AN EMPIRE OF ONE

If you don't think the world's weird, you're not paying attention.

Posts Tagged ‘animation

Happy Birthday, Ray Harryhausen!

I’ve been a fan of Ray Harryhausen, who turned ninety-two today, ever since my Dad bought the 8mm Columbia Pictures Home Movie version of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. One day, returning home from second grade, I was met at the bus stop by my Dad who said he had a surprise for me. It was the first reel of Sinbad, the one with the Cyclops. Dad couldn’t afford to buy all five reels of the film at once, so we saw the film one reel a month.

It was an odd way to watch a film. Even the classic cliffhanger serials were shown one chapter a week. Furthermore, this was a digest version which included only about two thirds of the film; B&W instead of the original’s color; silent with titles instead of sound; and, since our projector only ran at 18 fps rather than 24 fps, everything appeared to move in slow motion.

None of this mattered! I was spellbound.

Years later I met Harryhausen at a signing at Laser Blazer in Los Angeles. When he saw the box for Sinbad he spoke of the problems with that version. I told him that none of that mattered to a seven year old. Despite the lack of sound, the lack of color, and the lack of proper projection speed, his magic came through.

Long live Harryhausen!

A clean version of the signature above

Sometime in the near future I hope to post the 8mm version of the scene above.

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Written by pronountrouble2

June 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Animated Films: “Kick Me” by Robert Swarthe

“Kick Me,” by Robert Swarthe, is an animated film made by drawing directly on celluloid. Most such films, as exemplified by Norman McLaren, are usually mostly abstract works, but this is a comedy with a central character.

“Kick Me” was apparently Swarthe’s only animated film or personal work, after which he has credits on a few Hollywood type films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, his IMDB credits end in 1983, with Coppola’s The Outsiders, although he makes an appearance in a 2001 released doc on the making of Close Encounters. What happened to him?

Written by pronountrouble2

January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

The Cartoon Collector’s Companion

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The Cartoon Collector’s Companion is a periodically revised, corrected, updated version of The Animated Film Collector’s Companion.

It is a source for animated films on VHS, LD, and DVD, but the focus of updates is on pre-internet information that didn’t make it into the first edition. Corrections. Missed releases. Especially foreign releases. Why? Because information about releases since the book was published can be easily googled.

You can view it here.

Written by pronountrouble2

October 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

Prometheus

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Written by pronountrouble2

August 18, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Terry Gilliam: Animations of Mortality

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Before Terry Gilliam became the Terry Gilliam we all know and love, the director of Brazil, Time Bandits, etc., he did animation for the British TV show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Below is a how-to video that he did while Monty Python was in production. Besides demonstrating his technique, this film  includes several examples of his animation for the show (including a few right at the start).

Gilliam also did a couple of animated shorts independent of Monty Python. Here’s one:

It’s great stuff. Doesn’t seeing this make you wish that Gilliam had not abandoned animation? Yes, it’s true he brought his animation sensibility to the live-action films, but his imagination never had as much freedom to roam in the live-action world as it did in the world of animation. Just think of the trouble he’s had with money men, and the many projects that have remained unproduced. Think of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote which is still unfinished. Think of the trouble he had just getting Brazil released to the public. Would he have had this much trouble had he stuck by animation?

In 1979, Gilliam published Animations of Mortality, a book about his animation technique. At least it’s supposedly about animation. Anyone who bought this book thinking that they would learn how to animate must have experienced extreme buyer’s remorse.

Before he worked with the Pythons, Gilliam worked for Harvey Kurtzman, the original editor of Mad Magazine. Am I wrong to detect Kurtzman’s influence in these pages?

Here’s some pre-Brazil duct work

Gilliam reveals the source of the famous Monty Python giant foot
The old man at the top also appears in the How To video above

This is just one of several pages of Gilliam sketches in the book

BONUS. Gilliam’s spot on in this video clip in which he explains why Kubrick is a great filmmaker, but Spielberg (and by implication, most Hollywood filmmakers) are not. He only needs a few seconds to do it.

Written by pronountrouble2

August 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Short Films: Charade: With Which Player Do You Identify?

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(Note: a Youtube video should appear above.)

Charade (1984), made by John Minnis, won an Academy Award in 1985. Apparently it’s the only short film Minnis has made.

Which of the two players do you identify with?

Written by pronountrouble2

August 3, 2011 at 9:11 am

Animated Contradictions

In 1999 I wrote a revised edition of my book, The Animated Film Collector’s Guide. (Read more about it here.) One of the new features added to that revised edition were short observations about some animated features. Here are a few of those observations in revised form:

1. Toy Story. The toys go into “just a toy” mode whenever a human enters the room. But Buzz thinks he is real, not a toy, so why does he act like the other toys? Why does Buzz pretend to be inanimate when a human enters the room if he does not think he is a toy? Shouldn’t the other toys have to restrain him?

2. Antz. This is based on the 1925 German film Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang. In that film, the higher ups plot to replace the workers with robots, the idea being that robots will be more docile than humans. To do this they use a robot who attempts to foment a rebellion which would provide an excuse to wipe out the workers. In Antz, the plot is simply to wipe out the workers. Who is going to do the work when the workers are gone? Did I miss something? Or did whoever thought this up completely misunderstand Lang’s film? (According to Wikipedia, in the US Metropolis had entered the public domain in 1953, but was restored to copyright in 1998, the year Antz was released, where it will remain until January 1, 2023, unless, of course, they change the copyright law again.)

3. A Bug’s Life. This film is based on The Magnificent Seven (which, of course, was based on Seven Samurai). Are we supposed to recognize the similarity to that film? Is it a parody like Rango, or simply a ripoff in the vein of a Tarantino film? This question applies to many Pixar films. Are we supposed to recognize Finding Nemo as Pinocchio told from the point of view of Geppetto? Is Cars a parody of Doc Hollywood? Is The Incredibles a Fantastic Four parody? Is this sequence from Monsters Inc. an homage to or a ripoff of Feed the Kitty?:

Sulley, in Monsters Inc., is afraid to look because he thinks the little girl is in the trash compactor

Marc Anthony, in Feed the Kitty, is afraid to look because he thinks his kitty is being turned into a cookie

Jack Skellington, as Santa, is shot from the sky and lands on a cemetery sculpture

Of course, Pixar is not the only one. For example, is Disney’s The Lion King a ripoff of or homage to Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba, the White Lion? (With Hamlet and Henry IV Part 1 added to the mix.) Is Dreamwork’s The Road to El Dorado a ripoff or homage to the Hope/Crosby Road to… series, and its plot a ripoff/homage of The Man Who Would be King?

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas. The plot has Jack Skellington attempting to be Santa Claus and failing miserably. Moral? Be yourself. But doesn’t this contradict the spirit of Halloween? Isn’t Halloween about putting on a costume and pretending that you are someone else? Isn’t Halloween Town all about Halloween? Of course. But what kind of Halloween Town is it that puts the kibosh on cosplay?

Written by pronountrouble2

May 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm