Homage or Rip-off?

“Homage or Rip-off” should be a new category on Cartoon Brew. Certainly we have enough material. In the comments of the Lee Lennox’s “Girl and the Sea” music video, which was a homage/ripoff of Yuri Norstein’s work, Brew reader Doug posted a link to this new commercial for GE. The commercial is more than a little inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s short film Jumping (1984), and unlike Lennox’s video, it doesn’t build on the original concept or offer any new perspective on the material. The commercial is part of GE’s fittingly ironic campaign called “Imagination at Work.”

Below is Tezuka’s original (and much more creatively executed) short Jumping.


  • Chris Robinson

    It would be a good category. I can tell you that I see many blatant rip offs each year in the submissions pile to Ottawa. it could be that they are well-intentioned homages that fall short…but boy… it’s a fine line. The animation directors cited frequently are: Priit Parn, Paul Driessen, Raimund Krumme, Jonas Odell, and of course, any number of Disney/Warner Bros/Pixar work.

    It’s usually by students so it’s understandable.

  • http://doubleben.blogspot.com/ Emmett Goodman

    I think an “homage or rip-off” category is an excellent idea. There are way too many of those out there in the commercial world. I don’t know about independent (and I don’t know what Chris Robinson sees for the Ottawa Festival as mentioned above).

    However, we may just be pointing out that the ideas are not original. The Frog commercial, for example, was probably made by someone who did not know of Tezuka’s short film. So technically, nobody is guilty.

    But still, in the world of commercial animation, ideas appear to be sorely re-hashed from previous works.

  • http://www.matt-clark.co.uk Matt

    Well, Tezuka’s is certainly more enjoyable to watch that’s for sure.

    I’m not sure this ad fits into either ‘homage’ or ‘rip off’ categories, as I think it could have been made without ever seeing Tezuka’s film. Perhaps we need ‘homage’, ‘rip off’ and ‘coincedence’ …

    A good site for this sort of thing is:
    http://www.youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com/

    I recently had some work of my own on there, story of which is here:
    http://www.matt-clark.co.uk/pic.php?o=52

  • Paul

    I sincerely doubt that the GE spot is an intentional swipe of Tezuka. His film is over 20 years old and not widely known outside of animation fans. The landing on the wing of the plane is to highlight the engine GE makes, so it’s not at all surprising that it’s in the spot.

    There is enough obvious derivative work out there, as Chris pointed out, without having to go looking for swipes that probably are just coincidence. After all, having something jump high and far is not exactly an original idea – the Hulk did it long before Tezuka made his short. Maybe he should be called out for swiping the idea from Stan Lee. See how silly this gets?

  • http://www.jamesbending.co.uk Jim

    I think you should also consider that they may of just come up with an idea thats already done without realising it. Perhaps they were ignorant of this animation?

    Although the bit where the frog jumps on the plane is relatively similar to the original aswell, so perhaps it is doubtful it was an innocent mistake.

    Just playing devil’s advocate.

  • MA

    Tezuka’s film is well known. It has played at festivals and been widely distributed on video and film for years. You don’t have to be an animation fan to have seen it (but I’m sure the animators who made this commercial have been exposed to a lot of animation anyway). I don’t think it’s safe to speculate that the GE people “probably” didn’t know Tezuka’s work.

    Thanks for pointing out the ad.

  • Paul

    MA, the animators who work on a spot are not the ones who come up with the idea or pitch the spot to the client. They’re hired hands who create the footage according to the agency’s specifications. In that context, that they may have seen it is irrelevant.

    Do I need to point out the irony of an animation fan claiming that you don’t have to be an animation fan to know about the film?

    Maybe the commercial was inspired by the short. I said I sincerely doubt it, and still do. But that’s a far cry from the assumption that it was a definite lift, which is what this post asserts.

  • Jeff G.

    Regardless of whether the GE spot is derivative – is no one else surprised by the very strange animation right at the beginning? It’s certainly not how I would animate a jumping movement. In fact it’s like the fairings in and out of the movements are inverted.

  • http://www.tarofish.com Sean Scott

    I think it’s a decent idea. I see it happen so often (you had a Family Guy link a while back that fits in here perfectly). But, it might be a good idea to contact someone involved before posting. It’s easy to point fingers. Although this one is a pretty clear “borrow”, sometimes similarities just happen. I wanted to actually animate one of my dreams when I was younger and it was fairly close to this idea. It’s smart to do a little research before you start working…

  • Billy Batz

    steal from the best.

  • Inkan1969

    For this category I nominate the Goldfish ads. What’s with their aping the Pixar look?

  • http://gagaman.blogspot.com GagaMan

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had loads of dreams that involved jumping real high just like in that Tezuka short, and I’m talking about long before I saw a while ago. Just an observation.

  • Conglio

    I see the commercial and the short as riffs on a common idea (a POV perspective of something jumping). I’d expect that many people could come up with this concept on their own. To call it a ripoff, one would have to know how the idea sprang up and the producer’s intentions. It could have been just a coincidence. Artistic decency, though, would give some kind of credit to the inspiration of the idea. I play in a blues band and we play the same 12 bars of chords, all of them interesting and fun. Good performers will mention the writer or originator of the song.

    Nonetheless, the commercial was a horrible execution. The movement was like a bad carnival ride. It was unsteady, un-lifelike and filled with nauseating landscape panning. Since it’s a corporation using an idea from a single superior creative talent, I think they should pay the short animator (or at least send him a free toaster).

  • http://www.lakupo.com/grblitz ManekiNeko

    Yeah, but the movement in the Tezuka cartoon short wasn’t perfect either. It’s easy to lionize a talented and long-dead cartoonist, but the truth was that this clip, imaginative though it may be, was not seamless. The frame rate was off and the speeds of the jumps and falls seemed inconsistent, although to be fair Tezuka’s animators had it a lot tougher than the CGI artists who did the advertisement for GE.

    So, did anyone else notice R2D2 and CP3O in the window of that giant skyscraper? It flashes by pretty quickly but I caught it right away. What can I say? I’m a grade A certified nerd!

  • robert

    Don’t forget the music video Green Day did that was a homage/rip off of the brilliant Oscar winner, “Tango”.

    Hertzfeldt seems to be another target that “advertising geniuses” are ripping off left and right lately. “College kids love this squiggly stuff and it looks easy to draw, too!”

  • http://dtoons-pro.com Alex Dudley

    I’ve noticed and I’ve been told (from a film teacher no less), that coming up with new ideas is nearly impossible, because someone else has probably thought of it already. That’s why people are sometimes encourage to improve on an old idea.

    And even though I’m a fan of Tezuka’s work, GE does it better because you can almost feel the character jumping and landing compared to Tezuka’s.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    - So, did anyone else notice R2D2 and CP3O in the window of that giant skyscraper? It flashes by pretty quickly but I caught it right away. What can I say? I’m a grade A certified nerd!

    I did a decade ago! Oddly, this and “Broken Down Film” where the first things from Tezuka I managed to see thanks to a video I had to find at a public library booksale in ’95 that had both together, though they were taken from rather fair-quality transfers from possible 16mm prints, but it used to impressed the heck out of me watching Jumping over and over and finding those little hidden things within the animation. From what I’ve read someplace, it took Tezuka & Co. three years to produce this film, so there was a lot of attention to detail over how to animate the six minute piece the way they did it, they couldn’t cut too many corners either besides perhaps a few instances where they might do a cel pan or something gets in the way that might change the scene a little, but it’s nearly consistant and quite unique in an era when computer-generated animation was starting to pick up steam. I still love the clever ending that I hate to spoil here for anyone who might not’ve seen it yet, but it was just cute!

    As what Alex Dudley said too, I think it’s hard to come up with anything original if it’s already been done nowadays. I still didn’t personally care for the GE ad though, though I can see how they’d have to cram everything into less-than-a-minute’s worth of time the way they did to show off the different places and things made through GE. Of course I like to say it breaks the POV eventually at the end to show us who was doing the jumping after all.

    Of course, POV’s in animation has been done many times before. We’ve already covered “The Fly” earlier here, but one I often admired (though in a different way) is Bill Plympton’s “One of Those Days”.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL8SrnQ8neM

    Perhaps we need another homage/rip-off ad like the one for Honda that got the producers of “Der Lauf Der Dinge” all ticked off to sue over!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9o9Sr_vw5I

  • http://demianjohnston.blogspot.com Demian

    i haven’t seen that film in years and years… man i love technology. nothing is ever forgotten now.

  • Doug Vitarelli

    I just remembered “Powers of 10″ by Charles and Ray Eames. You could have a whole book about how many times that’s been ripped off.

  • Paul

    Robert, I’m more inclined to believe that both of your examples are more obvious instances of borrowing/homage/rip-off (depending on one’s level of cynicism) than this ad is. They are more narrowly defined and/or more current than Tezuka’s admittedly amazing work. The concept of jumping really, really high isn’t unique in and of itself. Herzfeldt’s work is more contemporary, and “Tango” is a unique piece.

  • Paul B

    I like the idea of a new category. Maybe if I wasn’t so jaded on games I would have found Tezuka’s piece more interesting — but for me it felt like I was watching someone else play a boring video game. I prefered the smack-bam jump-to-the-point GE spot, and felt it worked well for that it was trying to do.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    - I like the idea of a new category. Maybe if I wasn’t so jaded on games I would have found Tezuka’s piece more interesting — but for me it felt like I was watching someone else play a boring video game. I prefered the smack-bam jump-to-the-point GE spot, and felt it worked well for that it was trying to do.

    I often blame the first-person shooter games for giving us such a more modern format to relate to in watching this film. I often look to “Jumping” as being that sort of weird dream we might’ve had once in our lives of doing something incredible or beyond our capabilities (like flying).

  • vzky

    Why are big companies suddenly plagiarizing animated short films? First Little Man, then those Pop-Tart commercials copying someone mentioned above, now this. What’s next, Hasbro releasing a Scrabble ad featuring a dysfunctional couple in the midst of the apocalypse?

  • http://www.channelfrederator.com Fred Seibert

    Look Amid, I can understand the desire to be a critic and to point out inequities. But it seems to me your continuing criticism is misplaced.

    Please don’t humiliate artists and filmmakers. If someone is bereft of ideas it will quickly show and they’ll disappear. I know I know, if they’re a good enough thief they’ll prosper, but generally very few people are all that smart.

    Maybe it’s because I started as a producer of jazz records, where it’s common enough for musical history to be passed on through an almost oral history equivilent: quotes, inspirations, homage, and downright appropropriation. In recent history it’s called sampling. It’s the way art forms morph forward.

    I don’t really want to get into an argument with you here (yes, I know that in music, often composers are credited; but rarely players who originate melodic lines), only to point out that jamming up the artists in our medium helps no one in particular. They’re our treasure, no matter what you might think of their artistic sourcing.