Week Links 42-2013

This post was, in fact, written on Thursday the result of a full day of travelling today. The week link list is no shorter however as this week has already produced a decent variety of interesting articles on the topic of animation. Enjoy!

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Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Folly of Faster Technology

Via: PC Mag

Yesterday, at the Techonomy conference, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg revealed that through technological developments, the studio would soon be able to animate in “real-time”. This statement has got a decent amount of attention from the relevant media, but just how accurate or true is it?

While Katzenberg is keeping the details close to his chest, it’s safe to assume that he is referring to the rendering part of the process. In other words, the part where the computer has to crunch a lot of numbers to get things to look how they’re suppose to look.

This has been a time-consuming process since day dot. Heck, even in the old days, you had to wait for the ink and pain department to colour your cels before you could even begin to visualise how the characters would look on screen.

However, what Katzenberg is hoping to achieve is the ability to animate and render at the same time. This is not an impossible goal. However his statement does seem to ignore how technology has developed over the last 60 years or so.

That is to say: it never really gets any faster.

Why? Because new more impressive software is always coming out that pushes hardware to its limits, just like its supposed to.

Take for example Toy Story. We all know it took a year to render or something like that, but just imagine, I could theoretically render Toy Story on my home computer right now, and there’s a good chance it wouldn’t take me a whole year to do so. So why don’t studios take advantage of technological developments and create films that take advantage of shorter render times?

The answer is simple, who wants to see a movie that looks like it came from the mid-1990s?

Which is precisely the problem. As long as studios continue to push the boundaries of what they can produce, there will always be the same constraints of time.

The only way this will change is when someone comes out with a new way of creating CGI animation that does away with the rendering altogether.

Until then, we’ll have to continue waiting.

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.