When More Than The Colour Changed in Cartoons

Eddie Fitzgerald (whose blog I’m sure you all read on a daily basis) wrote an excellent post the other day on something I had never thought of before. As it turns out, yes, when cartoons changed to colour, there was a subtle shift in the animation style that ensured these new ‘toons were different to those that went before.

It would appear that this is partly a technological thing and can be seen time and time again. When cartoons transitioned to TV, they changed from the innate, quickfire gags of the the Looney Tunes to the more observational humour of the Flintstones.

The same again for films when they moved from traditional to CGI. Suddenly, the animated musical was out the window and a new adult-friendly format came into play.

So the question is: where do we go from here? What will the next technological improvement bring? We’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

Yes, Animation Can Make For Fine Art

There are plenty of people who collect animation artifacts. I would be one of them if only I had the money (Bob Cowan does, however, because he’s retired. His collection is enormous in its breadth and scope and well worth a peek)

So if you can’t collect actual bits and bobs from animated films, what can you collect? Why original art of course!

Via Richard Mullins on flickr

The above is another piece in my [miniscule] collection. It’s by Richard Mullins who has done an entire series of similar pieces based on cartoon characters which he has titles Whatever Cartoons. The entire set is up on flickr and can be perused at your leisure.

The likes of deviantArt is stuffed to the gills with original art from people who may or may not have the necessary skills. However, there are plenty of professional and weekend artists who definitely do have the skills, in addition of course, to any animators out there who happen to dabble in art as a hobby on the side.

Animation in itself is art, so it should come as no surprise that animation lends itself so well to a wide variety of artistic styles. Indeed, Banksy is famous (infamous?) for using cartoon characters in his creations. In fact, Amid over at Cartoon Brew dedicated an entire post to the animated characters at MoCA’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition. That’s not to say that ‘street art’ is fine art, just that art can take make forms and that animation lends itself well to any of them.

There is literally tons of great animation art out there, so why not consider supporting an artist by buying some original pieces?

EDIT: I am aware that Cookie Monster isn’t animated, however the remainder of the set is, and I consider the Muppets to be practically animated characters for all intents and purposes anyway.

This Classic Shot From The Simpsons Says It All

In fact, it’s one of my favourites, from Summer of 4 Ft. 2.

What better way to express Lisa’s anger than to have her absolutely stick it to Bart. The almost unnerving reversal of roles is gleeful to watch as Bart is stunned into silence. The grip on his shirt and the way his hair falls back are indicative that he is clearly at her mercy. The fact the she is glowering down at him reinforces the fact that she is in charge.

It’s great to see that Lisa can, on occasion, equal her older brother in terms of menacing behaviour.

Although it’s the subtlety of the scene that makes it so effective. Lisa could have gone off on a rant, shouting and yelling at Bart (and she does in other episodes) however, here, she is much more refined in her approach, which makes it all the more effective as a scene.

The joke of the whole thing is that all of this goes on as Milhouse sits unseen at the other side of the table, completely oblivious to what’s happening right in front of his nose the entire time.

Guest Post: Kung Fu Panda 2

Today’s post is a guest review of Kung Fu Panda 2 by Emmett Goodman. Emmett is a graduate from the Pratt Institute in New York and is a notable member of ASIFA-East. His personal review blog is here and his sketch tumblelog is here.

Via: All Movie Photo

A terrific movie, and a job well done. Kung Fu Panda 2 is both entertaining and artistically sophisticated. It has some of the same flaws as the first film, but what it excels in mostly make up for those flaws.

Dreamworks Animation is (at least in my eyes) improving more and more as their movies progress. KFP 1 had some of the usual Dreamworks traits I dislike (such as over-abundance of celebrity voices, emphasis on the actors, sub-par dialog), but it abandoned pop-culture references in favor of a solid story, and took the time to give the movie a unique and distinct look. I could never truly appreciate movies like Shrek, Shrek 2, Shark Tale, or Madagascar, because their stories were too transparent and there was too much emphasis on who was voicing the characters than the characters existing on their own. Also, you could tell the stories were no good as they were overflowing with pop-culture references (which only contributes more to the transparency). Starting with Over the Hedge, the studio started stripping some of these flaws, but they were stripped even more with KFP 1. It seems to have improved with further movies, and KFP 2 cements that fact even more for me.

I can’t praise the artistry of this movie enough. The opening of the movie (along with a personalized version of the Dreamworks Animation logo) is animated in a style suggesting metal puppets. I can’t speak for how clear the influence of authentic Chinese art is, but there is definitely something different in the look of the film than the previous. Something very tactile in the design. Poe’s memories are animated in 2D, and are so beautifully realized, that I wish there was a whole movie in that style.

The story this time is just as solid as the first film, but with more operatic tones. After the end of the first movie, Poe (Jack Black, panda) is now a respected member of Master Ishu’s (Dustin Hoffman, red panda) Kung Fu clan, and is tasked with protecting their village. However, a powerful dynasty has come under attack by its exiled prince Shen (Gary Oldman, peacock), who seeks to not only take over China, but his primary weapons threaten to destroy Kung-Fu tradition. Now the way I say it here, it probably sounds cliché, but in the movie the story is taken very seriously. Poe recognizes a symbol on Shen’s minions (wolves), which unleashes a forgotten nightmare. The story takes an emotional turn for the main characters (which for an animated film/show, is music to my ears). Poe and the Furious Five are dispatched to confront Shen and stop his bloody revolution. In the course of the story, we really get to see the inner workings of Poe’s relationship with his friends/comrades, his adoptive father, and how what made him an outcast in the first film now makes him a unique warrior.

My few criticisms? Poe’s flashback of self-realization, with all the clips from the previous films seemed a little out of place, but it was at least long enough to get the point across. I think they should have used fewer previous scenes, and maybe drawn some out a little longer instead. Also, I was a little uncertain about the acting in the scene where Poe confronts Shen about his own demons. Too preachy.

I must also speak about the directing of the movie. Jennifer Yuh Nelson is not the first woman to be involved in directing an animated feature from a major studio, but she is the first Asian-born female director to receive sole-credit in directing one. And I have to say she does a fantastic job. It is true that there are few female directors or creators in the animation industry, which is very sad to me, because I know several super-talented female artists, and many who are successful in independent animation. Hopefully, many more will be able to follow Jennifer Yuh Nelson. And some day, the lines will be blurred even more.

I am also thankful that no references to Grandmaster Flash have been made in these movies, due to the name “Furious Five.” As much as I like references to contemporary music, they wouldn’t fit into these movies.

Movies like this give me something to appreciate about commercial animated features. With all the criticisms I’m surrounded by these days, its nice to see something that impresses me.

Should Minnie Mouse Be Hot?

The other day, Amy Mebberson (whose praises I’ve sung before) visited Disneyland and tweeted the following:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/amymebberson/status/83681581839028224″]

Here’s what prompted her to post that:

I’m fairly sure Walt’s spinning so fast in his grave he’s halfway to China by now. [sigh]

Why I’m A Sucker For Mysterious Characters

I’m not quite sure why, but I have an affinity for characters that are somewhat mysterious or secretive. That’s not to say I like characters who are double agents or who conceal themselves for nefarious purposes. Oh no, it’s the shy characters or those who are hiding something out of necessity that I find the most intriguing.

Take for example the poster below:

Via: flickr

Yes, it is Jenny Wakeman (or XJ-9) from the Frederator series My Life as a Teenage Robot. Notice how she is in silhouette, which adds even more mystique to her figure, as if the shadow is concealing something about her character, which of course it is (hint: she’s a robot).

There are plenty of other example throughout the animated universe, too many in fact, to list here. However they inhabit various places in TV shows and films, from protagonists to sidekicks to members of the supporting cast.

They add a lot to any show or film for a simple reason: they make the audience think.

Mysterious characters represent a discord with their surroundings of which other characters may or may not be aware of. In any case, the audience is almost compelled to put the pieces together or to speculate on the reasons behind such circumstances. Much the same as Lisa Simpson mulling over the enigma that is Nelson Muntz and why that make him even remotely attractive.

This is the key to why I find them so interesting, they give me something much more than the performance on-screen and in so doing, increase my enjoyment immensely.

Another great example is Megara from Disney’s Hercules.

A wonderfully complex character who hides a secret from the hero that is hidden for much of the film. we are forced to guess the reason for her connection to Hades for quite a while as we are kept guessing her motives. Only once they are revealed do we see and can appreciate the complete character for who she is.

Initiating thought within the audience is a key way to maximize their enjoyment. Mysterious characters are a superb way of doing that because they allow for the audience to both connect with the and to ponder the character in a way that is outside what is presented on-screen.

Has Pixar Aligned With Intelligent Design In the ‘Cars’ Universe?

Josh Berta (of P*rtty Sh*tty fame) seems to think so in his piece from yesterday over on Observatory.

The article itself is firmly tounge-in-cheek as evidenced by the following quote:

But there are a couple of crucial elements in the design of this world that point not to a human overlord, but an all-powerful Designer with a bad case of motorhead……if one looks closely enough, cloud formations resembling tire tracks can be seen drifting through the sky. Certainly, it’s no mistake that this most befuddling design element is also the most heavenward. There’s something up there, and It won’t be explained. But It does have a name, and we can thank the tractor trailer character Mack for this revelation. Upon finding his lost friend McQueen late in the second act, he exclaims, “Thank the Manufacturer!” Must we?

The entire thing is well worth a read, especially the comments at the end from those who failed to completely grasp the joke.

 

Has the Rise of the Children’s Networks Contributed to Obesity in Kids?

It’s something I want you to dwell on for right now (I’ll do a full post in a wee bit), but does the fact that there are three networks broadcasting children’s TV shows 24/7 (for the most part) form a contributing factor when it comes to childhood obesity?

I’m not talking about the content or the advertising (although that has long earned the wrath of concerned citizens) I’m talking solely about the fact that children nowadays have unmetered access to content aimed at them.

What are your thoughts? Would limiting the hours of operation of children’s channels make a difference?

Cars 2 Currently ‘Rotten’


As of this morning (June 22nd), with release just two days away and with 20 of the top critics reporting, Cars 2 is currently sitting at 55% (EDIT: has dropped to 52% as of the afternoon), which is considered ‘rotten’ over a the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes.

While it is still far too early to judge the films actual performance (there’ll be plenty of time for that in the coming days), it is nonetheless a worrying sign that almost half of the critics who have seen it have given it the thumbs down. Of course, RT ratings have to be taken with a grain of salt; plenty of films I love have gotten a ‘rotten’ rating from the critics but are loved by the fans.

Compare that with Toy Story 3 last year, which was sitting at 100% from the beginning until one critic decided otherwise. If that doesn’t say something about the difference in quality, I don’t know what does.

So we will have to wait and see, but in what I’m sure is a coincidence, Floyd Norman posted yesterday about when a film isn’t going so well, and he gives us this great sentance:

Most can see the wheels coming off the wagon early on, but we dare not say anything because we risk the wrath of those employing us. So we keep smiling as the train goes over the cliff.

The sad part is that Pixar has had us believe that as much creative energy went into Cars 2 as did Toy Story 3.

Sometimes I Raid my Tumblelog For Inspiration…

…and instead I become engrossed in the stuff I find there, even from years ago. Feel free to follow me if you’re on Tumblr too. 🙂

Here’s a few of the wilder examples of animation stuff I rediscovered.

Mickey contemplating recent developments in the world of medicine
Homer shilling my favourite shoes
Woody hitting the moonshine
The Big Bad Wolf from the Three Little Bops
The real-life Wacky Races