Culture Matters in Animation, But Not As Much As You Might Think

Animation is a cultural thing, and like anything related to culture, there is national delineations and boundaries. For example, American animation is very, well, American. Canadaian animation is distinctly Canadian. Irish animation probably isn’t really coming from anywhere other than Ireland. And so on. However, the country of an animation’s origin is not the be all and end all of what it means to be animated.

Continue reading “Culture Matters in Animation, But Not As Much As You Might Think”

Even More Irish-Themed Annecy Films!

So I feel like a bit of a doofus for missing this last week when I posted the Matches short, but thanks to great animation website On Animation who posted them earlier this week, you can see the entire series of Irish-themed Annecy 2012 films!

As I mentioned in the original post, the films play on both the cultural and political spheres of Ireland and they do so with comedy for the former and logic for the latter, pointing out that even though there are two sides to the island, they are still one island and one people.

Very well done and highly polished by the students of Gebelins, these siren films are a series to remember.

Now that you’ve watched all of those great shorts, here’s one of the actual competition films, the hilarious 80s cartoon spoof, Space Stallions!

 

Mark Mayerson Is Right!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEPGpHADiKk

Due to my abysmal levels of energy this morning, Amid Amidi beat me to it, but Mark’s post is nonethless right on the money.

It’s a 2005 Tom and Jerry, co-directed by Joe Barbera. In some ways, it does a remarkably good job of duplicating the look and feel of the Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s. However, in other ways, it doesn’t…..

Mark does an excellent job of running down the issues with the short, starting with the opening credits that would give any designer nightmares and going on to talk about the animation styles. There are some great comments so don’t forget to read those too.

So just what is the point of so attempting to recreate the old timey feel of a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Oh sure, it wears its loyalty to the source material on its sleeve but what does that prove? That it’s the ‘rightful successor/continuation’ to the originals? That it somehow legitimises the cartoon as a real “Tom & Jerry” short? Or is it that the creators are acknowledging the value to be had in the old shorts?

The answer is more likely that it doesn’t feel “right” to see Tom & Jerry in any other setting than the ones we’re used to. The problem is that the original shorts were a product of their time, the 1940s and 50s. Everything was different then, and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera played on that. Just think of how many jokes they got out of that ironing board. Regardless of how many times the rehashed the same joke, they were at least using contemporary society for inspiration. Who has an ironing board like that now? No-one! As Mark says (emphasis mine):

Creative works are not only the product of people, they’re also the products of a time and place. As the world keeps changing, it is impossible to recreate something from the past. While artists often wish to duplicate what they love, they can only approximate it. Paradoxically, the closer they get to it, the more they’ve succeeded in doing nothing more than an good imitation. And since the originals are everywhere to begin with, is an imitation necessary?

And rightfully so. That’s partially why The Simpsons of today is so radically different from the early years. The show has changed but society changed even more. The first few series’ simply reflect the culture of the time (the early 90s); today’s episodes are much more post-September 11th/global recession in tone.

So the real question is, why are studios/producers reluctant to move older cartoon properties beyond their established norms? Are they afraid of the risk? I mean, Lunatics Unleashed can’t be that scary an example of what can happen, right?

Iif you’re going to go to the effort of updating properties, why not just do something new? It might be a bit more expensive, but risks can be mitigated, and you’re far more likely to have a stronger product that isn’t constrained by the pre-conceived notions of ” the old version”.

At the end of the day though, David OReilly says it best:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/davidoreilly/status/131477972023656448″]

Why Frederator Were Right To Pull The Mathematical Video

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes people make mistakes. which is apparently what happened over on the Adventure Time blog the other day. The show is well known for it’s growing and devoted fan-base that stems from the show’s top quality, it’s quirky and loveable characters, and, most importantly of all, the way the creators, network and studio crafted and actively encouraged the creation of a community around the show.

As part of this, Frederator began putting out two recap video of each episode, one solicited responses from fans, the other contained said responses as art, music, voice messages, etc. The long and the short of the latest video, is that it went out as usual and generated a lot of discussion on the internet before being withdrawn.

The result was that a lot of fans were upset for many reasons, but chief among them is that the felt that Frederator/CN/The Man was somehow censoring some aspect of the show.

This is patently false.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s almost a smack in the face, especially as plenty of it has continued even after an official explanation. Understandably though, emotions do seem to be running a bit high, especially given the subject matter.

However, there is an extremely valid reason that Fred touched on but did not go into detail on, and it’s the one and only reason the video was pulled.

Here’s why he was right to do so.

In a handy coincidence, I’m right in the middle of reading a book called Remix by Lawrence Lessig (of Creative Commons fame).

Remix by Lawrence Lessig coverIt’s a rather fascinating book that I’d encourage you all to read, you can even download it for free.

In it, Lessig discusses his theory of RO culture and RW culture. RO refers to Read-Only and RW refers to ReWrite. The difference is that the former allows the creator more control over what they create and how it’s consumed and the latter extends the right to anyone should they wish to ‘remix’ it into something new.

As far as RO culture goes, right now that means anything on TV, film and radio where the creators intend for it to be seen/read/heard exactly as they originally intended it. RW culture is pretty much everything outside of that that is primarily created by fans.

Adventure Time is a show in the RO tradition. It is meant to be watched the way that Pen Ward, the studio and network intended it to be. Fans are free to create whatever they wish, however that is all done outside of the official channels and is clearly labelled as such.

What the recent Mathematical video did was inadvertently insert part of the RW culture into an RO show. In other words, it took the context of the Princess Bubblegum/Marceline relationship and implied something that Pen Ward and his crew never intended to be the case. Their vision for the show was compromised and that puts things at odds with the goals of RO culture.

Therefore the video had to be pulled because otherwise it could have compromised how the characters and the show are meant to be viewed by the audience.

Fans are still free to imply whatever they wish because they are part of the RW side of things. They create many new and wonderful things but it is clear they are independent of the show. Frederator is part of the production team and they are obligated to follow the vision of the creators, whatever it is.

The decision has nothing, repeat, nothing to do with the nature of the relationship. That is completely irrelevant to the discussion and it isn’t fair to insinuate that the decision was made based on that and that alone.

Even if crew members engage in creating their take on the relationship, unless it is officially sanctioned, then they too are acting as part of the RW culture, in other words, they are acting outside of the RO culture of the show and their art can’t be seen as ‘official’.

Fred and the studio acted completely correctly in pulling the video because the longer it was left up, the more and more it would have compromised the original vision of the creator, Pen Ward and how he wanted everyone to see the characters.

Irregardless of the potential future developments in the show or its characters, pulling the video was the best decision given the circumstances and all the criticism that is being thrown about is completely unwarranted.