. Familiarize yourself with the bag of tricks that they developed and your own stuff will become more than just a "flash cartoon" but a work of art.
Here are a few links to people who can explain this stuff better than I can (and if you haven't heard of these you really ought to take a look>:
Temple of the Seven Golden Camels : cinematography, composition, and storyboarding
John K (guy who did Ren and Stimpey who also happens to be more critical than me, believe it or not: posing, character design, heirarchy
Red Letter Media : If you haven't seen the Star Wars prequels reviews, WATCH THEM. I can say I honestly learned more from these about storytelling and plot than my college classes.
Design Reboot: Character designs. Be sure to check out his post on how to improve designs from the game Jericho
-The Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard Williams.
-Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
-Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair
-Composing Pictures, by Donald Graham (I haven't read all the way through it, but supposedly it's the best book on how to draw. If you need his credentials, he taught the guys at Disney how to draw back in the 1930s. And then they made Snow White and Bambi.)
Also, it's my firm belief that ANYONE is qualified to review our work, even anyone without animation training. Your viewers might not be able to pinpoint what exactly it is that needs to be fixed, but if they will certainly pick up on something that bothers them. I'll try to go that extra step and help diagnose what exactly it is, but remember to take everything I say with a grain of salt (or the whole shaker).
If I might rip off the words of Anton Ego from Ratatouille,
"But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."
There will be some harsh criticisms thrown at you, some of it valid, some of it not. And even if you don't win this contest and if you're not crowned the champion, you're already a winner. You were the moment you finished that cartoon and uploaded it, so if you've made it that far, give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it.
** It's unlikely that I'll be able to review all open round entries. I can only type so much before I am crippled by carpal tunnel.
***** If you are competing and you need a second pair of eyes to look at something, I am more than willing to help out at any point of production. Naturally I won't discuss your cartoon with anyone else until it is released.