British Cartoons From the 80s that Americans Sadly Missed

I suppose it’s a sign that I can safely say I remember a time when there wasn’t 24 hour cartoon channels. Yes, I am a child of the 1980s, and I have very fond memories of not only watching cartoons, but waiting for cartoons to come on.

Anyway, here’s a couple of my favourites that I don’t believe made the transition across the Atlantic, which is a shame. However, thanks to the wonder of YoutTube, you can (well, at least the openings anyway). Enjoy!

Count Duckula (which rocks a very thriller-esque theme)

Bonus! The end sequence, which in all likelihood has yet to be bettered in terms of effort.

Danger Mouse


The Family Ness

Raggy Dolls


Thomas the Tank Engine

And my very favourite, Postman Pat

Using Neuromarketing for Animation: Good or Bad?

 Via: Fast Company

The other night, we watched the Morgan Spurlock documentary POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It was an entertaining enough look at how products get into films and how studios use them to help pay for and promote them.

Interestingly enough, there was no explicit mention of animation. Not to say that it doesn’t go on of course. Pretty much every animated film contains promotion to some extent. Yes, the film itself is a form of ‘promotion’, it being the vehicle that drives all the ancillary sales of merchandise and DVDs. Need proof, look no further than the final Harry Potter film. It contains no advertising whatsoever apart from on, the Harry Potter itself.

However, one aspect of the films that I found most intriguing/disturbing, is the whole idea of neuromarketing. In the film, Spurlock is basically shoved into an MRI and shown images of products. During the analysis afterwards, he is shown how his brain reacted when shown an advert for Coca-Cola: it released hormones that indicated he wanted the Coke.

As scary as that may sound, its been known about for years. What is not so well known, is that movie studios use it to perfect their product before releasing it. In the course of the documentary, we see Spurlock having a look at the schedule for the day of the neuroanalysis firm he visited. The film right before his: Toy Story 3.

Now you might say to yourself “But Charles, Toy Story 3 had an emotional story to begin with!” Well, yes, it does. However keep in mind that even stories can be analysed to make sure they extract the right emotions from the audience. Fast Company discussed the practice back in February when they took a look at the rise of “neurocinema” and how it is likely to affect future films.

Animation is not immune as this quote regarding Rango from Steve Sands, head of neuroanalysis firm Sands Research demonstrates:

Often animation can be more engaging for the brain than real actors. Look at the strong response to Avatar,

And check out the image below that shows brain activity while watching the trailer for Rango.

 Via: Fast Company

The downside to all of this? Well for one, now you know that the opening montage in UP was nothing more than a tightly crafted, artificial play on your emotions. There was no need for skill in the writer’s room because the data told them exactly what they needed to do in order for you to well up. Michael Barrier hits it right on the head when he calls it “emotional manipulation” because that’s exactly what it is. The images flashing before you were specifically and intentionally made to engage your emotions. You just can’t help it!

Now, you could argue that that is the case with any such scene in any movie. Films are supposed to engage emotions after all, that’s why you watch them. However, Mike nails it again when he compares UP to Dumbo (emphasis mine):

The difference between, say, the opening sequence in Up and Dumbo’s reunion with his mother can be summed up in one word, the old Disney shibboleth “sincerity”.

Why rely on your own or your team’s judgement when you can just do a neuroanalysis and have the data tell you exactly what you need to do. That’s not filmmaking, it’s sheer laziness and insincere because the emotions are not meant, they’re demanded. Major studios would rather have it that way though, because if you’re going to cough up $300 million on film, it had better perform as expected, and the data never lies*.

Will this result in better films? Meh. However I would much rather see a film that allowed me to control my own emotions rather than having them dictated to me. It’s practically cheating with your film and nobody likes a cheat.

*Garbage In Garbage Out applies but it’s safe to say that the marketing firm knows what it’s doing.

Hispanically Speaking News: Guillermo del Toro Remaking The Disney Classics

The first sentence says it all:

Del Toro is remaking “Haunted Mansion,” “Pinocchio” and “Beauty and the Beast”.

I for one, will be stopping my commentary here. There’s a hurricane approaching and no beer in the house. So having news like this on my mind is not the best way to start my Saturday.

And the No. 1 Joke From the Edinborough Fringe Festival Is…

…This one, by Nick Helm:

I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves


An Animator’s Open Letter to Andy Serkis

 Via: Collider

Andy Serkis has become the public face of motion-capture technology and one of its biggest proponents. However, it seems that he also believe that a motion-capture performance is worthy of an Academy Award for acting.

Animator Tim Borrelli took issue with this and has crafted an open letter in response where he outlines why, if motion-capture is considered an “act”, then animators must also be considered “actors”.

It’s a very well written letter that does outline the fallacy of suggestion that motion-capture is really acting. Serkis’ stance is actually quite surprising, given the recent push to have motion-capture considered as animation. Thankfully, that campaign was rejected by the Academy, leaving motion-capture to inhabit a wasteland between live-action and animation.

Borrelli really does hit the nail on the head with this statement though:

Animators, both hand-keyed and motion capture artists, breathe life into their characters. They push performances of their characters to an artistic limit, based on the direction they are given

He’s absolutely right, and that fact has been gnawing away at animators for years (even decades) because they are never recognised as being actors, even though they produce an acted “performance” (one frame at a time).

Fast Company Profiles Disney’s Rich Ross (and Misses the Point)

Fast Company recently ran a profile on Rich Ross, the current head of the Walt Disney Studios (i.e. the division that actually makes the films). The article itself is well worth a read seeing as it’s slightly above the usual blind admiration that non-trade publications and outlets are infamous for.

The article points out some bleedingly obvious things, but still manages to miss the point of exactly why Ross is a TV guy running a movie studio.

The movie division has not been Disney’s most profitable arm for many years. Yet it remains the company’s big intellectual property “wave maker,” to use the phrase you hear a lot these days inside Disney’s executive suites.

Unfortuntaley, “making waves” is defined as finding a hit franchise (read: Pirates of the Caribbean) and running it into the ground. This is somewhat unfortunate as Tangled did quite well (considering) and while it was unproven, it was a solid film that was always going to do well.

This brand stewardship is the source of controversy surrounding Ross, Iger, and Disney in general these days. A lot of movie fans–ticket buyers, critics, and industry professionals included–hate seeing films reduced to such crass commercial terms. Hollywood still promotes itself as our manufacturer of dreams, relishing the cultural currency and aesthetic cachet that comes with the territory.

Arguably, this is true, except for the small matter that this has always been the case. Hollywood has never made a movie for the fun of it. Films are made for one reasons and one reason only: to make money.

Having said that, there is a fine line between making films for the audience and making films for the studio and it would appear that that line has been crossed this decade of the new Millennium. The old adage of Walt Disney seems to have been lost:

We don’t make movies to make money.
We make money to make more movies.

Notwithstanding the small fact that making more movies will make you more money, but I digress.

So how exactly has the Fast Company article missed the point when it comes to Ross’ promotion? Well, it muses over the fact that he is from a background in television but completely fails to opine that most studios in Hollywood are run by TV folks these days (yes, Bob Iger was at ABC prior to Michael Eisner’s departure).

For that, we need to visit a second article by Edward Jay Epstein in Adweek that chronicles how the vast majority of revenue for the big 6 comes not from the movies themselves but from TV rights to said films. Such an arrangement has (according to the article) assured that any movie put out by a studio has a solid ability to be sold or packaged for TV. The result is that a TV person familiar with the medium is best placed to run the show, as Epstein puts it:

They know a crucial reality: whatever hurts TV’s ability to sell ads, hurts their own bottom lines. Consequently, when new-age players such as Netflix, Apple, Google, or even Hulu (Hollywood owned) threaten to undercut the ad base of the traditional TV networks, they’re also threatening to gut Hollywood’s golden goose

Hence Ross’ promotion from Disney Networks to the hallowed movie studio.



Explaining Copyright With Wit

C. G. P. Grey explains the history behind the concept and why the length of terms matters. Why post it here? Naturally, Disney is involved.

PS. All original content on this blog is published under a Creative Commons license, so feel free to share with as many people as you like. 🙂