POLL: Should File-Sharing Be Considered “Free Speech”?

Despite the humour of the FOX censor, this post has little if anything to do with what it commonly called ‘broadacst standards’ in use today. Nope, it refers to censorship outside of the studio, in this case, by the government, and no, I’m not talking about those naughty cartoons from Japan that have lead to charges for some people either.

The issue is that the entertainment lobby (read: the MPAA) really wants to pass a law called PROTECT IP. Now they claim that this law will give them and the government the legal firepower to stamp out “piracy” or unauthorised file-sharing. However there’s a problem.

That problem is that there are no due process clauses. In fact, the government can simply confiscate a website based on accusation alone, no proof required!

Scary thoughts, no?

Anyway, yesterday, an analyst from Disney by the name of Anthony Accardo wrote on the Harvard Business Review website that granting the government the authority to confiscate websites for file sharing would not run counter to the free speech clause in the constitution. In other words, content owners should be allowed to control how you see and view content because they said so.

I recommend you read Mike Masnick’s response on Techdirt for a good deconstruction/analysis of Accardo’s arguments.

My point is that, as an animator or other artistic type, do you think that this proposed law would cross the line when it comes to censorship? I mean, it’s one thing to use legal steps and the courts to remove your content from places you don’t want it to be but isn’t it quite another to just blithely remove not just the content but also the hosting site itself based solely on accusation rather than evidence?

Please answer the poll below or share your thoughts in the comments.

[poll id="2"]

What DreamWorks Artists Do After Dark: The Documentary

You may remember hearing a while back about a project called Moonshine. It’s basically a book of art collected from various DreamWorks employees that they created outside work hours.

Well, as a follow-up to the excellent book comes this short documentary which looks at the artists themselves and how they create their work and what inspires them.

Directed by Alexis Wanneroy & Christophe Lautrette it’s well worth 6 minutes of your time today.

Violet Parr Does NOT Grow Up Within A Single Scene

Caution: This post deals with mature themes (but in a mature way).

On Sunday, while searching for a suitable picture of Mr Potato Head for that day’s post (yes, really), I managed to stumble across the rather intriguing blog that is ANIMadams, which focuses exclusively on women and females in general and how they’re portrayed in animation (and a few related markets).

Sadly in hibernation since this past June (2011), the blog would take what many would consider to be a feminist view/approach and while I’m no masculine feminist (Jerry Springer can keep that title), I’ve come to appreciate what the three contributors have to say (to a certain extent).

Which leads to today’s post concerning The Incredibles, a film that remains firmly within my top 3 all time favourites. The post from ANIMadams deals with Violet in particular. Now Violet is certainly my favourite characters in that film for many reasons. Chief among them is that I see a lot of myself in her and how she struggles with her shyness.

Entitled “Let’s Talk About Sex-ualization” the post discusses how the writer views the transformation of Violet during the course of the film from an insecure teenager to an assertive super hero:

It’s not until Helen can be honest with herself and the family, being the superhero she loves to be, that she can properly model for her children. She has a heart-to-heart with her daughter after which Violet strikes a stronger pose than the audience has become acclimated to. It is after this that she begins to be much more active, coming out from behind the veil of her own hair.

It’s safe to say that yes, Violet is portrayed in a different light after this talk with her mother, she’s more assertive, she no longer hides away from real life and she can see clearly with both her eyes the challenges she faces. It’s partly why the film is so fantastic; it exhibits the power of individuals to change themselves for the better.

Then, we get to this line:

Violet is then inadvertently sexualized and objectified. While suggesting to her parents – taking charge like an adult would – a way for them to escape, Violet’s rear is placed directly in the foreground of the camera as her parents bicker in the background. Her entire rear and only her rear.

Here is the offending shot:

 

And here is the argument:

Let me emphasize: I do not believe this is intentional. But I do find it to be a very odd coincidence that once Violet has decided to step up and into adolescence, she is immediately sexualized, even for a few seconds.

No, it is intentional, just not in the way youbelieve. Brad Bird is one of the best animation directors out there at the moment and he’s the kind of guy who knows exactly the kind of shot he wants. This one in particular is meant to be seen from a low angle because the rocket has to be shown in the background. It is where the family are ultimately heading. Placing the Incredibles above the level of the viewer also suggests that they have regained/attained their status as superheroes, they’re not superior, but we do look up to them.

The nature of the scene dictates that Violet propose the solution to the family’s problem. Now you could say that having her voice her opinion could easily have been conducted off-screen, however that would result in some jerky direction of the kind that Brad Bird isn’t known for. Having Violet appear in the scene reminds the audience that she’s present before she makes a suggestion. Based on the alignment of the shot mentioned above, it would seem natural that we would not see her head but the lower part of her figure instead.

What the ANIMadams point alludes to is the rapid maturing that Violet’s character leads to her “sexualisation” in this scene. This I disagree with on the grounds that while she does a lot of growing-up in the course of the film, she isn’t sexualised in the slightest during any of it. She is interested in Tony Rydinger before and after the events of the film. The only difference is that she gains the courage to actually talk to him.

Having her butt on-screen for a few seconds does not constitute turning Violet into an object. If anything, the viewer’s attention is focused on Bob and Helen and is only vaguely aware of Violet’s intrusion until both parents turn around, at which point we immediately cut to Violet’s face. Besides, we’re more concerned at this point in the film with how the family is going to stop Syndrome anyway, right?

The ANIMadam’s post over-simplifies the rather complex developments that teenagers undergo in course of a number of years down into a single shot, and not even  a long one at that. While it’s completely fair to say that Violet does begin her path to womanhood during the film, it is completely unfair to say that she was thrust down that path without her consent by the director.

Do you have any thoughts comments? Feel free to leave them below. 🙂

J. Katzenburg Places A Smart Bet on Netflix


The latter half of 2011 hasn’t exactly been very kind to either DreamWorks or Netflix. The former saw it’s stock slide after poorer than expected first quarter results and the latter has been taking a hammering from just about everyone after they raised prices and then announced that they were splitting their streaming and DVD services across two separate companies.

Despite these setbacks, things keep moving along which leads us to yesterday’s announcement that DreamWorks has agreed to make it’s entire catalogue available on Netflix starting in 2013.

While there’s not much to say about the deal itself (you can read the entire press release or Variety’s take on it for the details), the very fact that it was made is significant for the simple reason that DreamWorks is the first major studio to sign directly with Netflix.

Until now, that major studios have treated Netflix almost like an annoyance that keeps reminding them that the media landscape is changing beyond their control. Collectively, they’ve tried to keep as much of their content off of Netflix as possible. Heck, they’ve even tried to keep DVDs off the service by instituting the pointless 28 day delay for new releases.

DreamWorks is the first to realise that they can stand to benefit from simply having their content available for people to see. New releases from Disney will likely disappear from Netflix as the Starz deal expires in Marc, and if that’s still the status quo come 2013, DW will be in a market where it’s main competitor is not.

This is the kind of innovation DreamWorks needs to invest in if it is to continue to exist as an independent company, indeed, I called for it just a few months ago when Paramount broke off talks to continue their distribution deal.

The proliferation of Netflix on mobile and TV platforms also ensures that DW’s content is everywhere they are and reaches the largest audience possible. It doesn’t matter if the quality is not top-notch, the convenience factor of being instantly available will override that in a heartbeat.

A lot of industry folks will be watching these developments very closely because if it turns out to be mutually beneficial to both companies, you can expect a lot of similar deals to follow.

7 Articles of Clothing That Any Animation Fan WOULD Be Seen Dead In

While in Ireland this past July, we (future missus and I) made numerous trips to that mecca of price conscious, fashion-loving regular folk that is Penneys. Quite different from the American JC Penney, Penneys is the brand for retail giant Primark in Ireland and their strategy is to sell high-quality, stylish clothing at the lowest possible price.

Let’s put it this way, even in the US, I’ve struggled to find a pair of jeans for under $10 whereas Penneys sells them every day.

Besides the low, low prices Penneys also sells plenty of licensed items, including a healthy supply of animation-related clothing that was clearly selling. It was quite a surprise to see that cartoon characters on clothing is considered much more mainstream than it is here in the States; where you either accept the wall of ‘hip’ shirts that Wal-Mart/Target has to offer or you have to duck into the local Hot Topic to what they’ve got to offer.

Anyhoo, without further adieu, here’s 7 articles of clothing that I found in Penneys that any fashionable fan of animation should not be without:

1. Japanese Mickey Mouse

2. Yosemite Sam (woefully under-represented in clothing IMO)

3. Fred Flinstone

4. Spongebob Squarepants (perfect for casual Friday)

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (mandatory for those in the 22-28 age bracket)

6. Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop pyjamas (Betty was on many, many more items besides these PJs)

7. Lola Bunny (no sign of Bugs though)

Character Sundays: Mr Potato Head in Toy Story

This week’s character is one of the most beloved of all in the Toy Story franchise (yup, at this stage of the game, it’s a franchise). Voiced to perfection in all three films and beyond by Don Rickles, Mr. Potato Head is the on-screen epitome of the ever-suffering husband.

As a character, Potato Head is introduced well before his spouse, and from the very beginning, it is clear that he has a rather sardonic sense of humour. He jokes and laughs at other’s expense and becomes somewhat upset when he gets some of his own medicine given back to him.

Via: The Gif in Your Folder

Although not the smartest potato in the pot, he does manage to give the audience some laughs while simultaneously adding to the bewilderment of his fellow cast members.

Via: Amanadahugandkiss.tumblr.com

Arguably it is this feckless attitude to the world that makes Potato Head such a funny character. He’s not quite duped by the world in the way that early Homer Simpson was, but he does live his life in a way that suggests that the rest of the world finds him a spectacle.

All of that changes when he gets himself a missus at the end of the first film. This has the rather happy result of setting him up for all sorts of marriage jokes in the second and third outings. He is now not only the guy who casts a dim view on the world but also the suffering husband who must bend to the whim of his wife’s every wish!

This setup naturally results in a whole host of rib-tickling and wink-wink jokes about tying the knot and being shackled for life. We see Potato Head as the stereotype of the suffering husband. He puts up with the nagging and criticism with only the slightest hint of honesty in his voice.

Ultimately both Potato Heads exaggerate and play-up the many facets of marriage for the enjoyment of the audience and that’s what not only makes them so great but also adds to the juxtaposition of their composition, their kid’s toys! Their lives aren’t supposed to be this complicated and yet here they are, with all the ups and downs of your average couple bearing down on their silver anniversary.

Heck, even Potato Head’s composition of many parts leads to jokes about him falling apart or missing pieces. I’m sure there are plenty of middle aged fathers that could relate to losing parts of themselves (hypothetically) along the long road of life and matrimony. Ultimately though, the scene below where both Potato Head’s lose all their parts best sums up their marriage as they mutually help each other back into one piece. It’s not lost on older members of the audience that for all their differences, they are both one and the same.

Via: the ANIMadams blog

All of this makes Potato Head on of the most important characters of the Toy Story films: he gives parents in the audience someone to relate to and sympathise with. He represents them in a world otherwise filled with quote/unquote “kids”.

Mr. Potato Head is a perfect character for the Toy Story universe that embodies all the pitfalls and benefits of a healthy and loving marriage, and that’s why we love him.

A Comic About Toyetic Shows

Via: Potato Farm Girl on Tumblr (click through to embiggen)

Could this comic speak the truth???

Perhaps, but the sad state of affairs that was the cancellation of Symbionic Titan probable had a lot more to do with the kind of show that it is rather than whether or not there were toys made to promote it.

While Princess Bubblegum and Princess Llana are two great characters, it’s not really fair to say that one should have succeed because the other did. They inhabit different worlds in different shows and nary the two shall meet.

 

Sabrina The Teenage Witch Gets An Anime CGI Makeover

Whenever some mentions Sabrina the Teenage Witch to me, I immediately think of the live-action version starring Melissa Joan Hart of Clarissa Explains It All fame. Why not the comic I hear you say? Well, I don’t ever remember even hearing of Archie comics in Ireland so you’ll forgive my apparent ignorance.

Anyway, yesterday (Thursday) the news came through the wires (I guess I can still say that and know that people know what I mean) that the much-loved teenage witch was getting a new TV show for the 21st century. Some of you may remember the previous animated incarnation but as a refresher, here’s Sabrina in comic form and the recent animated version for comparison:

Via: TV tropes

Via: MovieWallpaper.net

Pretty similar eh? It’s all quite sugary and cute. So, it would therefore be appropriate for her to get a quote/unquote update:

Via: Comics Alliance

Now this is just concept art so there’s not much point in putting too much emphasis on it at this point. However, such “updates” have been done dozens of times in the past, I thought we’d seen the last of it as every character know to man got the CGI treatment.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that such an “update” is deemed necessary for Sabrina. I mean, as a character, she’s not supposed to embue any particularly strong niches. She’s not a goth, or a hippie or a straigh-A student but rather just an average teenager, right?

Well someone has decided otherwise and has reckoned that either Sabrina is ripe for a change or has simply decided to cash in on the erstwhile goth/vampie trend.

I must point out though, that I was unaware that Archie comics themselves have run a “manga” version of the comic for a while know, so this news isn’t quite a shock to me as it was when I read it first.

All the same, I’m concerned how this “new” Sabrina will be portrayed, whatever about the large eyes and spikey hair, it just seems so out of character for her to sport a “tattoo” (in quotation marks because its true nature is up for debate). Is she now a rebel or a deviant (no offence to any tattooed folks out there)?

We’ll have to wait and see but this doesn’t really strike me as an attempt at an earnest and promising version of the character so much as an attempt to catch up with the latest trends.

Did I forget to mention she now has a cape now too?

Two Links: Characters and Theme Tunes

A short post today due to time and other constraints but not to worry, I have two excellent links to send you to.

The first is by Ron over at Flooby Nooby where he discusses characters and why they are so important. I couldn’t agree more so you should head over there yourself to read this excellent post.

Secondly, Chris Ledesma has a very informative post over on his blog, Simpsons Music 500, where he discusses the disappearance of melody in today’s theme tunes and why this changing they way that music is used in films. It’s a post that certainly makes you think about the (potentially) serious consequences if things keep going the way they’re going.

So The Lion King Topped the Box Office Again

What does this prove? That a 17 year old movie is better than the current offerings? That it’s actually better in 3-D than we ever thought possible? Or is it that because it’s aimed at families, you know they’re selling more than two tickets at a time?

It’s hard to say. It would be nice to think that The Lion King succeeded because it is a really good movie that outshines whatever was offered this past weekend. However, the truth is probably not near as exciting.

First of all, at 17 years, The Lion King is bordering on nostalgia at this point. I was 10 when it came out and I’m 26 now (thanks to the ever-present international delay, the numbers don’t quite add up). So it is surely ripe for claiming a whole new generation of kids and re-capturing their parents.

Secondly, the box office really does mean squat in the grand scheme of things. Saying that such and such a film is top of the box office is really only saying that it sold more tickets than the others. It is not a reliable indicator of tastes or indeed quality as The Smurfs so perfectly illustrated.

Naturally this will be trumpeted by various marketing departments as a sign of the Lion King’s strength and quality as a film. Yes, this might be true, however it is alarming that we are not seeing a re-issue of other films from the same period. While they obviously do not meet the same lofty status of The Lion King, they were certainly just as popular at the time and have not dated as badly as other films the same age.

Couldn’t all the effort that was put into 3-D-izing The Lion King have been better used to clean up and re-issue some other films?

The point is that the Disney Renaissance films were all spectacular when they were released and they are still spectacular now. Making them 3-D is not going to increase their appeal. I’m willing to hazard a guess a that most people simply wanted to see it on the big screen again and nothing more.