Why Do Female Characters ‘Have’ To Look Feminine?

Female characters often have a tough time with variety. While there is plenty of debate and discussion surrounding the prevalence of stereotypes that send poor messages to viewers, there is something else that is completely overlooked. Dave Pressler ponders the interesting question of why female characters are often forced too look feminine by executives.

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Architecture in The Incredibles: Attention to Detail

Over at The Architizer, Zachery Edelson has taken a thorough and in-depth look at the architecture within the Pixar film The Incredibles. It’s a fascinating read for anyone with even a passing interest in either the film or architecture. yet it highlights an astonishing attention to detail that the filmmakers when the filmmakers could have gotten away with a lot less.

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Pixar’s Selective Sequel Problem

Is this not the most badass poster you've seen for this film?
Is this not the most badass poster you’ve seen for this film?

Pixar. No studio has been as influential over the last 15 years and no studio has had as many consistent hits as the one from Emeryville. They’ve even been notable for an aversion to sequels that makes their competitor DreamWorks look positively addicted. However, we’ve already seen three Pixar sequels and are about to see one more this summer. Almost every one Toy Story 2 has brought calls for Pixar to stop. Claims that they bring down the studio’s much vaunted integrity have gone unheeded as the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory was announced earlier this year.

Pixar’s Selective Sequel Problem

So just what is Pixar’s selective sequel problem? Well, The Pixar Times recently highlighted it with a tweet:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/ThePixarTimes/status/335181933984219138″]

The flames of this haven’t exactly been dampened as of late with director Brad Bird continually proclaiming his openness to a sequel provided he finds a story that fits.

So why does Pixar face such a dilemma with its sequels? It basically comes down to the fans.

Why Fans Are Two-Faced When It Comes To Sequels

Fans are a studio’s best friend but also their greatest enemy. The former is because they fork over money but the latter is because they are often blinded to the need to create content that attracts viewers outside of the fanbase.

This conflict manifests itself particularly in sequels and movie series. The simple reason is that fans form their own expectations and can be left disappointed should a sequel or latest film in a series fail to live up to their expectations.

The problem is compounded by the need to be profitable, which necessitates making films that attract the largest audiences possible; a situation that can put studios in conflict with fans, who will gladly proclaim their love for an original film, but gleefully scorn and deride a sequel that has, essentially, been made specially for them.

Pixar’s Special Case

In Pixar’s case, many of their films are self-contained stories that, being never intended as the jumping off point for subsequent films, wrap all plot points up by the time the credits role. Any sequel put out by the studio has relied upon creating a wholly new plotline distinct from the old one.

This has (in addition to the studio’s declared practice of not making sequels) meant that fans, having witnessed the descent of the Walt Disney Animation Studios into a sort of viscious circle of sequels confined in direct-to-video hell, are quite vocal in their concern that Pixar be lead down a similar road. Toy Story 2 was saved from this by Lasseter et al and was long considered the anomaly in the Pixar cannon.

Consequently, whenever the studio has announced a sequel (be it for Toy Story, Cars or Monsters Inc), it has been greeted with a curious mixture of elation and dismay.

So the question is, why are fans dismayed at the announcement of, say, Finding Dory (with its oh-so-imaginative title) but are seemingly clamouring for an Incredibles 2?

The Curse of the Superhero

The fault can be laid at the feet of the very genre that the Incredibles is based on; the superhero.

Superhero comics have been around for almost 80 years with many titles lasting decades. Pretty much every (good) superhero film has been only the first in a series or part of a trilogy. The idea that someone would make one and only one 120 minute film within the genre is, well, alien!

The blame can’t be levelled at fans however, superhero tales lend themselves extremely well to recurring stories and their ability to last for so long without becoming insanely repetitive is a testament to their strength as characters.

With all that in mind, it’s natural for fans to see a sequel to Pixar’s (thus far) lone superhero film while lamenting sequels of other stories.

Should there be a sequel? Ah, a tough question to answer. This blogger sees The Incredibles as a family film first and a superhero film second. Creating another film based on the family unit and the strife within it would be a very tall order. Basing it on the superhero part risks lowering its stature so that its defining qualities are erased in the quest to equal or better other superhero films.

To make an Incredibles 2 or not, what’s your call?

Three Great ‘Art of’ Books

‘Art Of’ books have become quite popular over the last number of years and it seems that they have become an established part of movie merchandise for all movies, not just the animated ones where they began.

The content of art of books tends to vary quite a bit. Some are truly fantastic windows into the creative processes behind a film, while others, such as the one for Laika’s film, Coraline, seeme to be slapped together at the last minute in an attempt to placate the movie going public.

The three I’ve chosen for this list are far from that insofar as they represent the best kind of ‘art of’ books in their own way. One is for a western film, one is for an eastern film and one is for a TV series. Together they take quite different approaches but all serve the same purpose, that is, to show how filmmakers created the worlds and characters that we all love.

Note: All the images come from the excellent and highly recommended Parka Blogs website where you can find comprehensive reviews of each books in addition to links to Amazon for purchase.

The Art Of The Incredibles

This was the first book of its kind that I came across, and it is not hard to see why it remains one of my favourites. Drawing heavily on the look of the film, The Art Of The Incredibles contains a good mixture of character, layout and background art. There are plenty of sketches and concepts which convey the many iterations of design that some of the characters went through before final design.

However, it is the landscapes and backgrounds that deserve the highest praise. All the main sets and locations are shown in detail, with plenty of information on how the look of the film was heavily inspired by the 1950s and 60s. As a special bonus, a fold-out in the middle contains the entire colour script!

The Art Of The Incredibles is bursting with art from cover to cover and ensures its place in this list with plenty that cannot be seen anywhere else.

The Art of Spirited Away

While this may appear to be a similar book, it does in fact take a very different approach. All the characters, backgrounds and layouts are there to be sure, but this book covers a Miyazaki film! Instead of the lush, flawless art of the book discussed above, The Art of Spirited Away is chock full of sketches, watercolours in addition to finished art.

The book compliments Miyazaki’s art style in a way that conveys the individual effort that went into the film; read: thousands of hand-drawn cels. Unlike other books, the emphasis is on the art moreso than the film or how it developed. In deferrance to other books, there is also a comprehensive looks at how the film utilised digital technology to enhance the tradtional processes; a throughly educational and enjoyable read.

Pure art from start to finish, The Art of Spirited Away represents almost the antihesis of The Art of The Incredibles.

The Art of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Lastly, we come to an ‘art of’ book made for a TV series. Something of a rarity, the book came about only because there was a theatrical, live-action film made of the series. Apparently the art in that didn’t warrant its own tome, so we have this one to read instead.

The Art of Avatar: The Last Airbender takes yet another road to artistic gratification. It methodically goes through the main characters in the series before going into each episode in detail before finally ending with the many ancilliary pieces of art that go into things like video games and promo posters.

Naturally as a series, this book can’t afford to go into nearly as much detail with each episode as you would for each scene in a film. Nonetheless, it admirably covers scenes, props and characters in each episode over the three seasons and provides as much information as possible about them. As you might expect, everything is still a bit brief, but that is only because the series could easily fill three books or more with the volume of art created for the series.

From cover to cover, The Art of Avatar is a superb companion to a great show that provides a wonderful overview of how the creators came up with a universe quite unlike anything we’ve seen on TV before or since.

And there you have it, three very different yet equally fulfilling ways to express all the wonderful art that goes into animated productions.

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. 🙂

(UPDATED) Some Handsome Cartoon Hedcuts To Start Your Day

Via: Randy Glass on Behance

Found via Reddit, here’s four hedcuts of the style that is popular with the Wall Street Journal. Created by Randy Glass, they all appear to be the real deal. In other words, there’s no digital explanation behind them so the skill is so much easier to appreciate.

Interestingly enough, even though these are animated characters that would traditionally lack the same level of details as a real person would, these portraits are given the same level of detail as a person and, in a way, almost makes them seem almost as real.

Either way, be sure to click through for the full series of celebrities as well as these four animated characters who managed to make it in there.

UPDATE: The man himself was kind enough to write in and has forwarded two more images that are currently not up on his Behance site; Remy from Ratatouille and Mr. Incredible. Thanks Randy!

One Look At These Posters And You’ll Visit Film On Paper Too

If you’re not even a wee bit jealous of Eddie Shannon, then you’re clearly not into movie posters.

Film on Paper is his website where he is archiving his entire collection (literally thousands) and it is by far the most fascinating that I have come across. Filled with rare and foreign versions, the site includes a couple of animation ones, nice ones in fact. His ones for The Incredibles are unreleased, which makes them even more awesome (check out the one below if you don’t believe me).

Is this not the most badass poster you've seen for this film?

You could spend literally hours on the site and I absolutely recommend that you do. Movie posters are a fascinating artform in and of themselves and its nice to see them get some love from a devoted collector.