Week Links 26-2013

Some post-Independence Day and food poisoning week links for you today.

Don’t Go To Art School

Noah Bradley points out the fallacy of an art degree with this post:

Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.

He’s right. In class this week our group had to present on the topic of higher education and I was tasked with the rather difficult job of pointing out that institutions rarely co-ordinate with industry in regards to job supply or demand. The end result is that a degree is no guarantee of a job let alone a good one.

Unfortunately many companies and studios are demanding degrees for entry level positions and are exacerbating the situation. Noah puts it best:

Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.

Bryan Konitezko Discusses Ethnicity and Colour Theory in the Avatar Universe

konietzko avatar skin solour

Co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra, Bryan Konietzko has a long but comprehensive analysis of ehtnicity, colour theory and character genetics in this post over on his tumblelog.

He highlights two important things:

  1. It’s all to easy to jump to conclusions if you’re not involved in a production
  2. Colour plays an incredibly important role

The post is a great read, especially if you are curious about the Avatar universe and family lines within it. On one hand, it’s nice to see this level of detail being put into a show, but on the other, it’s kind of disheartening that Bryan had to clarify things.

That plays into the first point above. Fans sometimes do unnecessarily jump to conclusions and can unintentionally cause a ruckus or make a mountain out of a molehill. There’s little one can do about it save being open and honest about things; just like Bryan was.

Secondly, the saga highlights just how much of an influence colour can have on a show (or film). This makes now as good a time as any to plug Oswald Iten’s superb blog Colorful Animated Expressions which features just about all you ever wanted to know about the role that colour plays in filmmaking.

This Could Have Been Frozen


Coincidentally there was another article about ethnicity in animation this week. Coming from the Daily Mail (with my sincere apologies) is the news that a few fans, unhappy about the supposed ethnic homogeny of the upcoming Disney film, Frozen, have taken matters into their own hands and have come up with a few ideas of what a more diverse alternative could have looked like.


There is of course the obligatory tumblelog where people can submit their own ideas.

All I can say about this is that Disney has a long history of augmenting traditional tales in order to make them more convenient or marketable; complete historical accuracy has never been one of their strong points (remember, the original Aladdin story was set in China.)

Tweets of the Week


Explaining Colour With Animation

Although character animation occupies a prime spot in my people’s minds when they think of animation, the technique is capable of far more than that. Witness the many educational films that are made with animation; including this one; part of the TEDed series.

And for a very retro explanation, check out this educational video by the Jam Handy organization from 1938.

The Importance of Colour in My Life as a Teenage Robot

It’s no secret that My Life as a Teenage Robot is one of my favourite animated TV shows. It’s an underrated gem that is enjoyable even if it isn’t quite as clever as other shows. Besides it’s awesome sense of Art Deco style, the great voice cast, the deeply embedded in-jokes and a central female protagonist, the show also makes superb use of colour. (And no post about colour should go without a link to Oswald Iten’s excellent blog, Colorful Animated Expressions)

I’m not talking about the use of colour in the sense of The Simpsons either; strong colours existed exist in that show, but rather to make them stand out against other TV shows. My Life as a Teenage Robot instead uses colour as a tool to accentuate atmosphere, moods and important plot points.

Don’t believe me? Then check out the series of screenshots below, from the season three episode, Stage Fright.

We start off with Jenny (XJ-9) in her normal colours, that is, white and turquose.

Now we’re entering the theatre, where the darker setting changes Jenny’s colour to an off-white and straight blue.

Still in the theater, but it’s darker now and Jenny’s colours follow along.

Now that she’s on stage and in the light, Jenny’s colours change back to the lighter shades but include even more shades to account for the costume.

First big change. After the aliens invade, we get an orange Jenny nicely contrasted against a green background.

Same colours but with a regular background. (Also, awesome pose.)

Action mode is now off so we revert back to the darker theater colour in the sitting pose above.

The aura lightens Jenny to the point that she is brighter than in the second screencap but doesn’t revert to her normal colours.

Aaaaaaand, ACTION! Big changes here as Jenny becomes pink and purple, contrasting nicely with the orange and brown background. For the most part, Jenny is always some combination of white and blue/green except when engaged in some kind of action. In these instances, she can be just about any colour.

Not a great shot, but it shows what Jenny looks like in the shadows; practically violet.

Bad guys defeated, Jenny reverts to the white and blue that’s been the theme for this theater setting.

Last but not least, here’s Jenny on stage in full wardrobe retaining the blue and including some lighter shades to fit the costume.

And that’s it! If you know your stuff, you’ll realise that in just about 11 minutes, Jenny’s colour changed a total of 5 times (not including costume and shades). In the grand scheme of things, she changed appearance a total of 12 times, that’s about once a minute!

This wouldn’t normally be too much but Stage Fright is a fairly average episode. Some of the more action oriented ones get even more colour changes and things get really interesting once Jenny goes into space!

So there you go, a quick look at how the crew of My Life as a Teenage Robot managed to use colour as a a great tool throughout the series.

Four Insightful Articles From Animation History

By way of Sherm Cohen’s excellent blog, I learned of the truly fascinating Modern Mechanix blog. A site devoted to all those old magazines that said we would have flying cars and living on the moon by now. Anyway, Sherm has already posted a few articles on his blog but here are four more insightful articles from animation history.

View each article in their entirety by clicking on the images.

How the First Color Cartoons were Made


The Fleischer 3-D backgrounds to be exact.

The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney

A massive (50 page) article in the National Geographic from 1963 that’s all about the man himself and the organization he built with his brother Roy. Quite literally a must-read.

Tron: Computer Technology Goes Hollywood


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 🙂

Here’s How Digital Projectors Will Ruin Animated Films

Via: Nina Paley’s Blog

Last August, I wrote about the wonderful analogue nature of going to the cinema and how the industry has been more resistant than most to the move to digital. Since then, there has apparently been a massive shift to digital projection after the technology finally improved enough to the point that it could rival traditional celluloid and since Sony began giving away their projectors in exchange for promotion rights.

What’s interesting though, has been the coincidental and simultaneous shift to 3-D projection. Naturally projecting in 3-D is a bit trickier and with new projectors are necessary, it seems only advantageous to also move to digital distribution as well, whereby films are downloaded directly from the internet rather than shipped in cans.

However, it occurred to me yesterday (as I read the Cartoon Brew post and the Boston.com article) that the advent of digital projection, while ushering in a whole new era for cinematic entertainment, is not without its teething troubles.

For starters, the claim that cinemas are short-changing patrons by leaving 3-D lens in for 2-D films is disheartening, but also how projector companies like Sony are using DRM in their projectors (yes, projectors) because they don’t want anyone to open them. So the end result is a dull picture projected onto the screen because the 3-D filter lens absorbs so much light.

That’s the first way digital projection can harm animation. If 3-D lens are not switched out, the picture is utterly ruined. In a live-action film this may not be so much of an issue due to the greater detail being projected, but for animation, there are often some very vivid and lively colours that will not ‘pop’ near as much as they should. Animation has been a traditionally very colourful artform and whose appeal rests largely on its creative use of colour.

The second way is resolution.

My computer monitor is a 22″ widescreen with 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s nice and big, sure, but it’s resolution is lower than my mobile phone at about 72dpi. What does this have to do with film? Well, I remember when digital cameras first came out and how atrocious their resolution was compared to traditional film cameras. Now in fairness, they’ve improved a lot but only in the perceptive sense. A good quality SLR film camera will absolutely trump a digital camera when it comes to image quality simply because film has the capacity for storing images at much higher resolution than current digital technology.

My point? While digital projectors have improved greatly over the last decade, they are still at that early stage that digital cameras were at all those years ago. They represent a sufficient substitute for 35mm film, but only in the sense that the human eye cannot immediately detect the differences.

Personally, I would (and do) feel short-changed for paying extra to see a 3-D film and in return see a lower quality film in both colour and resolution.

What are your thoughts? Am I right or reading far too much into this for a Tuesday morning?

5 Fundamental Differences Between Fantasia and Fantasia 2000

Via: Collider

It has been well noted how one of the greatest animated film ever made managed to spawn a sequel many, many years later in the form of Fantasia 2000. What has not been well noted are the fundamental differences between that film and the original.

1. The Opening Sequence

Not to denounce the choice of music (Beethoven’s 5th is a favourite of mine) but to focus instead on the animation. In the original, it was animation meant to represent the music visually, with plenty of clouds and streams of light.

The sequel instead took the same visual concept and turned it into a story.

Such a move has the effect of distracting the user from the music and the visuals as they try to determine who the characters are, why they are flying about and why are they being attacked. At the end of the day they are a distraction that draws the viewer away from the attempt to link artistically the music and and the animation.

2. The Colours

The original was full of bright, vivid colours that literally jumped off the screen. In Fantasia 2000, the Pines of Rome segment has by far some of the dullest and flattest colours I have ever seen. At one point I was straining to make out the whales from the background.

While some segments have undoubtedly vivid colours (the yo-yoing flamingos comes to mind), on the whole, the sequel contains much more muted colours and palettes than the original. It is, as a result, less exciting, less eye-popping and ultimately just a wee bit less interesting.

Plenty of wacky cartoons on TV manage to look extremely vivid, Fantasia 2000 simply lacks a similarly broad palette.

3. The Use of Multiple Hosts

The original had a single host, Deems Taylor, which had a purpose as that film was intended to be a roadshow where audiences of the day would have expected a single host for the evening. The sequel uses multiple hosts.

This has the effect of making the film seem like a seminar or presentation. A single host would have unified the viewing experience and provided some continuity between segments. With multiple persons and multiple personalities filling the space, there is a tendency for the film to lurch at each scene as each presenter has a different style.

4. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Yes, it is in both films and is perhaps the most recogniseable segment of the original and that is the difference. Mikey’s appearance in the original had a reason (he needed a new vehicle in the years rolling up to the Second World War) whereas it’s inclusion in the sequel appears to be an attempt to provide some validity to that film’s very existence.

What irked me more than anything though, is that the soundtrack appeared to be re-recorded, at least to my ears, although I was listening to it through some old speakers. Besides the dubious sound, they also re-recorded Mickey’s voice for his interaction with Igor Stravinksy. Unforgiveable perhaps, but ultimately a poor choice for a supposedly ‘new’ film.

Another aspect of the sequence’s inclusion is that it steals the thunder of Donald Duck, who is given his own sequence to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance and must content himself to remain in the shadow of his friend instead of in the limelight where he should be.

5. The Conclusion

The original end sequence was very much a statement on the constant battle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. It is exceedingly spiritual on many levels and has been noted for the many profound effects it has on viewers.

The sequel is also in a natural setting and on a mountain, but instead it focuses more on the battle between natural forces in their fight to control the landscape. As admirable as this is, it does allow for a certain amount of disconnect from the audience. It is about nature, not about us, and I can’t help but feel that a certain amount of the meaning is lost in that gap.

Cool Mosaics That Provide A Different View of Fantasia

Via: Blabbling on Arts And Culture (Stephen Hartley)

By way of Oswald Iten, I’ve come across s series of posts by Stephen Hartley, who has gone and made a series of mosaics of various sequences in Fantasia (one of my favourites is above). I must say they do bring out some of the beauty in the films and provide an opportunity to see how the scenes progress throughout the film.

It’s well worth paying the blog a visit and perusing the series. They are thought-provoking and once again highlight the level of detail that went in the timeless classic that is Fantasia.