Apr 23, 2011

Pas de Deux

Where would we be without Adobe today? How could we possibly manipulate images?

Well, in case you have already forgotten--I know I sometimes do--it bears mentioning that people have been doing the same things we're doing with Photoshop long before Photoshop came along.

Norman McLaren's "Pas de Deux" (1968) is truly a masterpiece of image manipulation. The title is the name of a type of ballet dance danced by two (French for "steps of two").

McLaren shot the film with strong side-lighting, and later layered different sequences by using optical printing. Today, we can basically imitate the same effect with a few clicks of the mouse. The computer crunches some numbers, and--voila!--there's your film.

Pas de Deux, Norman MCLAREN, 1967 by shortanimatedworld

But what you lose in the process is an understanding of what exactly is happening to the film.

McLaren's firm understanding of the mechanics of film are demonstrated in the range of techniques employed in his films. Take "Neighbors" (1952) on the one hand, a film made using stop-motion animation, and compare it to "Begone Dull Care" (1949), an abstract animation made by making marks right on the film.

McLaren is a tremendously versatile filmaker with a great understanding images, sounds, and the intersect. Take a lesson from this Scottish-Canadien fellow.


Apr 21, 2011

North American Film Festivals and the Fate of Animators

I've been to the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival twice now, and it's given me a tiny peek into how people find work and get noticed in the independent animation community. Cards are exchanged, demos are handed out, promotions are held and there are competitions even for high school and undergraduate students just starting out. It struck me as very healthy to the community of artists and filmmakers, to discuss eachother's films and get references, and learn a little more about what works and what doesn't in the film and television industries.

That being said, I can't properly express my mixed feelings and creeping nausea when I spot the Telétoon booth each year. Based out of Canada, it's become a rather formidable player in children and teen-aimed television and cartoons, mostly featured on the Canadian station, but over the past decade or so has begun leaking into popular United States' children's networks. This is sort of okay, but also sort of not-- the shows are largely produced in Flash and are easy and cheap to animate; the character designs are angular and gaudy, and the stories and writing are poor even for children's shows. They choose demographics easiest to exploit, and little care is put into their pilots and premises.

This is all my personal opinion, of course, but what else can it possibly mean for young North American animators? Telétoon is a large player in the industry, especially for novices just starting out, but little hand-drawn or stop-motion is practiced, and the shows are mainly produced in Flash. Now, Flash can be a wonderful program when used well (see Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) but experience shows that this is rare, as it is time-consuming and the purpose of using Flash in the first place, I imagine, is to save time and money. Young animators get lured in by the promise of steady income and a gateway into the market, and soon grow complacent. This doesn't mean it happens to everyone, but the thought of it makes me twitch.

It's so mind-boggling to me that each year at Ottawa, I am witness to scores of amazingly talented and hard-working North American animators, and yet the biggest thing out of Canadian television is cookie-cutter exploitative fodder. Some truly amazing artists make themselves known at festivals just like these-- it doesn't mean they absolutely have to go into children's entertainment, but can't I hope?

I'm also going to stop myself before I start spouting even more baseless nonsense and sounding like John K. But hey, what do you guys think?


Apr 20, 2011

"The only thing was to stay at home and wait for it to happen" Caroline Leaf - The Street

After watching the hand-crafted animations of Caroline Leaf , I felt intrigued. There was something so therapeutic about her work, the color scheme, the music and sound effects. I enjoyed how her art told a clear story about the loss of a loved one, dealing with the death and the family's reaction. I wish that there was more animation made in this style today, even as a young adult I would watch Leaf's work and enjoy it. She uses the process of watercolor and goache painting on glass, images made by scratching the emulsion of exposed color film. This film actually came in second place at the International "Olympic" competition. The Street won over Disney and more commercial based animation work.


-Arianna Quinn

Confronting Death

The dynamic, beautiful animation When the Day Breaks addresses the emotional turmoil of a young female anthropomorhpic pig character. She witnesses the death of a total stranger and the experience sends her reeling. In the aftermath she puts the death in quiet perspective through an animated exploration of the city in which she lives, including to the dwelling of the stranger who was killed.

The animation itself addresses a common experience to those who have witnessed deaths: the uneasiness, quietude and matter-of-factness of death. The animation itself pays special attention to objects- giving them a life, will and character all their own, even while they remain, for all intents and purposes, just inanimate objects. Lemons roll heedlessly into sewers, toasters crackle with a hidden energy and potato skins seem nearly acrobatic midair. The focus here illustrates the seeming independence of objects, and their continuation after their user/owner has passed on.


The title's relation to the animation is interesting as well. It implies both a 'breaking' of the day, a violent interruption or intrusion, perhaps the shattering of an illusion- but culturally, the idiom "the break of day" implies the start of the day. In the animation, the day "breaks" in both the literal and idiomatic senses- it begins, and is violently interrupted, then begins again.


This little Piggy went to market, This little Piggy wishes she had stayed home

When the Day Breaks is a cartoon animation, with a theme that uses the song, and a plot that uses it as a double-entendre. It begins with a Chicken, who finishes his breakfast, and goes to the store to buy more lemons, and biscuits. Meanwhile, over on the other side of town, a cheerful Pig sings the song’s title to herself as she peels potato skins for her breakfast. As she reaches for milk to pour into her bowl of potato skins, she realizes that the milk had gone bad, so she decides to take a stroll over to the closest store to go buy some more milk. Coincidently, this is the same store the Chicken had gone to earlier to buy his lemons and biscuits. And as he leaves the store with his groceries, he accidently bumps into the Pig, and one of his lemons falls out of his hand and rolls down a drainpipe. He doesn’t take the accident to well, and gives the Pig a quick, sharp scowl, and storms off. The Pig cringes, and walks into the store to pickup her milk, glancing at a tray of lemons as she enters. But before she finishes her purchase, she hears a loud crash coming from outside. She rushes out to see what had happened, and is horrified to see that the Chicken she had bumped into earlier, had just been hit by a car. The film begins to meld into the Chicken’s entire life, his family, his childhood, and even his anatomy. And just as quickly as we enter this vision, we come back and see the ambulance with the Chicken drive off into the fog. The Pig, devastated to have witnessed the death of somebody she had just met, quickly finishes her purchase, and sprints back to her apartment, panting, and hearing her own heartbeat. Once she’s home, all senses of joy, and optimism, are gone. She pulls down the blinds for her windows, blocking out the grey, and reality of the day outside. Though as she finishes her breakfast, she pulls herself back together, and reopens the blinds, and lets the sunlight back in. Earlier I mentioned that the theme of this cartoon revolved around the song ‘When the Day Breaks’, and that the plot used the title as a double-entendre. Well in my own opinion, indeed it did. Metaphorically speaking, the Pig was having such a wonderful and cheerful morning, prior to the incident, and it was this incident, which had almost in a sense broken all of that. The film was created by Amanda Forbis, and Wendy Tilby. It used a series of creative and innovative approaches to animation, in which the initial footage was filmed live action, where Amanda and Wendy would act out what the characters were doing, and the live footage was painted over into a cartoon; it was rotor scoped. The film was made for the National Film Board of Canada in 1999, and won many awards, including a nomination for an academy award (which it did not win, but came extremely close). 


Image was copied from www.nfb.ca/.../viewing/ when-day-breaks-fr/

There Will Be A TIme When We'll Be Nostalgic About This.

The thing that I respond to most in A Letter To Colleen is the frankness of the time and place. This could have been any suburban home in America. Even though this took place in the early '90's when people wore baggy Jenco's and Kathleen Hanna was getting into fights with Courtney Love; the story of testing out boundaries is timeless. Being young thinking everything at the moment is so important and most importantly making really bad decisions.

Through the grim pessimism of Andy writing a letter that he'll never send. The reflecting back with out the rosy lens of nostalgia, feeling awkward about the eleven year olds drinking beer and a first sexual experience. Andy knows that these were essential moments that make him who he is today. He can never go back and even seeing Colleen, years later, sober and trying to make her way is taboo. Because you can never go back. Sometimes a memory is safer, easier, and cleaner than the present.

Most importantly Andy doesn't regret, while he might hold a flame for a past form of her. He is looking forward. He is out of the sleepy suburban area. Moved on to be with like-minded people in the city. Facing tomorrow.



In searching the internet for more information on Frank Mouris, I discovered very little past what I already knew of his Oscar-winning animation: Frank Film, made in 1973. I did happen upon a website taken from the April of 1999 issue of Animation World Magazine titled On Winning an Oscar. The article interviewed Frédéric Back, Gene Deitch, Faith Hubley, Tyron Montgomery, Jimmy Picker, and Frank Mouris, asking the effect the Oscar has had on their careers. I was surprised to learn, in more than one interview, animators did not base the success of their films on whether or not they won or lost, and in some instances, animators preferred to not win. Gene Deitch claimed "Not winning it is not an artistic failure, and winning it is not necessarily an artistic success, but as the most heavily hyped award on the planet, the Hollywood Oscar sure does give you something to talk about!" The animators interviewed in this article did not deny the exposure that their careers were given, simply as nominees, but in many instances they preferred to work independently. I was also surprised to learn that Frank Film was planned by Frank and Caroline Mouris to be the one personal animation they made before joining the industry. Instead however, it won an Oscar and its success allowed them to work as independent film-makers and continue to pursue their 'personal film quest' while simultaneously profiting off of freelance animation work.


The Animator Who Flattened Bambi

Marv Newland started his animation career in LA with the animated short Bambi Meets Godzilla in 1969. from here he animated commercials for a short period of time lasting until he moved to Canada. While there, he worked on animated advertisements for Sesame Street and Educational Television. He also worked on pieces of longer films. He co-designed and story-boarded "Super Joe." He did other commercial and promotional animations as well. He eventually relocated to Vancouver where he worked for several more companies including some in LA and Chicago He created the storyboard for the TV series Barbapapa during the course of his stay in Holland. By 1975 Newland had created International Rocketship Ltd. which was a film production company. Through his new establishment, he animated Sing Beast Sing (1980), Anijam (1984), Hooray for Sandbox Land (1985), Black Hula (1988), Pink Komkommer (1991), Fuv (1999), and a few other films. Some if his notable achievements were the production of commercials for MTV, Nickelodeon, and Locomotion. The company also produced pilots for series and a couple of longer films. Newland received Grande Prix at the Annecy International Animation Festival in 1996. At this time he also worked on animations of series for other companies. Recently he has produced the work of other directors: Friday Night Idiot Box, Explodium, and My Friend Max. He is now working on his film Scratchy, after having finished his film Postalolio.

Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marv_Newland

Image: http://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=616236&gsub=18369

Norm McLaren's Neighbors

Norm McLaren was born in Stirling Scotland in 1914. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art. His earlier works involved scratching the enamel off of film and painting on it. Two of his earlier films won several prizes at the Scottish Amateur Film Festival.
McLaren moved to New York just before World War II, and asked to join the National Film Board of Canada a few years later. In 1952, McLaren made one of his most recognized shorts, Neighbors. The short is about two men who live in similar houses right next to one another. The men are friendly toward each other at the start of the film, but when a small flower blooms between their two houses, the men fight over who it belongs too. The men fight to a point where they harm one another and their respective families, without realizing they have killed the flower in the scuffle.
Although it is now one of McLaren's well known pieces, it was considered controversial at the time it was made.

"I was inspired to make Neighbors by a stay of almost a year in the People's Republic of China. Although I only saw the beginnings of Mao's revolution, my faith in human nature was reinvigorated by it. Then I came back to Quebec and the Korean War began. (...) I decided to make a really strong film about anti-militarism and against war." — Norman McLaren

Despite this, Neighbors had won both a Canadian Film Award, Academy Award and an Oscar, under the Documentary category.



Apr 18, 2011

Martha Colburn's World of Anarchy

Stills from Martha Colburn's "Myth Labs"

Martha Colburn is one of my favorite contemporary animators, and having been able to see her work and listen to her speak at the Museum School last semester was definitely a highlight of my academic career at the Museum School. My favorite animation by Colburn is "Myth Labs" (2008) and "Dolls VS. Dictators VS. Deerhoof VS. Evil" (2010). Her marriage of folk, punk, and traditional animation techniques which fabricate anarchic environments lends the animations to becoming a beautiful weaving of the grotesque and the humorous.

"Sea See" Martha Colburn, 2001, painting

While there is a grotesque notion to her overall body of work, there are raw bits of humor and political satire that are a relief from the bombardment of horrific imagery that encompasses her works. In addition to animating her works, oftentimes there is a direct control of the musical compositions--either by her or bands that typify and mesh with the concepts and visuals in her animations. What attracts me most to Colburn's work, of the many, is her ability to integrate gestural mark making in a way that builds upon a narrative and mythology. It is this narrative and mythology of anarchy that Colburn focuses on within the dialogue of popular American/Western culture that is conceptually fascinating and visually complex.



Art in America Magazine

|| Post by: Stephanie Clark ||

Apr 16, 2011

The Draw of the Dark and Mysterious

Polish artist Walerian Borowczyk is not too well-known today. Or perhaps he is, though not necessarily for his animated short films. Trained in painting at the Academy of Fine Art in Krakow, Borowczyk first earned public attention as an artist through his poster designs for cinema features, which earned him a national award in 1953.

Soon thereafter he found his way to animation, and produced some of his first films, including Był sobie raz (Time Upon a Once) (1957) and Dom (House) (1958, with Jan Lenica).

Just before Les Jeux des Anges (1964), Borowcyzk made this short film titled Renaissance (1963), another stop-motion animation.

It cleverly utilizes stop-motion animation played in reverse to create the illusion of objects assembling themselves. After a long build-up, the picture-perfect scene is complete, with all objects reconstructed after initial chaos. This scene does not last very long, though, as a ticking bomb brings everything full circle by exploding and putting the whole scene in disarray once more.

Borowczyk, it seems, is intrigued by the dark and mysterious aspects of life. The violent and hidden forces operating in his animations often take on a strong psychological dimension.

Perhaps, then, his drift from animation to erotic live-action films is not all too surprising.

It is for this reason that he has somewhat fallen from grace towards the end of his career. Though still visually compelling, Borowczyk's later films put those topics prevalent in his animations into explicit form.

Too bad he couldn't resist the temptation. His animations are truly compelling and stimulating and in a strange way...Oh, the power of subtlety!


Apr 13, 2011

Michaela Pavlatova

Early Czech animators were faced with the misfortune of Soviet censors scrutinizing their work. Michaela Pavlatova was fortunate enough to miss these times in Czech history, but they are evident in her work in other ways. Absurdity and sexuality seem to be a response to the "sphere of personal relationships rather than the Communist State" in her work. Michaele Pavlatova has claimed that real life can be more interesting than the imaginary and as a result, she works with themes of relationships and libido driven situations that she observes from life and recreates with her own interpretation. Taken from the autobiographical documentary This Could Be Me (1996) Pavlatova admits ‘I like the world of ordinary things. Reality can be more interesting than fiction." Carnival of Animals as well as The Crossword Puzzle focus on sexually driven characters. In the first, absurdity is evident in the craze of women, men, and animals, who interact and frolic sexually to no end. In The Crossword Puzzle, a woman with one thing on her mind waits for her husband to get in bed with her. Preferring to work on his crossword puzzle, the husband only equals her excitement when her distractions help him to solve a clue. Both animations deal with human sexuality and poke fun at our own obsessions and fascinations with sex. The Crossword Puzzle makes a more direct comment on a frustration she voices from a woman's point of view in a humorous and light manner.

Igor Kavalyov is an animator born in Ukraine in 1963 at the time part of the USSR. Igor animated a short in 1990 called Yego zhena kuritsa. I haven't any idea what the piece means however I am in love with the illustrative treatment and the kinetic residue on even the stillest of frames. In moments of stagnancy the animation still jets color about abstractly within its strong graphic containers in a type of frenetic dance.
Igor Kavalyov later directed and played integral roles in the making of a variety of american popular animated television shows like Rugrats, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Duckman. All of which share Kavalyov's manic illustrative line work, and slight creepiness.

Bjork has good taste.

Revisiting an old tidbit of information from a previous animation course, "Human Behavior", the music video to the song of the same title by singer Bjork, gives little nods to the classic short film "Hedgehog in The Fog". The references, most notably the hedgehog running through the woods, the setting, and the small hint of the latter's musical score, are neat to see in the more current piece. It's nice to see popular artists pay homage to obscure films like this, and shows just how influential these films have been.


The Quay Brothers: The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer

The image above is a still from The Quay Brothers' animation The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984). In a world of banal objects and structured environments a series of events both surreal and unexpected are wielded into the world by these objects. In dissecting the structure and mind of Jan Svankmajer, The Quay Brothers (pictured below) create a clever dialogue with the master animator, but also create a complexity that highlights how simply objects transform themselves. Objects in the similar Svankmajer manner transcend themselves and defy their meaning. They create new meaning for themselves acting out of an almost existentialist paradigm--they become autonomous, leading the lives that we could only dream they live.

The Quay Brothers

Much as we see in Jan Svankmajer's Meat Love (1989), there is a transcendence of the object's usefulness in The Quay Brother's animation. We find that we are looking at the inner and private life of an object and the surrealist and whimsical take that presents itself as a result. Svankmajer (pictured below) is known as a pioneer in the animation community--the tragedy and comedy that is present in his work expresses an other-worldliness that is moody, poetic, and dream-like.

Jan Svankmajer


Zeitgeist Films

|| Post by: Stephanie Clark ||

Mythology and the Uncanny

The use of mythology has been a constant theme in our class. In Harpya(Harpy) an extremely creepy and unreal short made by Raoul Servais. In the Greek Mythology Phineas who had the gift of prophecy angered Zeus by revealing too much of the future. He was punished by being blinded and left stranded on an island with a large buffet of food which he could never eat. The harpies always swooped in and ate their fill then ruined the left-overs.

The mustachio man in Harpya hears the cry of a woman and saves her from her assailant who is choking her. Then it is revealed that she is a Harpy. Enthralled by her he takes her home to care and feed her, and much like in the tale of Phineas she eats all of his food. Yet, seemingly unsatisfied she continues to not only eat his parrot, but also his legs when he tries to escape. Ultimately unable to escape her dominion the man resorts to choking her, which leads to a policeman to intervene starting the cycle again.

It seems that this film focus is combined with the danger and allure of the femme fatale with abjection of the Freudian concept of the uncanny. The Harpy is both the combination of a woman and a raptor. Both are familiar, but when combined create a form that is unknowable, a horror. Yet the man does not recoil in terror, yet. Maybe he is initially drawn to her by her other-worldly beauty. The fact remains when the Harpy is true to her Hellenistic pedigree the man is ravaged from the waist down. The man driven by hunger and fear is left to attempt to break out of his slavery. That isn't the case as he now a cripple is stymied and is introduced to what I assume is a long list of hosts. She looks knowingly hungry like somehow it was all part of the plan. There is no relief in the harpy's eyes. Just the knowledge of survival and preservation of self.

Priit Pärn

Born in Estonia in 1946, Priit Pärn is one of the most recognized animators from the area. Although art and animation were not Pärn's first profession, he always found time to draw. His drawing were featured in local papers and he eventually was asked to work with Rein Raamat on the film Kilplased. After this experience, Pärn directed his own film, called Is the earth round?
In the years after, Pärn made many films that have won numerous awards. A good number of his films subject matter involve dark and historical reference to growing up in Estonia under the Soviet rule. His drawing style was concidered unusual and non-Disney-esque, which is what the Soviet's wanted. His way of drawing became influential however in his native Estonia, as well as around the world. His influence can be seen in television shows such as Rugrats, and AHHH! Real Monsters.
Today Priit Pärn teaches at the Turku University of Applied Sciences: Art Academy, in Turku Finland, as well as continuing his art practice.

Kas maakera on ümmargune? (Is the Earth Round?)


Jan Svankmajer

Jan Svankmajer is a Czech artist known for his unique surreal animations. He attended the College of applied Arts in Prague as well as the Department of Puppetry at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts. The study of puppetry greatly influenced his animation works; especially with the use of stop motion. Svankmajers animations are amazing examples of the stop motion technique and often include live action. He experiments with speeding up and slowing down certain objects as well as exaggerating their sounds. Svankmajers imagery is eery with a nightmarish quality yet at the same time the films are playful and fun. He often uses food as a subject matter as well as a medium. A great example of this can be seen in Meat Love (1989). In the early 1970s communist government temporarily banned Svankmajer from making films. Later in his career he started working with claymation creating some interesting works such as Darkness/Light/Darkness. Svankmajer did not gain much recognition in America until the 1980s. Today he is a well respected animator greatly influencing other artists such as Tim Burton

Meat Love is a great example of his use of food as well as exaggeration of sounds


Raoul Servais

Raoul Servais, an independent film maker "The Magician from Onsted" earned a world famous reputation. In 1963 Servais attended The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, this school has produced many animators and film makers who soon made it to The United States of America. Servais felt comfortable there because of a teacher named Albert Vermerien . Servais' first camera was made out of a cigar-box , but he wasnt impressed by the image quality of it. Servais was born in Onsted , his career began in the 1960's. His early films illustrated his rich sensibility in , Chromphobia (1965) and Sirene (1968). All of Servais' films have a an original theme. Nachtvlinders (Nocturnal Butterflies) he resources himself as delicate and nostalgic. Also , In Servais' films he visualizes human values that are threatened and degraded and his images open up a new view of the world.




Jiri Trnka’s The Hand is a puppet animation with a theme equivalent to the Twilight Zone. It is a story about an artist who makes ceramic pots, so that when the pot for his beloved plant breaks, he can replace it with another one. Here he lives his peaceful life, devoid of any awareness to events that would be taking place in the world outside. But then, he suddenly hears a noise coming from the window, and a giant hand swoops into his house. The hand starts to overstay his welcome when he changes the artist’s clay pot to a pointing hand, suggesting that the artist should make more clay hands like this. The artist dislikes this suggestion, and nudges the hand out the door; only for the hand to return, more persistent, and assertive, then before, until it reaches the point, where the hand is demanding that the artist make clay pointing hands instead of clay pots for his plant. He delivers a phone to the artist and calls him on it. Over the phone he tries to persuade the artist to make clay hands by offering him money, the artist denies the offer and kicks the phone out the window. The hand then returns with a television, and shows him how wonderful, and important the hand is. But again the artist refuses, and tries to smash the hand with a hammer, only for a darker hand to return and place him under arrest. He is hypnotized into placing his hands into hang ropes, where he is made into a marionette. The dark hand then carries the artist into a cage where he is forced to carve a giant pointing hand out of a stone block. The artist manages to escape and return to his home, only for the hand to come back, and back, and back, and back, up to the point where the artist can stand it no longer, and dies. The dark hand, realizing that the artist is dead, provides a funeral for him, making it appear that the artist died a peaceful death. This film was an allegory, about life in a totalitarian society. The hand represented the central power, and the artist represented the citizen. It was first released in 1965, but was criticized by the “Cult of Personality” which was pretty much run by Stalin, and was shortly after banned and never released to the public again.  

- Jon
image was taken from flikr.com 

Yuriy Norshteyn was born during a World War II evacuation in Penza Oblast. He studied at an art school, but his first career was working in a furniture factory. He soon took a two year animation course, though, and was able to find work at an animation studio. He was involved with the animation for the 1962 film "Who Said Meow?" He would work on about 50 films before getting the opportunity to co-direct the 1968 film, "25th October, The First Day" and he went on to work on other films such as "Times of the Year" and "The Battle of Kerzhenets". He works with the multiplane camera technique.
He was working on an animated adaption of Gogol's Overcoat when he was fired from the studio for working too slowly. By that time, he and a few other people had managed to finish 10 minutes in 2 years. H managed to overcome this and co-found an animation studio/school. 26 years later, he is STILL working on "The Overcoat". About the same number of minutes have been completed as the nuber of years it has taken to work on it. It is going to be about 65 minutes long when it is finished. He has also written the book, Snow on the Grass.

Image+info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuriy_Norshteyn

Apr 9, 2011

Lenica and the Grotesquery of Ubu Roi

There are some high quality images from Jan Lenica's animation film, "Ubu et le Grande Gidouille," posted on one of my favorite image-sites, 50watts.com. The explosive, grotesque and surreal theatre work by Alfred Jarry is an inescapable one, revisited and re-made numerous times by the creative minds it attracts. Lenica's own aesthetic makes it his own, especially with his strong and bold, yet highly organic graphics. The animation utilizes cut-outs, drawing and painting in a collagist's manner. Pieces and parts of bodies float serenely, suddenly twitch, fly off screen, lay leaden in sullen austerity, and generate a tense, surreal and phantom-like landscape.

Jan Lenica is an essential part of the animation filmmaking landscape. His role as a Polish poster designer brought him success, but his eventual move into animation cemented his legacy. Initial animation explorations with his compatriot, Walerian Borowczyk, or "Boro," garnered the art world's response, culminating in the film "Dom" ("House")

Lenica and Boro were referring to their own style as barbaric, in that their efforts to bring life to their images using animation were not concerned with graceful qualities. Instead, their style was halting, twitchy, crude (sometimes) and gestural. Their subject matter was most frequently about the political, and the crushing control of the individual's spirit, which was necessarily disguised in metaphor and symbol as a way to get past the Soviet Communist censors.

Lenica's death in 2001 left behind a proliferation of compelling work in both design and animation.

(Here's a not-so-great quality upload of his film here (or directly on youtube), but copy nonetheless.)

| post by Lorelei |

Apr 7, 2011

Self Reflexivity, Modernism, and the American Cartoon

While reading Norman M. Klein's Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon, one aspect that was fascinating was Klein's relations between the modern constructs of painting and the advent of modern American animation. The major characteristic that makes both a painting and an animation modern is self-reflexivity (as seen in the 1863 painting Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (The Picnic) by Edouard Manet--pictured at the beginning of this post). There is a self-reflexivity of medium in the sense that both the limitations and boundlessness of the medium are reflected and made aware to the viewer. The artist always returns to the specific tendencies of the medium in order to communicate the narrative. Klein states:

"Truth to materials is also amounted toa simple act of isolation. Locate a device that is essential to your medium, like the texture of paint, then isolate it. Keep the device quarantined from the standard vocabulary in the art-form. Eventually, after a great deal of work, the device replaces the vocabulary altogether and becomes the entire piece." ( Klein 169)

Looking at pieces like Bobe Canon's Gerald McBoing Boing (1951), and the piece One Froggy Evening (1943) by Chuck Jones, one can see that there is a concern to design and consideration to medium. There is a self-reflexivity of the medium that makes us not only aware of the constraints of the work as an animation, but also, we are made aware of its limitless in content and form because of its dedication to its medium.


Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Cartoon by Norman M. Klein

|| Post by: Stephanie Clark ||

Apr 6, 2011

Disney World

Both Warner Brothers and Disney are incredible forces in film. Perspective on the origins and development of these major studios is incredible. Disney's successive failures before professional success. The bouts with Disney and his employes to the crossovers of staff to Warner Brothers. Considering the volume of internal drama its remarkable the amount of work that was produced, the stability of the studios and the quality of the work composed. Its Hard think of small animation studios emerging in the same fashion in contemporary market. In fact it makes me worried for the sake of independents, start ups and even other semi large organizations. For example Marvel Entertainment is now owned by Disney, and Warner Brothers controls the licenses of DC comics. These are not small studios, these are large corporate identities that have been absorbed by if you can imaging even larger identities. Obviously its a great thing that these franchises were saved from possible fiscal doom. However the more identities the larger companies are able to house under their umbrella, the more a general standard is created, the stronger this standard is the more difficult it becomes to break through.
In some cases independents and smaller studios are forced to work in the stylistic parameters set by these larger studios based on demand for similar work. The problem with this is that truly experimental works may not flourish do to lack of financial support or commercial demand, or worse yet, be consolidated by these umbrella corporations. I don't want to ramble about big corporations, there is a place for them. Seeing these mega studios meager beginnings offers a great deal of insight into the incredible difficulties and relentless will of the humans who procured them. However culture and capitalism has evolved well beyond what anyone would have imagined in the thirties and it worries me the fate of young animators intellectual properties, the currents of creative thought and the influence these corporations have over their germination and maturation.
(>.<) tim

The Art of Going Off-Model

Okay, so, I was going to start off by linking to an old post from John K.'s blog (the creator of Ren and Stimpy, the Ripping Friends, George Liquor, and renowned misogynist/bitter has-been), but not only can I not find the post, looking through all his remaining posts about Bugs Bunny it became evident I wasn't going to find anything nearly as relevant to the topic I wanted to touch on. It was basically this- in old cartoons (in this case, the Bugs Bunny short Hair-Raising Hare, directed by Chuck Jones) there is often a head animator and then various other animators working off storyboards, doing in-betweens and generally going off model. While the overall feel is concrete and even, when looked at carefully, you can clearly see the little differences and model changes in Bugs from sequence to sequence-- from controlled and well animated, to loose and slightly more amateurish.
This effect can still be seen today in contemporary children's cartoons, most notably (to me) The Marvelous Misadventure of Flapjack, and Adventure Time. The extremely bold outlines and simplistic, clean art allows the most minute changes to design to show, and while this is often done on purpose for comedic effect, sometimes it's just evidence of different artists and animators letting their unique styles show through. This sort of thing was frowned upon for some time, as producers and such considered these little differences to be blemishes on what they perceived to require absolute perfection and attention to detail-- but in effect that mindset may contribute to why flash-made cartoons, which tend to stay on model, come off as cold and sterile.
In the Flapjack episode, "Gone Wishin'", there was especially little done to stay on model from sequence to sequence-- while it was much more noticeable when done this extremely, I still found it promising and charming to see individual animators and artists' styles crop up, rather than the same model Flapjack and K'nuckles in every single episode. I took some screenshots from the episode to show.



In a more sound-related post, I was suddenly reminded yesterday of a website a friend of mine made as an experiment of sound, animation, collaboration and interactivity. He took a meaningless word, being TANE, and decided to run with it, asking other artists to contribute to a growing maze of little puzzles, personally mixed music, quirky art and silliness. If you'd like to know who's behind it and all the credits, I suggest you click and find out.


Sitting Ducks: Duck Amuck and Existentialism

In first reading about animation I found it interesting to learn just how much philosophy visually influenced the artistic styles of the animators. Cartoons of the 1950's reflected existential themes through the animators stylistic approach: "empty landscapes" of flat planes and a nigh on minimalist style featuring dark, saturated colors and heavy shadows. Though the landscapes of animations done in this style may have many objects within the visual plane, the setting itself always seems empty and still- unalterable and ultimately false (Paul Wells, "Understanding Animation"). Always the center of attention within these airless settings are a cast absurdist characters- defying physics, logic and reason while maintaining a realism that places them (borderline) in the uncanny valley.

And why wouldn't they be? Animations from the 50's were uncanny. Chuck Jones' "Duck Amuck" epitomizes this, referencing both deconstructivist views in thematic content (obliterating the fourth in both the planes of the relationship of an animation to its animator, and of the animator to his animation), while referencing existential themes of mortality. PhotobucketChuck Jones treatment of Daffy in this animation is heavily reminiscent of "The Metamorphasis" by Franz Kafka, and Jone's decision to break down both the barrier between veiwer and character, and character and creator, is most certainly a reference to absurdist playwriting, especially "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" by Tom Stoppard. Photobucket Photobucket
In fact, Stoppard's 'players' characters are cartoonish in action, and it is perhaps out of literature like this that Chuck Jones' characters, like Daffy Duck, emerge.


Catch Me If You Can

This past week we all watched some prime examples of chase scenes in classic Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons that utilized the chase scene as a crux for gags and emotions. It is not hard to understand why the chase is easily one of the most used gags. From laughing at the constant flummoxing of the dim-witted-single-focus-instigators, to off-kilter genius that is used by the prey to get away it is very hard to find something not to like. What I find fascinating about the video above is the use of the chase to go through multiple mini narratives that are recognizable and familiar to the modern television watching public.

Being a contemporary audience living in a world of technological enlightenment concepts like "undiscovered interior of Africa" are no longer a contemporary thought. The initial use of channel surfing at the beginning is a good replacement for an adventurer looking for the Dodo. Setting the stage for the ensuing chase and chaos it leaves in its wake. The chase is a vehicle for the comedic moments to happen as world colide and not a direct result to try and stanch the agressor. As the chase progresses the mini-narratives start folding into each other. Genres cross and mutate leading into destruction of the whole, which is very different to the classic chase scenes where both the protagonist and antagonist are alive but ego-bruised.

To be honest I have been looking for an excuse to post this, and this seemed like a good enough time as any.

Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks

Porky Pig was designed in 1935 by animator Bob Clampet. Porky the pig had a minor role in the film I Haven't Got a hat. During this time Porky's stutter became famous. The man behind the stutter was Joe Dougherty who actaully had a stuttering problem. The stutter became a nuisance, the production costs of recording became expensive and
would take hours. Mel Blanc took Doughetry's place where he continued using the
stutter. Blanc was the official voice for Porky untill his death in 1989. Porky and
Daffy Duck were soon showcased together. You Ought To Be In Pictures
was the first animation as a duo. Porky Pig was shown on television regularly
in the 1960's. On Saturday afternoons The Porky Pig Show ran from 1964-1967.
He appeared in many other programs like , Porky Pig and Friends , a film shown
in art and college theaters , Porky Pig in Hollywood, later in the 1990's in
Tiny Toon Adventures.


"Hmm that's funny, just all of a sudden I don't quite feel like myself!"

                                        Clip from "Duck Amuck". Image was taken from www.thelmagazine.com

The classic Daffy Duck episode, “Duck Amuck” is a cartoon both hilarious to cartoon lovers, and terrifying to cartoon ducks! The cartoon originally starts off as a spoof of “The Three Musketeers”, starring Daffy Duck. He lunges into the first scene, with his rapier in hand, and shouts “Stand back Musketeers! They shall sample my blade!” and begins to humorously duel with himself. But SUDDENLY! He finds himself in the middle of a blank page, and gestures for the illustrator to bring the original scenery back. But to Daffy’s discontent, the illustrator doesn’t bring back the original scenery, and instead, throughout the rest of the cartoon, tortures Daffy with a series of scene changes, sound effect alterations, and other various slapstick antics. The cartoon was produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons, and directed by Chuck Jones (one of the major cartoonists and directors of the day). Chuck Jones chose this plot revolving around random scene changes, for both comical and philosophical reasons. He wanted to prove a point, that a cartoon character can be recognizable simply by his or her personality, even if their voice, or physical appearance changes. Forty-one years after it’s initial release in 1953, “Duck Amuck” was nominated #2 in the “50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time”.   


"Ain't I a Stinker?"

Chuck Jones is the only director to have three films deemed "culturally significant" by the United States and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

Among these films is "Duck Amuck" (among "What's Opera, Doc?" and "One Froggy Evening"). The movie was released in 1953, during what is generally considered Warner Bros.' golden age. And, truly, it is a masterpiece--at least in my book.

In this short, Chuck Jones plays with the very essential elements of an animated cartoon. What distinguishes a character? How does he interact with his space? Can there be a space without a character, and, vice versa, can there be a character without a space?

It seems to me, as a viewer, that Daffy Duck's presence as a character remains in tact from the beginning to the end of the short, despite being erased, redressed, and, generally, driven to his limits.

I also like Jones' touch in even challenging our notion of certain sound effects. For example, when Daffy strums at the guitar, it makes the sound of a machine gun firing.

In breaking the fourth wall, and subverting our expectations of how characters live in an animated feature, Daffy's character becomes more real and believable. Though the backgrounds and spaces and be recreated and modified, our perception of him as a real character is untarnished--perhaps even strengthened. He exists independent of his surroundings. The only thing that might call that into question is the fact there is an animator that created him. But seeing as it is Bugs Bunny at the end of "Duck Amuck," Jones even subverts the authority of the animator--himself.

If you enjoyed the animation vs. animator theme, and you'd like to see Bugs Bunny in the lead role, have a look "Rabbit Rampage", also by Chuck Jones.


Dali Tribute

Appropriately set to a song titled "Dali" from Bernard Fevre's 2009 album The Strange New World Of Bernard Fevre, a youtube video plays Warner Bros. 1938 short film Porky in Wackyland and its 1949 color remake Dough for the Do-Do side-by-side to easily compare the changes made. Taking place in a Salvador Dali inspired world, the introduction of color allows for more obvious references to Dali's work in Dough for the Do-Do. The title screen may be the greatest edit to point out the Dali references in the remake. (see above). Melting clocks hang on a clothesline in Dali's signature desolate, mountainous landscape, a drastic change from the black background and animated Porky selling newspapers in the original Porky in Wackyland. Substitutions for objects in the background make the transition from surreal to Dali-esque, for example: giant mushrooms are substituted with rock statues and giant skeletons, an igloo is substituted with a half-buried guitar, and angular sculptures are substituted with more fluid, ambiguous shapes. Dali's famous clocks appear multiple times in the remake in the forms of stop watches, grandfather clocks, and sundials. While the first film may have made suggestions towards Dali's work, the remake seems to be more of a tribute to it.


Apr 5, 2011

A brief history of the Warner Brother's and the Looney Tunes

The Warner (Wonskolaser) Brothers, who were born in Poland, started in the movie business by opening a small theater in 1903. Harry (born Hirsch), Albert (born Abraham) and Sam (born Schmuel) called their theater The Cascade, in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Then in 1904, the brothers, now including Jack (born Jacob), started began a a company that distributed films. This soon lead the brothers to Hollywood, where in 1912, they opened the Warner Brother's Studio. Sam and Jack worked in California, producing films, while Harry and Albert kept track of finances in New York. The first film the brother's made was My Four Years In Germany, based of the story by James W. Gerard. In 1923, Harry was given a loan and the brother's opened Warner Brother's Pictures, Incorporated.
The big thing that gave Warner Brother's some buzz was Rin Tin Tin, a dog brought back from a bombed kennel in France, after war. After the first Rin Tin Tin film, the dog became a star and household name. However, Warner Brother's was still not recognized as highly as the brothers wanted. It wasn't until the 1930's that Warner Studio's started using animation to gain an audience. The studio used Herman and Ising Studio's, who had been making Silly Symphonies for Disney. Herman and Ising made a sister series called Merrie Melodies for Warner Brother's. In 1933, Herman and Ising left Leon Schlesinger, who continued the Merrie Melodies alone. Later, Schlesinger was teamed up with Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Robert (Bob) Clampett and Chuck Jones. This team brought us the Looney Tunes characters we know and love today.
In 1955, the Looney Tunes series was broadcast on television. The short were heavily edited for content. There could be no racial slurs or stereotypes, no violence and no depiction of "questionable items" (such as pills or alcohol). The series ended in 1986, but re-runs of the show were immediately aired in 1987 until 1996, when the movie Space Jam was released. Since then, Looney Tunes has be re-run on several of the networks owed by Warner Brother's Studios, such as Cartoon Network.

Source 1
Looney Tunes Offical Site


Apr 2, 2011

What's Up Doc?

The creation of Bugs Bunny stemmed from the Disney character Max Hare, a popular 1930s Disney figure who received an Academy Award in 1934. The first cartoon involving Bugs was a short film directed by Ben Hardaway (who's childhood nickname had been Bugs) and Cal Dalton in 1938 called Porky's Hare Hunt. In this cartoon, Bugs is not afraid of being hunted down, but instead makes a game out of it. In his second cartoon, Prest-O Change-O, he is a magician's rabbit, but the magician is absent from the script.
Soon came Elmer Fudd, to hunt Bugs, appearing in the short, Elmer's Candid Camera. The two are still playing their way through episodes today. The personality that we know as Bugs Bunny originated in the short film Wild Hare, in which Bugs first inquires, "What's up, Doc?" It is in this episode, most experts say that Bugs achieved full character, looking and sounding like he does today. It wasin't until his 7th short that he receive the name Bugs Bunny. By 1941 he had achieved an iconic status, and would go on to be in Loony Tunes and Merry Melodies. In 1942, Bugs received more prominent teeth and a rounder head. He was involved in a US war bonds commercial and a cartoon that is no longer distributed due to improper content. Bugs is still popular today, and claims a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Post by Luke

info: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/52404/the_history_of_bugs_bunny_the_complete_pg2.html?cat=39

image: http://www.toutlecine.com/images/star/0025/00250910-bugs-bunny.html

Mar 30, 2011

Visualizing a Migraine Headache- Abstract Animation as a Force for Description of Human Experience

Watching abstract animations reminded me heavily of trying to explain what a migraine can "look" like from the affected brain. As someone who suffers from frequent migraines, sometimes triggered by light or flashing, I can speak from personal experience as to there being a noticeably different visual experience from the brain experiencing normal function, to a brain under the affects of a migraine. Abstract animation relates heavily to the function of the brain by directly referencing biorhythms and the brain's ability to "understand" visual cues- and migraine headaches are heavily influenced by the brain's own biorhythms. Light sensitivity can grow or recede, the pounding of blood can have different rhythms, the fogginess around the outside of your field of vision can rapidly grow and retreat. Migraines, as awful as they are to experience, can be fascinating, and even visually beautiful. The following are animations made by different people who experience migraines and the different ways they have visually described their migraines experiences.



Pixilation is a type of stop-motion animation that uses people instead of things such as objects or puppets. One of the earliest experiments with this form of art was in 1909, when Segundo de Chomón created a comedy-fantasy called, El hotel eléctrico. The film is a surreal short that depicts a suit case unpacking and furniture rapid swirling around in a room. The film was a part in several attempts at pixilation for Chomón.



After the screening of abstract animation, I couldn't help but think of the influence these experimental, explorative works had on special effects in filming. Abstractions are and integral part of reality, reality is after all an intricate pattern of abstraction. Layering these abstract techniques on top of film would make for infinite possibilities in the realms of both natural and super natural effects. Science Fiction films took total advantage of this application.
Of course animation had been playing a role in film effects for quite some time prior to this surge of abstract work. But this was a particularly important for particle effects, such as the ones seen in Forbidden Planet.

Inspired by the abstract landscape of music, these pioneers opened up a wide spectrum of possibilities for future animators to build upon, and the applications of these techniques continue to grow. Particle effects are used for a variety of media both video games and film employ the clever use of abstraction in combination with other elements including sound and other representational elements for a seamless illusion.

tim \( '<->' )/

Norman McLaren's Soundscapes and the use of Jazz in Abstract Animations

The still above is from Norman McLaren's (1914-87) animation, Neighbours, from 1952. Although in itself it is not a non-objective abstracted animation, the soundtrack functions in itself as a form of abstracting the visual dialogue that unfolds throughout the duration of the animation. With bleeps and bloops that form an electronic soundscape the piece easily dissolves into a wordless dispute that explores semiotics and language through the minimalist environment created by the soundtrack.

Upon further investigation of the use of sound as a means to further a dialogue with abstraction through animation I was lead to a posting on Cartoon Brew about the utilization of jazz within animation shorts--again not particularly of the non-objective variety, but more as the precursors to the use of jazz and music as an elaboration and companion to abstract forms and content. In explanation of some of the music used as a means of reinforcing the abstracted landscape being created in these animations, a timeline of information was offered to give a sense of how vital jazz and music in general was to the animations during much of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Albert Ammons

Eldon Rathburn

The end of the posting mentions that animators like McLaren carried on this tradition. McLaren is noted for collaborations with jazz artist Albert Ammons, and film composer Eldon Rathburn--both pictured above.


Cartoon Brew

|| Post by: Stephanie Clark ||