Apr 6, 2011

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.


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