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 ||

L'Illusionniste 2010, A Love Letter from Tati

After doing some research and coming up with nothing too remarkably sound-related, I found I couldn't focus on anything after I saw L'Illusioniste last Thursday at Kendall Square Cinema. I first saw advertisements for the film, directed by Triplets-famed Sylvain Chomet, while studying abroad in Paris, and it was unfortunately so close to the end of my stay that I couldn't see it there in a Parisian cinématheque. However, it stayed on my mind since as the one film I was absolutely aching to see-- I had obviously seen and loved The Triplets of Belleville and was super thrilled to see a new film from the creators.

The film is an adaptation of a screenplay written by the late french mime, Jacques Tati, originally written as a letter to his estranged daughter. The story in Chomet's interpretation follows a struggling magician who travels from Paris to Scotland in the 1950's, and along the way meets a young girl who believes his magic to be real. While generally praised for its poetic visuals and fabulous settings and character design, some die-hard fans of Tati's work found Chomet's adaptation ultimately disappointing. There will always be mixed feelings when one filmmaker is charged with the task of adapting the work of another, especially when the latter is deceased-- but I still find this film a piece of its own, and a wonderful and sentimental homage to the legend that was Tati.


Line Dance

Renown Canadian animator Norman McLaren made this short titled "Begone Dull Care" in 1949. Set to Oscar Peterson's jazz ensemble, it does a phenomenal job at visualizing music using simple means. McLaren scratched right onto film to create these great images.

Though the whole piece is totally worth watching, the part I like best begins at 3:32. A number of white lines do a sort of dance against a black background. It is so simple, and yet it fits the animation so well.

Notice all of the nuances he uses to set up a natural visual language to accompany the swells in the music. I especially love the way he uses to lines coming closer together to recreate a tension or build present in the music--fabulous!


Mary Ellen bute

Mary Ellen Bute was one of the first female abstract animators. She first studied painting in Philadelphia but felt this medium did not enable her to use light in the way she desired.She then studied stage lighting at Yale University where she took great interest in the color organ ( a device that demonstrates how sound influences light colors) eventually creating her own. From that point Bute became very interested in electronic art as well as translating sound into a visual animated art form. Bute studied amongst avant-garde musicians Joseph Schillinger and Leon Theremin who collaborated with her on many pieces. Together they used optical color projection synchronized to music. Bute's work is visually poetic focusing on movement form and color exemplified in Spook Sport (1939) and Synchromy No. 4(1938): Escape; Her films also display a great influence of science and mathematics. Although Bute is not very well known today, this was not always the case. Many of her animations appeared in movie theaters as shorts before a feature film. This allowed her work to be seen by a large amount of people a luxury many abstract artists did not get to experience.

In Synchromy No.4 one can definitely see the influence of science and math with the different geometric shapes and grids. These images are combined with a very free flowing background that looks like liquid or clouds.



John Whitney

John Whitney is sometimes called the father of computer animation. Although he started by making films on 8mm, and in 1939, he and his brother, James, began to make more abstract films. One of their pieces, Five Film Exercise, was given the first place prize at the International Experimental Film Competition in 1949.
Whitney, having been an inventor and having experience with computers, used these skills to make commercials for television during the 1950's. He, along with Saul Bass, made a sequence for the movie Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock. This fulled his interest in using computers to make animations and film. In the 1960's, Whitney opened Motion Graphics Incorporated, where he continued to make motion graphics and sequences for television. IBM saw what Whitney was creating and offered him a job in 1966 as a resident artist. While working, Whitney became interested in the processing language and medium. He used this to create the work Arabesque, a film using lines and color set to music.
I personally found Arabesque to be beautiful and intriguing. I have been taking a course in processing and wanted to see if there was a way I could re-create parts of Arabesque on my own. The code for it took time and involves much more to make the entire sequence that Whitney made, but I found a way to make the linear set that transforms into dots. Here is a link to this piece.



Beyond the Caribbean Islands

Out of the many things to love from this wondrous bit of animation I find myself drawn to how the selected muisc really complimented the animation. As opposed to what I felt was the strange proto-darkwave/industrial music of Diagonal Symphony. The pairing of the Afro-Caribbean sounds of Don Baretto with an abstract animation that matches the energy of the music that I associate with my childhood in the Caribbean. At the time this was made the world was turning its ears to music from the Caribbean, Latin and South America from Carmen Miranda to post War I Love Lucy's Rickey Ricardo. There is a primal call to action when most people hear the music to emerge out of the colonization of the new world. Through the color and movement of the work created a sense of a large group of people dancing who are way too drunk off of rum.

Also, it is a prime example of how to get paid doing something you love and are passionate about. Granted, the amount of hustling, who you know, and who is exposed to your work goes a long way. It is still great to see how it can be done and how to able to express one's ideas through a government contract. There is no shame in using your skills and talent to pay the bills any way you can. Len Lye is now my favorite Kiwi surpassing Bret and Jemaine.

Why Momotaro?

The story of Momotaro is a beloved bit of folk lore in Japan. It is a story that combines a bit of Moses and a coming of age story. Momotaro is a child of the heavens transported in a peach, which a poor elderly couple were about to eat until the child talked informing them about his origins. When Momotaro turned fifteen he wanted to do something to help his country and set off to Onigashima or Ogre Island to fight the Ogres that have been terrorizing his home. Along the way he befriends a dog, monkey and a pheasant by giving them food. In exchange the trio agrees to help Momotaro. Naturally, the quartet defeated the Ogre menace and returned home with wealth and everyone lived happily ever after.

Knowing this it is easy to see why this story was so popular during World War Two. Brave son on a righteous quest to defeat the enemies of their home country. Then again America at the time wasn't so much different. We did and still do have a paramilitary organization in the Boy Scouts. We saw how american cartoons were made to dehumanize our war time opponents. Plus, after December seventh we had our own campaign to demonize and compartmentalize Japanese-Americans in interment camps. I guess the adage of: "All's fair in love and war" is true.

I see Skies of Blue, Clouds of white, Bright blessed day, when I listen to tunes, and I think to myself… “what a colorful view!”

Synesthesia is a rare, yet incredible condition, which allows the individual with said condition to literally see sound! Being somebody with mild Synesthesia, I get a taste of it whenever I listen to music, so I know automatically what to picture when Synesthesia is brought up; but for those of you without the condition, mild, or full blast, what I found to be the most accurate depiction of what synesthetes see or imagine when they listen to music, would be the opening song of Fantasia, when they played Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It’s actually a very interesting condition, studies show that most synesthetes do not even realize they have the condition until they discover that people around them are not envisioning the shapes, colors, and patterns that they are when they listen to music, or sound. Most cases have shown Synesthesia to be harmless, or non-influential to the subject’s patterns of behavior, however, there are still the occasional few who report experiencing “sensory overloads” when the sensation is triggered. As for what does trigger Synesthesia to synesthetes varies. The most common form of Synesthesia is called “Grapheme” or “color Synesthesia”, which causes letters and numbers to appear to give off colors. For example, S might look like S, or A might look like A. Other forms are Sound Synesthesia, which causes a variety of sounds to look like shapes, lights and colors. It was this form of Synesthesia, which inspired the creation of “Synesthetic Art”, or art that is either created by synesthetes to express what they experience, or artists who are trying to replicate the condition through physical visual means. Such examples would include a variety of inventions, such as the Lumigraph, or “Color Organ” which was developed by an animator named Oskar Fischinger, and would give off colors of light that would accompany the music that the organ would play.  Other examples were works of art, such as “Vision” by Carol Steen, which supposedly portrayed what she would picture during acupuncture. For many hundreds of years, Synesthesia was not a widely investigated phenomenon by the scientific community, and it’s only been until recent times when the condition has actually been acknowledged at all. Many famous Synesthetes include ancient Greek Philosophers who described seeing the color timbre when they listened to music. Others include Isaac Newton, who proposed that the frequencies of color and music were interrelated. Even the father of modern electricity, Nikola Tesla was supposedly a synesthete. Overall, Synesthesia is neither a normal sensation, nor a handicap, and throughout history has made significant contributions to both the artistic, and scientific fields, both intellectually, and creatively.

- Jon 

(Image is "Vision" by Carol Steen, image was taken from Wikipedia)

Oskar Fischinger's Lumigraph

Being an abstract animator, Oskar Fischinger wanted a machine to help him make spectacular light arrangements to be paired up with music. He invented the Lumigraph, a type of "color organ," a term describing a wide array of electromechanical machines that were capable of producing visuals in accordance with sound. These machines had a variety of ways of doing so. "Color Organ" was a name that arose in the 60s and 70s due to the colorful light shows that these machines produced to go along with music or sound.
Oskar's machine created thin beams of light by exerting pressure on a rubberized screen. The size of the performer dictated how big the screen could be (how high the performer could reach). In order for the device to function properly, operation involved two people. One to maneuver the screen to produce imagery, and another to altar the lights when necessary. Oskar did shows in LA and San Francisco, and the machine was involved in the creation of the movie The Time Travelers in 1964. In this instance, the Lumigraph was referred to as a "Lumichord" according to the producers, not Oskar. Oskar's son constructed two more of the devices varying in size. And the Lumigraph continued to perform at the hands of Oskar's wife after his death. A Lumigraph that she used remains in a museum in Germany, and still performs occasionally.



Post By Luke

Mar 29, 2011

Fran the Man's Sketchbook Animation

Fran Krause is a fab animator and he has a fun way of getting tan-minimalist animators out into the wild (so to speak.) Check out his film and then his "how I made it" videos! And don't forget to visit his site, too!

Mar 16, 2011

Kihachiro Kawamoto's 1979 short, Kataku, amalgamated a variety of different animation styles including puppetry, stop motion, and hand drawn. The contrast of aesthetics creates a complex dynamic that gives the viewer a sense of atmosphere and depth.
Today, combining animation techniques is common with popular japanese animation. There are a great deal of animated works that rely on the layering of more modern technologies like 3d animation and other digital effects. Bandai Visual Company, producers of Ghost in the Shell, are one of many japanese animation teams to have produced work that follows in the wake of Kihachiro Kawamoto's influence.

Yōji Kuri/Shin Chan?

Yōji Kuri is an animation artist most known for his work during the 1960's and is known to be of large importance to the history of animation. Known to be dark humored, independent and minimal artist, his work seems to capture a disturbing perspective of love and sex. Some such films as Human Zoo(1960) and Ai-Love (1963) depict this type of imagery and end fairly quickly. The time range for Kuri's work seems to be shorter then ten minutes, perhaps implying the shorts are more of a thought then a statement.
He later produced an animation film The Bathroom (1970), it too was along the same subject matter as previous work. One part of the film at the end depicts butt and leg sculptures; the style and location (bathroom) reminded me of the TV show Shin Chan. Shin, a 5 year old boy whom is obsessed with human privates, frequently flaunts his rear and enjoys time in the bathroom.
Yōji Kuri continues to draw today as well as teach animation at the Laputa Art Animation School.


Multi-Plane Camera on Bald Mountain

The Multi-plane Camera was invented by Walt Disney and gave clear advantages to creating depth and more of a cinematic look. The technique was first used with experimentations and then to film Snow White (1937). Later in 1940 the camera was used to capture Fantasia. A segment from the film, Night on Bald Mountain, was also filmed with this technique and was
given a distinct look compared to Alexandre Alexeieff's version
of Night on Bald Mountain (1933) which used a pin-hole technique.

Disney's method proved to be a little more interesting due to the depth and cinematic qualities, but on the other hand it is not as expressive as the animation from Alexeieff's version. The latter seems to also have more of an undertone of celebration as Disney's is based on fear. The two films used the same song and had a totally different approaches and outcome.


Shan Shui & Feelings from Mountan and Water

Shan Shui is a traditional form of Chinese painting. The subject matter is often very serene depicting natural scenery usually including mountains and water. The paintings are very organic utilizing soft brushstrokes and earthy colors. Shan Shui was like a form of meditation as well as a spiritual experience. The artist pays close attention to their personal thoughts on nature rather than the accuracy of the real life image they are painting.
In 1988 Shan Shui style was adapted into a water/ink animation by Tei Wei entitled Feelings from Mountain and Water. The highly regarded animation creates a beautiful ethereal atmosphere . The film eloquently moves the viewer through scenes of waterfalls, rivers, and hillsides. The only sounds that can be heard are natural elements along with traditional Chinese string instrument. Tei wei does an excellent job of making one feel as if they are able to enter a Shan Shui painting and move around in it. The animation is simple; seeming almost effortless, but that is what makes it so beautiful.



Ladislaw Starewicz & Today

In Ladislaw Starewicz's The Cameraman's Revenge (1911), a grasshopper seeks revenge on a beetle by filming the beetle's wrong doings and projecting them for others to see. The early stop-animation gives a glimpse at a world of bugs similar to the more recentPixar film A Bug's Life (1998). The two films are somewhat similar in that the bugs live in a somewhat human-like society. Although it is not clear if The Cameraman's Revenge inspired or helped in someway to the latter but one other more recentfilm might have been.
Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas
(1993), is extremely similar aesthetically
to Starewicz's The Devil's Ball. The dark imagery or nightmarish creatures
almost look like a past
version of Burton's
film. The amount of detail in The Devil's Ball (1933) is impressive. And once more the characters in both films are three-dimensional Perhaps Starewicz's vision stills runs through
animation today, inspiring
other creations to come.


Past & Present: Animation-Hallucination


There have been many advances and changes to animation, but somethings still remain in the art today. Emile Cohl's The Hasher's Delirium (1910), translated in one way or another, the hallucinations of Absinthe. Using abstract shapes and lines, the pictures seem to flow in and out of one another. Animation seems to be if not one of the best devices to translate the abstract and unknown, then one of the most interesting. With animation, the artist has complete control over manipulating and distorting the images (sequences). Unlike film, animation relies on drawing in which drawing itself is a abstraction of line.

Since the 1960's drugs seem to have become more and more apart of U.S. culture and within the culture there are cartoons (animation). Today one can catch artists trying to translate the abstractions perceived from altered states of mind still; Above is a clip from The Simpsons Ep.9 Season 8.


Yoji Kuri

Kuri began his career as a cartoonist. His work is artistically varied. In 1960 he started his own independent studio where he used a 35 mm animation camera. In 1961 Human Zoo won the bronze metal at the Venice Film Festival. Winning the bronze metal set of Kuri's career. In 1967 he launched the film The Room . The film s only 5 minutes long , it was shot frame by frame in an admixture of animated cels and cut-outs that was on color-stock. The room was geared towards the adult audience.Tableau One provides the film's titles, which appear within the room's space, Each tableau itself is distinctly marked by often bizarre transformations. Kuri continues his work today. Now he creates fashion flip-books, kinetic sculptures, paintings and drawings.


American Influence on Early Japanese Animation

In 1914, Emile Cohl's "Fantasmagorie" was screened in Japan. It was really the first animation people in Japan got to see. For this reason, it remained an inspiration to artists pioneering the genre.

The influence of American animation can also be traced in Japanese animation. As the Fleischer animation gained popularity in the USA during the 1930s, the Fleischer films were soon also introduced to the Japanese public.

Have a look at this early animation from 1933 by director Ikuo Oishi. The title "UGOKIE-KO-RI-NO-TATEHIKI" translates as "Fox and Raccoon Cheat Each Other." Notice the close similarity to characters like Bimbo and the rubber hose animation characteristic of many early Fleischer films.

-post by Erik

Momotaro's Child Soldiers

Momotaro's Sea Eagles's, a feature length propagandistic animation was intended to explain the events of Pearl Harbor to the Japanese youth of the 1940's. In posterity, the animation speaks to an intersection between child rights and warfare, an issue addressed in the United Nation's Millenium Development Goals. Momotaro's Sea Eagles sheds light on a historical instance of the involvement of children in warfare through propaganda. By modern definition, the rights of a child are violated by propagandistic education- every child has a right to free and fair education. Momotaro's Sea Eagles would have been villified by today's international community.

One aspect of Momotaro's Sea Eagles in particular that strikes an uncomfortable note is the childlike features and nature of the soldiers. Though anthropomorphic, the soldiers are distinctly featured to suggest their youth. They are energetic, playful and undisciplined, while maintaining a total dedication to their task. The juxtaposition of these aspects highlight an underlying desire of the Japanese army to have children identifying with the heroes of this animation, while instilling in them a "pornified" concept of warfare. It is sobering to realize that these are the same tactics employed today by leaders who militarize children.


Tengu, scourge of the skies… and people with protruding lumps on their faces

Painting of a winged Tengu, and a Buddhist Monk. Image was found on

The Tengu are an ancient spirit creature from Japanese, and Buddhist myth. They have taken on many forms, from flaming comets, to red faced bearded men with unusually large noses.  Originally, the Tengu were known as Tiangou, and were portrayed as fierce, canine-like creatures, which would fly across the sky like burning comets. They were said to produce a sound like thunder as they rode, and bring war wherever they landed. They would later evolve into birdmen, with canine-like faces, but instead of having muzzles they had beaks, and these beaks would later evolve into very large noses. These versions of the Tengu, would later inspire the first Japanese animated film, "The Old Man's Lump Removed" (瘤取り爺さん Kobu-tori Jiisan), which features both Tengu with wings and beaks, and Tengu with large noses. It is unclear however, as to how this evolution from flaming comets to birdmen came to be. One possibility is that the birdmen characteristic came from the Buddhists, who believed in a race of creatures called Garuda, which like the later Tengu, were humanoid creatures with wings, and beaks. But, unlike the Tengu of Japanese mythology, the Garuda was characterized as relatively placid creatures, which would only express aggressive behavior if provoked. But whatever the reason for this evolution in characteristics was, the legend of the Tengu has had a major impact on Asian culture, and continues to hold influence to this day. 


Takashi Murakami: Superflat

As a fan of japanese animation since middle school (when I was a horrible nerd, even more so than today), it's interesting to see modern anime versus its beginnings, as well as the impact it's had on both western culture and its own. That being said, it's especially fascinating seeing contemporary artist Takashi Murakami's commentary on these cultural phenomena, and more specifically the anime-derived genre of "Superflat".

It's difficult to approach the topic of Murakami's art, because he seeks to redefine what art really is in the eyes of western culture. His work both pays homage and scathingly mocks the brightly colored, highly sexualized and super deformed imagery that has become so iconic in Japanese animation and the various byproducts that flood the market. The superficial and extremely graphic style is certainly eye-catching and bold, and he's often praised as a pioneer of bringing down the wall between what is considered low art (animation, illustration and graphic design) and high art (painting, drawing, sculpting and other romantic pursuits).

Murakami is slowly becoming a household name, his work featured in gallery and museum of the highest caliber, and his Superflat campaign is sparking worthwhile discussion amongst artists and spectators alike-- why is animation "low art"? Who purported it as such, and why have these notions survived for so long? Can seemingly completely superficial and empty work be considered art, and can it even be deconstructed? Is it worth the effort?

This sort of work is extremely exciting to me. Speaking of which, a good friend of mine and fellow blogger Eric Shorey will be doing a panel at the upcoming convention, Anime Boston, about Murakami and the art of Superflat. He's an intensely talented writer and I look forward to the fabulous irony of a discussion of an art form that mocks the very subject that the convention celebrates.


Mar 15, 2011

Themes of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Hayao Miyazaki's began created Nausicaa in manga form in 1982. He finished the last chapter of the manga in 1994, spending his time in between working on Studio Ghibli films. In 1984, after reading the first few chapters of the manga, Miyazaki was asked if he wanted to make Nausicaa into a film. Miyazaki originally refused the offer. He then agreed, but only if he could direct the film.
Nausicaa is the story of a post- apocalyptic world that had been destroyed by humans. Several "tribes" of humans still live in small settlements scattered about. One of these world is the Valley of the Wind, where Princess Nausicaa lives. She is a young woman who is skilled with fighting as well as talking to the creatures that live in the valley. Part of the world is an area called the Toxic Jungle. Nausicaa, believes there may be answers to finding a way for humans and nature to communicate there. One day an airship crashes near the valley and a fight breaks out between several human groups. Nausicaa learns of a secret, that the Pijet kingdom is making a weapon they call the Giant Warrior. Nausicaa feels that she must help protect the world from an em-pending war, like the prophesy of the world says.
Miyazaki's film had strong environmentalist undertones, as well as a reference to Japan, post WWII. The world Nausicaa lives in has been ravaged and there is little clean water. These images evoke the thought of post war environmental issues. This is also made clear by the use of showing the type of devistation nuclear weaponry can cause. In Nausicaa, this is show with the giant warriors energy blast.
Another theme Miyazaki has been know to use and is present in Nausicaa is his view toward powerful, heroic female characters. Nausicaa is a great example of this. Nausicaa is a skilled fighter, which can me seen when she take revenge for her father's death, but is also a kind and giving character. She is seen making one of the worlds large insects calm by simply keeping calm herself and charming the creature.



Osamu Tezuka: Jumping

Osamu Tezuka's short animation, Jumping, is a wonderland of industrialized eye-candy. The palette of this animation is more sophisticated than many of the palettes that were existing in animation before this time in the sense that there was more variation in texture and detail with concern to mark, but also, the idea that color was being used not only to highlight space, but was a source that was used to create and define space. In Jumping we are taken through a city scape, and within this environment we are exposed to the compartmentalization of an industrialized environment. From the attention to detail, to the allusion to space, and the delicateness that is expressed in the juxtaposition between the business of the world below and the clarity of the the clouds and sky above, this urban landscape is at once interrupted by the bombastic and hellish visuals of bombings and war. In the banal and everyday landscape of the living this film reminds the viewer of the flux between the places we experience and how the experience is so easily altered and changed by traumatic events within the trajectory of history.

Tezuka (pictured above) was born in 1928, in Toyonoka, in Osaka, Japan. He is known as the "Godfather of Anime" and is known for Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and the Buddha series of manga--to name only a few achievements in his long and prolific career. Tezuka died in 1989.


Anime News Network

|| Post by: Stephanie Clark ||

Mar 12, 2011

Momotaro no Umiwashi

"Momotaro no Umiwashi" is Japanese for Momotaro's Sea Eagles. This film was created in 1942 as a propaganda film. It is rather disturbing because of the appearance of the pilots of the Japanese planes. they seem like they could be stuffed animals and yet they are climbing into fighter planes to wreak havoc. This film was not quite long enough to be called a feature film. However, it's sequel, Momotarō Umi no Shinpei is thought to be the first Japanese full length animated film. It is not the first Asian full length animated film. That was Princess Iron Fan, a Chinese production. Momotaro no Umiwashi was a film involving a character from Japanese folklore, Peach Boy and several creatures representing different races with the same goal: to attack Pearl Harbor. The film references actual footage of the Pearl Harbor attack. The fact that "cute" little creatures were used in the place of human pilots shows that this film was created to tell children the story of the attack. It is interesting to note that the film was produced with the Japanese Naval Ministry without regard to the protection of military secrets. Despite this, the Imperial Navy endorsed the film.

Post by Luke

Info from:

Image from:

Winsor McCay's Lusitania

Winsor McCay's The Sinking of the Lusitania was created because there was no footage of the disaster. It has it's desired effect, which was to portray the horror of the event to the public. As the author of the article I read pointed out, during the film there are many scenes which depict the whole ship instead of a section of it. This strategy informs the audience that this was no small fishing boat that the torpedoes devistated, but an enormous ocean liner. And the smooth slow sinking in the film really provides time for the situation to really hit home with the audience. The last thing that I would like to point out. That is the use of images of people who were on the ship. People who were famous that most people in the audience knew. People who many of us know today. This was a great way to evoke emotion from the audience.

Post by Luke

Info from:


Mar 10, 2011

American Cartooning In World War II: A Sociological Approach

Its widely accepted that the most notorious villains of human history were Adolf Hitler and his Nazi army. Through the lens of American wartime cartoons, the serious, deadly reality of Hitler's regime is reduced to one of discomfort and a differing ideology portrayed as "bad". The animations focus around the experiences of healthy, able-bodied, white, cis-gender, heteronormative individuals. While these people's experiences are certainly not to be denied, they were not the targets of the Nazi regime's witch hunt for the "unworthy". By omitting the experiences of every person not of the privileged class, American animators portraying life under the Nazi regime condone the violence against these groups. If you'll notice, Nazi cartoons are more likely to portray themselves as fighting against an "othered" enemy (Capitalists, Blacks, Jews) while American cartoons portraying them show only the experiences of white, able-bodied, heternormative, cis-gendered individuals.

The message here is striking: the persecution of Jews, blacks, LGBTQIA and the differently abled is acceptable by American thought, but an attack on the supposed "majority" is unacceptable.

Fritz und Fratz "Em Tode Entronnen" - Embedding Disabled, Click through for video


Cartoon Wars

During the Hight of World War II it was assumed everyone would "do their part". Including large animation studios. World War II was a battle on many different terrains. During the peak of the war varieties of media and arts were wagging war of a different aesthetic. Propaganda films were mass produced like weapons of a mental war. Disney, a prominent animation studio was being paid heavily to manufacture propaganda films in America.

Leni Riefenstahl was an artist and film maker employed by the Germans to create visually striking propaganda films.
It was very difficult to find pieces of expressive media that did not have some sort of overt heavy handed influence of the government. There was a lot of pressure to produce material that was pro"whatever side your on" due to the dangers of being out of sync in terms of opinion.

Kenzo Masaoka, animation director, received a great deal of negative criticism and contempt from Japanese military authorities, mainly due to the fact that it was one of the only films produced during the years of the war that was NOT intended to be a propaganda piece.
Yet upon further investigation, apparently Kenzo Masaoka did indeed create this piece in response to the war times he was surrounded, however not in support of his mother country. The spider its said was intended to represent the United States, and the allied bunch, the ladybug as the children and education system of Japan, and the flower as the old government and Japanese army.

tim (<>

Mar 9, 2011

Gremlins go to War

Fifinella was the character developed by Roald Dahl for Walt Disney Productions featured in The Gremlins, a children's book. Published in 1943, The Gremlins tells the story of gremlins who are protecting their forest lands. The main role of Fifinella is to serve as a gremlin who prevents malfunctions in air combat that supposedly are caused by male gremlins who sabotage planes in order to protect the aforementioned forest lands. In addition, this character became associated with the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and more specifically with the Women's Auxilary Ferrying Squadron.

What I found most interesting was how seriously this character and the male counterparts were used as a way of both building a sense of nationalism and morale, but were also used as a display of camaraderie among the armed forces. In addition, not only were the G.I.'s branded with this character via patches and decorations, but also were the planes that they flew.



U.S. Army

|| Post by: Stephanie Clark ||

Political Correctness--what's that?

"Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs"--This war-time animation from 1943 directed by Bob Clampett is truly an internet gem. There's hardly an animated short film on the internet that is as racist as this one, which is also why UPA added it to its notorious list of offensive shorts banned from being broadcast, the Censored Eleven (1968).

Without meaning to defend this cartoon's potentially offensive content, I think it's important to acknowledge the context in which films of this sort were produced. A large number of animated shorts you'll find from this era were highly propagandistic and heavily relied on stereotypes to create characters. It's not that these animations tried to vilify a certain group of people; they simply employed what must have been the cinematic vocabulary of this time. Of course, to many of us who have grown accustomed to this notion of political correctness, these cartoons leave us flabbergasted.

For some reason, I can't help but laugh at some of the things that come up in this cartoon. It really is hilarious, although I am probably not laughing at the same jokes Clampett had intended. With cartoons of this extremity, it really makes no sense to look at them without some sense of humor.

Anyway, I will say no more. Have a look and judge for yourself:

--post by Erik

Tanks, Torpedos & Bomber-jackets: WAR & POP-CULTURE

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Mickey's "gang" was the answer. During WWII, just like any war, there was mass amount of propaganda flickering across the globe; On one side one sees "purity" trying to triumph over the "weak" and on the other Mickey and the gang confronting the World's worst nightmare.
The Disney characters were a main motivator for Americans to get in the war, but it did not stop there. Shortly following the propaganda explosion, a request from a Naval Squadron in Floyd Bennett Field was made to Disney for a Military logo. The idea blew up and at the end of the war the number reached to about 1,200 emblems. These were made for American troops as well as allied. The characters consisted of almost every character from Disney excluding Mickey, who stayed home for the defense. One of the most popular characters for the emblems was Donald Duck. Due to his aggressive attitude and short-fuse temper it is no wonder why he was chosen so many times. Some other characters that made the list, but were created exclusively
for the war were Seabee and the Flying Tigers.
Disney was a huge significance to Americans and people world-wide during WWII and it was due to Disney himself feeling obligated to
something for the American cause.


Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah !!!!!!

Along with the WWII propaganda that Disney created in their cartoons, They also created a film called "Song of the South" (1946). Produced by the man himself , Walt Disney. The film is based on characters named Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit and his friends. In this film the famous song was Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah , which is still played in Walt Disney World/Land and also local convenience stores like Walgreens. "Song of The South" inspired the ride splash mountain that has remained at Disney Parks for decades. The film was never released in The United States because the Disney executives believed it was racist towards black people, although you can now view some portions in special edition Disney films.

-Arianna Q.

Disney during World War II

During World War II the pressure for the allied forces to fight off the axis powers was at its height. But just as vital as it was to fend off the enemy, the military was also under extreme pressure to gain support from the people to continue the war. We all know of the bogus “Duck and Cover” campaign the military used during the 50’s to make people feel protected under the circumstances of any eventuality (despite that if a nuclear weapon is dropped, anything within a quarter of a mile of ground zero of the explosion would be completely vaporized, making “ducking and covering” a useless gesture). But the military wasn’t spreading propaganda alone, many cartoonists, writers, and animators were hired by the military to create anti-Nazi propaganda to influence the people to continue this fight against the enemy.

Walt Disney’s contribution began after the release of Fantasia, and the studio began to face bankruptcy. The military offered a contract to Disney for 32 short propaganda films for $4,500 each, considering Disney’s financial status, he took the job, and began producing films one after another. One example would be “Der Fuehrer’s Face”, which was released on January 1st 1943, featuring Donald Duck. The film took place in a stylized version of Nazi Germany, where everything looked like a swastika, and where everything you would do and think would be determined entirely by the fuehrer, and the needs of the military. Throughout the cartoon Donald Duck is forced to salute Hitler, march with an oom-pah band composed of Mussolini, Hirohito, Goring, and Goebbels while saluting Hitler, and work in a factory, screwing noses onto warheads – all the while saluting Hitler. In the end, Donald loses his sanity and wakes up, relieved to find himself home in America, and that his whole ordeal was only a nightmare.

After it’s release, the cartoon won the 1943 Academy Award for Animated Short Film, and was to become the first Donald Duck Cartoon to win an Oscar. Of course this film was not entirely directed by Walt Disney, American animator Jack Kinney took part in the directing as well. But the next film to be released 14 days later was entirely directed by Disney. This next film was called “Education for Death, Making of the Nazi”, and was based on a book written by Gregor Zeimer with the same name. The cartoon showed the life of a little German boy named Hans, and his slow development into a Nazi soldier. References to things described in the book are used throughout the film, for example when Hans is at school, being taught how only the strong survive and how there is no room in this world for the weak. This scene is based on a chapter in the book. The German youth are taken on a camping trip chaperoned by a Nazi storm trooper, who educates the children that it is there duty to preserve the “purity of the human race” and that all those who oppose them will be destroyed. Though this, and other films are rarely shown today, they can still be found on certain Walt Disney DVDs, for example “Walt Disney Treasures: on the front lines”.   


image is a clip from "Der Fuehrer's Face", and was downloaded from Wikipedia

Business American = Not Evil.

A lot of what was watched in History of Animation last week can be compartmentalized by placing it in context of the times. I can understand that during war times and pre-civil rights people thought and acted differently to their fellow humans.. I hope that most people today do not condone the use of stereotypes to create antagonists, otherness, or like Larry the Cable Guy comedy. The use of stereotypes and accented speech to create a difference between hero and villain is still in use. Disney took advantage of it in their 1992 hit Aladdin where the main protagonists spoke business American and any evil-doer spoke with an accent, while Disney might have become more attuned to this to prevent other unsavory legal attention, other major motion pictures still use accented speech in similar manners. Like the Viceroy and Jar-Jar in the recent prequels of Star Wars. Even though as a nation we have move forward since the Japanese interment camps and the civil rights movement. It is clear that there are still people in media making decisions to use sound to separate how non-business American speakers are good and ethnicity is less desirable.