Week Links 11-2013

Lots of links this week!

When Jobs In The Animation Industry Disappear…

Chris Oatley is constantly beating the drum of optimism and in his latest post, he breaks down the latest developments for all levels in his trademark soft-spoken manner laced with his genuine concern for others. If you haven’t already read Chris’ post, now is the time to read it, ponder it and act on the lessons contained within.

How TV has Replaced Animated Films as Disney’s Biggest Brand Ambassador

If you had to guess who sells more family saloons (sedans) in Europe between BMW and Nissan, you’d probably guess the latter right? Well as it turns out, a BMW 3-series is actually more ‘exclusive’ than the ‘mainstream’ Nissan Primera was during the last year of that model’s life.

The same is ocurring over at Disney right now. Feature films used to be the main engine of the Disney empire. They drive toys, TV series, even Broadway musicals. All that has changed however.

The Variety piece outlines how television is now the primary driver behind most Disney products. Phineas and Ferb are the ones being noted as cleaning up shop but plenty of other Disney Channel properties lend a helping hand.

All this means that features, for 80s years the recognised pinnacle of animated entertainment, are being shunted into second place in executive’s minds. You should read the article to gain an understanding of how things will progress within that company for the next couple of years.

Fantasia Program Recap

Via: Michael Sporn's Splog
Via: Michael Sporn’s Splog

Michael Sporn has uploaded some beautiful scans of the booklet that was handed out at the premiere of Fantasia. In addition to the gorgeous design, the booklet features the credits that are not included in the film itself.

Why We Bother

Josh Selig over at the Kidscreen blog has a great wee post where he ponders the question about why those involved in animation put up with it in spite of a litany of obstacles.

Fans Gone Wild: The Brave Little Toaster

FLIP BLT compactor

Fans and fandom are a favourite topic of this blog so it is with some amusement to learn of the extents of some fan’s devotions. From the FLIP blog comes this piece about a fan (namely Ian Knau) who figured out the design to the compactor from The Brave Little Toaster and even made detailed plans. If only every animated film had such devoted fans!

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/VertMB/status/314470154572550145″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/SandraDRivas/status/314504824559386624″]

David OReilly proves yet again that he knows his fans:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/314826242824216577″]


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.

Technological Advances in Cinema: The Similarities Between Fantasia and 3-D

Via: Trond Lossius (Norwegian sound guy)

Yes, I know, 3-D, ugh,it almost makes you want to puke just thinking about it doesn’t it? It does have its proponents though, and it seems that there is no stopping Hollywood in it’s unending quest to convince us that 3-D really is the latest and greatest advance in cinema technology (again).

Yesterday I was listening to the Fantasia soundtrack, which is really just a collection of the likes of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with classical pieces thrown in between, and it struck me just how badly they wanted people to realise that they were listening to a stereo, yes, stereo recording.

In this day and age, we take stereo for granted, it’s second nature, heck, I can listen to stereo music on my phone! Back then of course, people could still remember when Al Jolson told them that movies could have sound, so it was still a relatively new phenomenon.

So Fantasia was the first film to be released with stereo sound that was so new, there was no method for actually playing it in many cinemas, so a new system, called Fantasound was created but only installed in a couple of the large picture houses.

However, it is only on listening to the original, remastered score that you realise that the mixing is honestly, almost atrocious. Sounds pop up all over the place with little regard to their location in the orchestra. Today, recordings are mixed very much faithfully to the original recording session. In Fantasia, it looks like they hadn’t figured that out yet, so sounds whizz back and forth from one ear to the other so often that it nearly makes you dizzy.

Which is interesting because, you’d would almost swear that the sound engineers were trying to pound us over the head with the fact that the recording is in stereo. It’s as if they decided to use the extremes of their new discovery to tell us in a not-so-subtle way that we have two ears.

That sounds kinda familiar doesn’t it? What else do we have two of? Oh yeah, eyes! Is there a way of seeing two images with them as well? Why yes, yes there is! it’s called 3-D! OMG!!!! [The preceding paragraph may have contained sarcasm]

Can you think of any films today that seem to trumpet 3-D imagery as if it’s the latest and greatest thing ever invented? I’m sure you can, they’re all at it these days. The question is, why do they see fit to beat us over the head with the achievement when in reality, like Fantasia, it ends up being a whitewash of 3-D effects that are in reality, gimmicks that add nothing to the film.

With Fantasia, Walt Disney was not merely trying to beat it into everyone’s skull that his film had stereo, rather that was just part of his constant searching for the next technological advancement. Stereo in films is taken for granted now, heck, surround sound is taken almost mandatory for cinemas at this point.

The point is that the sound in films today is used in much more subtle ways than in Fantasia and it’s high time 3-D was handled the same way. There is no need to parade it from the rooftops. At this point, plenty of people have seen a 3-D films and are aware of it’s benefits and limitations, why not use 3-D in the way it is supposed to, add depth to every shot, not just the one of the missile flying towards the audience.

What if Pixar Made the Next Fantastia?

The other day, I had a bit of a back and forth conversation on Twitter with Mr Sam Levine about Fantasia, in which he mentioned pitching a sequence featuring Gustav Holst’s suite “The Planets”. Afterwards it got me thinking about the whole concept of Fantasia and why it remains so popular even after all these years.

My personal opinion is that it epitomises the best of animation as an expressive artform. Now I don’t meant to say it has the best animation, that’s a statement that requires some serious research and evidence to back up, which I don’t have the time for today. What I mean is that the music forms the basis on which the animation is based, not the other way around, which is the way most films are scored these days. The result is a wonderfully complex series of sequences in which the animator is allowed a fair amount of creative license that is used to great effect. Does dialogue distract from the animation? Watch any animated show/film/etc with the sound off. Do you pay more attention to the character’s movements? I bet you do.

With the thought of seeing the film for the first time in a few years (since it’s coming out on DVD) as well as seeing Fantasia 2000 for the first time, it got me thinking: What if Pixar made the next Fantasia?

We all know that Pixar makes good movies (I know it too, in difference to my recent comments over on Cartoon Brew) and while their writing team has been given a ton of credit for their slate of films, the animation crew seems to be in their shadow to a certain extent. A film like Fantasia would be a wonderful opportunity to give them a chance to flex their creative muscles.

In comparison, Disney was at a similar stage when he made the original. Here he was, an established animation studio that had won critical and commercial success who was looking for a vehicle to showcase the latest in technology, which at the time included stereo sound and technicolour (yes, that had been around for almost a decade but I dare you to name more than a few, colour, World War II films).

Does Pixar need a film to showcase all their creative skills? No, not really, they already do that in almost every film they release. Would I still like to see them do it? Absolutely! CGI is in desperate need of something to show of the animation itself and not just the design or the backgrounds.

The realities of the movie business today mean that a Pixar Fantastia is unlikely to happen, which is a wee bit of a shame really, since the original is still immensely popular. I would not, however, rule it out altogether.

Fantasia coming to DVD and Blu-Ray Later This Year

Image via dvdizzy.com

Finally, a decent release for one of the greatest animated films to ever come out of the Disney Studio. Every animation fan should own a copy, especially when it comes in both DVD and Blu-Ray versions.

It can be pre-ordered over on Amazon.com with a release date of November this year.