Electroshock: An Amusing Character Analysis

By way of Broadsheet.ie, Electroshock is a short film in French directed by Hugo Jackson, Pascal Chandelier, Velentin Michel, Bastein Mortelecque and Elliot Maren, all working out of the Ecole Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques (ESMA, or School of Artistic Trades for those of use who prefer Anglais).

Besides being a slick CGI effort and an original take on the superhero tale, Electroshock is also interesting from a character perspective. Have a watch before we start the Electroshock character analysis:

What did you think? Pretty funny no? A nice bit of slapstick mixed with some drama of sorts always makes for a fun film.

Anyway, what did you think of the characters?

Electroshock movie characters

They’re an interesting bunch: the tough-guy sheriff putting on his best sales pitch for the object of his desires, the beautiful and sensitive Mady who has also managed to draw the attention of Buck, the lowly electrician.

Buck is the protagonist, he’s clumsy, he’s clearly got some low self-esteem and he’s very much on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to the ladies. The electric shock he receives from falling from the ladder opens a new facet of his character to us though. He’s also vengeful, cheerfully going about taking the sheriff down a peg or two as soon as he gets the chance.

Beyond that though, he puts forward his best effort. He attempts to do the right thing, we can see that he at least has some heart, but it is all for one reason: Mady. This is even more so the case after he sees her out jogging (in slow-motion of course). Are Buck’s actions selfless or selfish? Ultimately they’re selfish, but his selfless act of throwing himself in front of the truck to save little Niky is what eventually wins Mady over.

However, the sting is in the ending. A year later, and the photographs in the panning shot all but tell the story. Buck is really a [redacted]. He’s clearly a slob, Mady gives him the fourth degree for all his failings(they’re quite a litany), and what does he do? He slows down time to shut her up! Far from winning our sympathy, he’s earned our disgust instead. The six minutes it took him to earn it are completely wiped out in under 10 seconds as we instantly begin to see how Mady was royally duped (the closing shot says it all really).

From a character perspective, Electroshock is unusual in that it has us (the audience) turn against the hero. We’re led down the garden path only to be brought to the outhouse. Yet the short works, we get a laugh and for that we are guilted into pitying the girl. Clearly, you could never get away with this in a feature, but for a short, such a twist works quite well.

By the way, the Electroshock facebook page has a good dose of the concept and original art and is well worth having a look around.

Analysing Animation With My Little Pony

YouTube user gbaudette has been posting analysis of scenes from, er, My Little Pony. While some may deride the show and its concept, the fact remains that there are more than a few industry veterans either behind or formerly behind it, so it does make sense to look at it from a technique perspective.

Thus far, gbaudette has posted videos on walk cycles, camera moves and the one below, a complex throw shot.

The nice thing about these videos is that they break things down into their elements, and prove that complexity is not necessarily all that it appears.

The series is relatively new, but has racked up over 50,000 views in just two weeks and is well worth checking out if you’re a budding animator.

Flixist Looks At Spirited Away But Neglects One Very Important Thing

Matthew Razak over at Flixist has a great in-depth look at Hayao Miyazaki’s seminal 2001 film, Spirited Away. That article is well worth a few minutes of your time as it discusses many aspects present in that film that are sadly lacking in many contemporary American productions.

However, while Razak focuses a lot on the animation, the direction and the over-arching themes of the film, he almost completely neglects to discuss the characters.

Yes, he talks about Chihiro and her transformation from a spoiled little girl into a more mature adolescent and his analysis is quite good in that regard. However, he glosses over the supporting characters that help her in that regard.

Like Haku, the faithful, if resentful, servant of the bath house owner Yubaba who is on a quest for self-redemption and rediscovering his identity, or Lin, the worker at the bath house who teaches Chihiro some of the realities of working life. Not to mention Yubaba herself, show imparts a tough impression of the businesswomen and her strikingly contrasting sister, Zeniba.

If it were not for characters such as these, as well as the multitude of supporting characters, from river gods to no-faces, Spirited Away would be an altogether duller film. Visuals and direction can greatly improve a film, but if the characters themselves aren’t complete, the film will feel stifled and wooden.

That is where Miyazaki excels in his films; the characters are never boring, or repetitive or simple. They are complex, flawed and plentiful; just like real people. Their importance should not be overlooked when analysing a film.

 

 

Grading the Disney Princess Magazine Covers Part 4

Continuing out look at a series of magazine covers featuring the Disney princesses as created by the Petite Tiaras tumblelog, (previously parts 1, 2 and 3), we’re onto the final post.

Tiana in Vanity Fair

Yet another one by Conde Nast, Vanity Fair describes itself as:

a cultural filter, igniting the global conversation about the people and ideas that matter most. With a dedication to journalistic excellence, brilliant photography, and powerful storytelling, Vanity Fair is the first choice and often the only choice for the world’s most influential and important audience. From print to the social stream, big screen to smartphone, Vanity Fair is the essential arbiter of our times.

So VF basically proclaims that it’s the best magazine in the world. End of story. Although is Tiana the right character to grace the cover?

Perhaps focusing in on the “igniting the conversation” part of the description, Tiana herself was stirring debate long before she made it to the big screen. Notable for being the first African-American “Disney Princess”, there was much debate about how the character would turn out, and whether it was simply corporate pandering for the sake of political correctness.

All that was dispersed when the film was released, and although it didn’t light the box office on fire, Tiana was praised as a character with much integrity.

Overall, it’s a B+

Rapunzel in Teen Vogue

Although we’ve already covered Vogue, Rapunzel gets a turn in Teen Vogue:

Influence Starts Here. This simple mandate sets Teen Vogue apart. Style-conscious girls everywhere know there’s only one source for relevant fashion, beauty, and entertainment news communicated in a sophisticated tone with the power of the Vogue brand.

Confused? It’s basically marketing speak for “hook ’em when they’re young”.

Compared to Snow White, Rapunzel makes a much more appropriate character for Vogue simply because she is much closer the typical teenager of today, and as a result fits right into Teen Vogue’s target demographic.

Right from the off, it’s clear that the pink is very apt, even if the film itself used lavender instead. All of the stories seem appropriate too.

Overall: A-

Megara in Marie Claire

This magazine bills itself as:

…a compelling media destination that combines provocative features and outstanding fashion to inspire every woman who wants to think smart and look amazing.

That’s probably a bit brief, but I did have to grab it from the Facebook page.

This is perhaps the blandest cover of the lot, but that’s because Megara a a character is quite unique from the others. She’s a bit of an anti-hero in many ways and that makes any “stories” that would be relevant to her not ideal to the front of a women’s magazine.

Other than that, I think style-wise, her own unique style is something that would probably better suited to Harper’s Bazaar or even Jalouse.

So point’s for effort, but ultimately, this cover gets a B- but only because Megara herself is a tricky character to place.

Grading The Disney Princess Magazine Covers Part 3

Continuing on with the series (after part 1 and part 2) of taking a look at the Disney princesses on the covers of various magazines as created by the Petite Tiaras tumblelog.

Jasmine on Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan describes itself as:

…the lifestylist and cheerleader for millions of fun, fearless females who want to be the best they can be in every area of their lives.

Cosmo edit inspires with information on relationships and romance, the best fashion and beauty, the latest on women’s health and wellbeing as well as what’s happening in pop culture and entertainment…and just about everything else that fun, fearless females want to know about.

Jasmine is one of the more powerful Disney characters and it is disappointing to see that this cover chooses to focus solely on her looks and sex appeal as opposed to the character behind it all.

While Jasmine is undoubtedly beautiful, she is also extremely intelligent and smart. It is difficult and indeed, incomprehensible that she would stoop to using her looks in the manner that this cover suggests.

Overall, this cover is a good fit for the magazine, but the character is a good fit for neither and as a result, this gets an F.

 

Pochahontas in Nylon

Unfortunately, I had to grab the description from Wikipedia:

Nylon is an American magazine that focuses on pop culture and fashion. Its coverage includes art, beauty, music, design, celebrities, technology and travel. Its name references New York and London.

On first glance this is a very apt use of the magazine as the tale of Pochahontas does straddle the old and new worlds (i.e. America and Britain).

On the flip side, the cover naturally can’t deal with the technology and music side of things, so it focuses on things like art, beauty and fashion. Although the skew towards these goes a wee bit against the character herself, the cover nonetheless does an OK job of representing the character.

Overall: B-

Mulan in Harper’s Bazaar

Harper’s Bazaar (not to be confused with Harper’s Magazine) has the following mission statement (screenshot because it’s meant to be read this way):

So, does such a pompous mission statement fit for a princess like Mulan? I would say, yes. the cover is tastefully done and although there is a hint of sensationalism about it, it does not jump out at you as it does in some of the other covers we’ve looked at.

Overall: B

Don’t miss next week’s final installment when we look at Rapunzel, Tiana and Megara.

 

 

Character Sundays: Daria and Quinn Morgendorfer

Sorry, I couldn't resist!

Via: Sick Sad World

We didn’t really get Daria back in Ireland. It was either too odd for the stiffs at RTE so those of us without satellite or cable (i.e. almost everyone) were left in the dark.

Skip forward to today, and I’ve managed to move to the country where Daria was made. Even better than that, I met someone who likes Daria, a lot. So it goes without saying that I have now watched every single episode and the two movies and it has become one of my favourite shows.

Why? Quite simply it is the characters. They’re a fantastic smorgasbord of types that you would probably never come across in real life, but who make for enjoyable entertainment nonetheless.

While I could write a post for each and every one of them, it makes sense to focus on two in particular. No, not Daria and Jane  but Daria and Quinn. Why you ask? Because they’re sisters but are still polar opposites when it comes to personality, which the series uses every chance it gets for comedic and dramatic effect.

Daria

At first glimpse, Daria is deathly boring. She’s mostly expressionless, very rarely conveys any emotion of any kind and to top it off, her voice is as monotonous as the corn fields of Iowa (no offence to Iowans). On the surface, she’s an extremely flat and unlikeable character, and yet, the more we see of her, the deeper and more complex she becomes.

Daria is the school oddball, in other words, quite content in herself but seen by just about everyone else as a weirdo. She’s also the voice or reason, or rather, that of rationality. She sees things in a very black and white manner and has the ability to see past attempts to pull the wool over her eyes.

What is particularly interesting about Daria is that even though she’s a teenager, she displays hardly any of the typical teenage traits. She rarely talks back to her parents and rarely gets into mischief. She’s smart to be sure, but throughout the series her attitude and generally vacant expressions make it difficult to determine when she is enjoying herself.

The series did a great job of including some character growth throughout the series hwoever, and it’s nice to see that, by the end, Daria is well on her way to being a real, sort-of rounded adult as opposed to a selfish child.

Quinn

Speaking of selfish children, let’s talk about her sister. Quinn is presented as the stereotypical teenage girl. Obsessed with fashion, popularity and friends, Quinn is also a member of the “Fashion Club” whose members talk a lot about fashion but not much else.

Quinn is presented as being an even shallower character than Daria but the difference is that her’s is portrayed much more up front. Her blatant self-interest is made only more pronounced by the fact that she uses her dates as a means to her own ends.

For the majority of the series, Quinn is shown this way, but like Daria, she begins to develop towards the end. In the first movie, “Is It Fall Yet?” we see her come to terms with the fact that she yearns to succeed but is faced with the prospect of having to actually study in order to achieve it. Perhaps fittingly, we see her in the end credits of the second movie, “Is It College Yet?” as someone who appears to have succeeded in life.

Together, Daria and Quinn represent the yin and yang and despite their differences, they do have some similarities. For one they are both relatively indifferent to their parents, they both respect the value of a dollar when it comes to negotiations and they are both quite good at hiding their true feelings from their friends.

Together, both characters add a lot to what could have been a devastatingly dull series. Without them, the surrounding characters would be floating around Lawndale with little to provoke them or bounce off of.

Grading The Disney Princesses on Magazine Covers: Part 2

Continuing this series of posts (part one if you missed it), where we look at a series of faux magazine covers created by the Petite Tiaras tumblelog that feature the various Disney Princesses.

Princess Aurora in Glamour

Glamour magazine has a title that pretty much says it all, but does the Princess live up to the standard? from the official description, Glamour is:

…a magazine that translates style and trends for the real lives of American women. Our award-winning editorial covers the most pressing interests of our 12.4 million readers: from beauty, fashion and health to politics, Hollywood and relationships. We’re often optimistic, always inclusive, beyond empowering and can always separate the Dos from the Don’ts.

Our readers live for fashion, live for beauty and most of all, live for Glamour.

For the most part, it is a good match. Aurora’s story is compelling, and the tale and all that surrounds would certainly be useful in a magazine like Glamour. There’s a good dose of style content and there are personal articles in there too. Living up to the billing are the articles that provide advice to the reader.

Overall: B+ (if only because she’s asleep for a good portion of the film)

Arial in Seventeen

Seventeen magazine in each issue:

…reports on the latest in fashion, beauty, health and entertainment, as well as information and advice on the complex real-life issues that young women face every day.

So “young women” in this case presumably means “teenagers”. Arial is perhaps the most well known of the Disney princesses for being a rebellious teenager so naturally Seventeen would be the perfect fit. Is this the case?

Yes, it is. The cover is filled with a good mix of kiss-and-tell stories, “best of” lists, advice and tips and tricks on how to do things.

Overall: A+

Belle in Jalouse

Well, this one is certainly the odd one out thus far. Jalouse magazine is French in origin and originally:

…conceived as a Jalou family idea that a totally young magazine, for the young and by the young, was essential to complete L’officiel, has been the magazine for the trendy in crowd in Paris for its daring and contemporary editorial positions since 1998. Devoted to women from 18 to 30, looking for an avant-garde view that shakes up preconceived ideas, Jalouse constantly innovates.

So it’s an über trendy fashion magazine for any girl who dreams of living in Paris and is looking for a sophisticated alternative view from established publications.

Naturally, Belle is French, so that part makes perfect sense. The rest of the cover seems to live up to the concept. There are plenty of fairly mundane articles that undoubtedly have a special twist and are likely to be more comprehensive in nature than some of the other publications featured here.

Overall: A-

Stay tuned for part 3 with Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan

Why The Intern Pandemic is Bad for The Animation Industry

Note: I simply use this to illustrate a typical animation-related internship. I do not mean to imply that Blue Sky enagages in dubious behaviour when it comes to their interns.

Via: Blue Sky Studios

The impetus for this post was on Cartoon Brew a few weeks ago, which in turn was inspired by a book, Intern Nation, that quoted another Cartoon Brew post from a good while before that. It concerns internships, a concept that a lot of college graduates are familiar with in the United States.

Interships have become prevalent throughout many industries, not just animation. On the surface, they offer benefits that parties on both sides can stand to gain from. The intern obviously gets observational experience to put on their resume, and the company gains time as the interns perform non-project-related tasks that would otherwise consume paid employees’ time.

That is in the ideal world, however and there are plenty of stories of interns who were coerced into working long hours, performing actual work and and often for extended periods of time (many months or more).

This post isn’t so much about abuses within intern programmes, rather it is an analysis of how the prevalence of interns within the industry could potentially hurt it in the long run.

The problem is that interns, whether they do productive work or not, contort the economic realities of the industry. If an intern is strictly an intern and simply makes tea or shuffles paper about, then their impact is limited to slivers of time that the company could only reap benefits from in the very long term, read: a year or longer.

Interns involved in production, on the other hand, can dramatically distort costs because as anyone whose taken a managerial accounting class will tell you, what counts as a ‘cost’ is entirely up to management.

Take for instance an animator’s base salary. It’s paid (traditionally) on a per foot basis, i.e. the more animation produced in a given timeframe the more the animator gets paid. Now, when you look at how much it ‘cost’ to produce that animation, most people would factor in the animator’s salary and any materials used. What a lot of people neglect to consider is overhead; things like building rent, heating/cooling, electricity, etc. that were all used in production but can not be directly applied to a particular production.

Where interns distort this when they work on a production is that they create the actual work, but they only account for the costs associated with the overhead and any materials used, they don’t get paid so that cost is not accrued by the studio.

Why does this matter?

Salaries are often the largest single cost category for employers.

If a production uses even two interns on the production, the cost of said production will be proportionately lower than if two animators were hired. Now you might say that this is an isolated case, and so what if it is. However, what if it’s extended to the entire industry? If every studio decided to hire even one or two employees less than necessary per production it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that we’re talking about a lot of people.

“But certain areas wouldn’t be viably able to produce animation without interns”

This may be true, but again, interns distort costs so much, that that is precisely why certain regions cannot produce animation, or rather, cannot appear to produce animation in a profitable manner.

When it comes to the cost of production, the use of interns will naturally result in a lower overall cost, but the problem is that the difference isn’t “saved” as studios might have you believe. Their fixed costs will remain the same whether they hire the additional persons or not because they have to be paid even if no animation is produced at all! The cost to employ an animator is considered a flexible cost that is applied to the production and would (and should)  be ultimately paid for by the client.

The ultimate result of utilising interns for production is that the supply/demand nature of the job market is also distorted. Anyone willing to perform work for free will displace someone who will only work for compensation. This drives the mean salary of animators lower as they are forced to work for less than they would otherwise have. The difference is, again, not “saved” by anyone, it ends up in the economy somehow, the problem is that, ethically, it is sufficiently suspect.

So the crux of the problem is that either the job market is too willing to accept unpaid labour or that the various clients out there are unwilling to pay the amount that they should for a given production.

My suspicion is that it’s a mixture of both, a vicious cycle if you will. With people willing to work for free, studios and networks can use the resulting lower costs to argue that such and such a production is only viable if interns are used. This is patently false.  The cost should be what it ought to be and the client could either take it or leave it. Extracting free labour benefits them in the short term, but harrangs the overall economy and industry in the long term.

 

 

Grading The Disney Princesses on Magazine Covers: Part 1

You may have already seen these floating about the internet recently. Created by (I presume) whoever runs the Petite Tiaras tumblelog, they’re quite an interesting collection.

Are the magazine a good fit for the characters though? This 3-part weekly series of posts aims to find out.

Snow White in Vogue

Vogue is described on the official Conde Naste site as:

America’s cultural barometer, putting fashion in the context of the larger world we live in- how we dress, live, socialize; what we eat, listen to, watch; who leads and inspires us.

From its beginnings to today, three central principles have set Vogue apart: a commitment to visual genius, investment in storytelling that puts women at the center of the culture, and a selective, optimistic editorial eye.

Vogue’s story is the story of women, of culture, of what is worth knowing and seeing, of individuality and grace, and of the steady power of earned influence. For millions of women each month, Vogue is the eye of the culture, inspiring and challenging them to see things differently, in both themselves and the world.

So does Snow White fit into that kind of magazine? Perhaps not. She is not really a cultural figure per se and her story is far from the usual high-society gossip that one would expect from the pages of Vogue. The cover itself is good, but it does completely neglect any aspect of the fashion scene for which Vogue is [in]famous for.

Overall: B-

Cinderella in ELLE

Surprising enough because she’s facing away from the reader, Cinderella is the cover girl for ELLE magazine, whose mission is:

…to influence women’s whole lives, helping them to be chic, smart, and modern. With intelligent, in-depth writing and a razor-sharp curation of fashion that is at once aspirational and accessible, ELLE’s readers and users are building not just personal style, but personal power.

Cinderella does fit this, for the most part. The stories touch on aspects of fashion with a strong emphasis on the women behind them. Cinderella herself is an aspirational story, as she overcomes the difficulties of being imprisoned in her own house to marrying the prince.

Overall: A-

Tinkerbell in InStyle

Tinkerbell is one of the most well-known Disney characters and has endured and progressed far beyond the original Peter Pan movie.  Featuring on InStyle magazine, which according to the official description has:

…emerged as the world’s premier media brand in celebrity, style, fashion, beauty and beyond. InStyle takes a uniquely fun and inviting attitude towards celebrity style in all its forms including its flagship magazine which reaches an audience of 9.6 million readers each month.

Tinkerbell is most certainly a celebrity in this day and age; being a merchandising powerhouse for Disney and a star in her own movies. InStyle is a good fit for her. She’s a fun character with a positive attitude and it is fair to say that she’s more than just a little bit sassy. This magazine cover is fairly accurate, with a “53 Great Outfit Ideas” article, a few personal articles and even a recipe guide to round it out.

Overall: A

More to come next week in part 2, including Aerial, Princess Aurora and Belle

A Look At The Hub

Rounding out this week’s look at the main US kids channels is newcomer, The Hub, which if it feels I’ve already covered it, you aren’t far wrong. I recently wrote a post on the channel’s biggest hit, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The Hub is basicially a reincarnation of Discovery Kids and is a joint venture between Discovery Communications and toy maker, Hasbro. Interestingly enough, no content was carried over, so The Hub really is having to prove itself in the tough world of kids programming.

Surprisingly enough, it seems to have done quite well in the year and a bit it’s been around. Good quality content including MLP, Strawberry Shortcake and Transformers have helped there. Yup, they’re all toyetic, but are also much, much better than their former 1980s incarnations.

The only handicap is that Discovery Kids was carried on relatively few cable and satellite systems, and not at all on  basic packages. The house I’m staying at has Time Warner Cable and it places the Hub waaaaay up in the 130s along with Disney XD and the other Nick channels. Having said that, word of the shows has gotten around and the channel has more than made its goals for the first year.

The Hub does seem to skew more towards girls and is the only channel out of all of them that makes this noticeable. In that respect, it can be seen as a bit of a balance to the boy-scentric channels like Disney XD. All a good thing in my opinion.

Admittedly enough, its surprising that someone would launch a new channel now, just as internet viewing is starting to really kick off. The Hub required a masive investment and while it will surely pay off for Discovery/Hasbro, one can’t help but wonder if it’s the last of a dying breed.

We’re unlikely to see a brand new kids channel launch again, and it remains to be seen whether or not kids are capable of utilising the internet for viewing. They seem to be able to work iPads fairly well, so perhaps the next big breakthrough will be a child-friendly interface for watching shows.

Overall, the Hub is OK. Yeah, the shows are good, and I’m dead happy for the likes of Lauren Faust and the gang of awesome artists she’s kept employed as a result. The only faults I could find is the proximity of the shows to established toys (although that it probably a given, seeing as who’s funding it all) and the fact that as a channel, it remains to be seen if it can follow up it’s initial hits with others.

A Look At Nickelodeon

Sorry Viacom, as someone whose getting ever closer to becoming an old fart, I have a tough time accepting change for the sake of change.

As a joke, I thought about titling the post, “The SpongeBob Channel” but that wouldn’t be completely accurate even if it is uncomfortably close to the truth.

The yellow one has done well for the channel and it is still quite hard to believe that he’s been around for a full 10 years. He seems to remain fairly popular but it must be said, he’s drifted dangerously close to the cabre of shows that use “DVD specials” to stick around past their best by date.

Of course Nickelodeon does have a lot more programming than SpongeBob, and like Disney, it utilises multiple channels to broadcast them. Besides the main channel, Nickelodeon also has ones for the pre-schoolers (Nick Jr.), the teenagers (Teennick) and it’s library of old cartoon shows (Nicktoons).

Focusing on the main channel, Nickelodeon shares an idea with Cartoon Network in that its programming changes in the evening. The difference is that Nick at Night is aimed at a far broader audience than [adult swim].

Like Disney, Nickelodeon airs a mixture of animation and live-action. Current shows include T.U.F.F Puppy, The Adventures of Fanboy and Chum Chum, Winx [check] and more than one offshoot from a DreamWorks film (think Penguins of Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda).

Nickelodeon was (until very recently when it lost to the Disney Channel) the clear winner when it comes to audience numbers and it managed to do so by not chasing any particular segment. It didn’t go exlusively for boys or girls but it has played safe with programming that appeals to both genders and laughed all the way to the bank.

Nickelodeon also has huge brand recognition that even Disney can’t match and they have been very good at having their well-oiled marketing and merchandising machines continually backing up hit shows.

The only area where Nickelodeon has been a bit weak is getting their older content out on DVD or even streaming. That is changing as I see more and more old shows work their way onto services like Netflix. They’ve also improved access to more recent stuff too, T.U.F.F. Puppy is now available to stream or buy via Netflix and Amazon.

Overall, Nickelodeon may have lost the crown, but it is still the best overall network. They may not have as much animation as Cartoon Network or the vast libarary of Disney to draw on, but they more than make that up with the quality of their shows. Something they are surely aware of, and work hard at as a result.