The music video has evolved vastly over the past decade, and in the Internet age, it seems as if every song is accompanied by a visual counterpart, animated or otherwise. The mass of videos being produced today has paved the way for “Spectacle: The Music Video”, which is, as far as I know, the first major museum show about the art of the music video. The curators are Meg Grey Wells and Jonathan Wells, who created RESFest and currently runs Flux.
Although it has had an enormous influence on pop culture, music, cinema, fashion and advertising–music video as an art form has yet to receive consideration in a museum context. Spectacle changes all that. This is the first time a contemporary art museum has examined the music video format through a diverse exhibition–employing immersive environments, photography, video screenings, objects and interactive installations.
Spectacle features important examples from music video history, from the early pioneers and MTV masters who expertly used the medium to define their public identities, like Devo, Beastie Boys, Michael Jackson and Madonna, to artists like OK Go and Lady Gaga who follow in their footsteps today.
Spectacle also reveals the important contributions music video has made across genres. For example, many new filmmaking techniques prevalent today were first tested in music videos. And some of today’s most innovative cinematic figures–David Fincher, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek and others–developed their signature style through experimentation with music videos.
The exhibition presents the changing landscape of the art of music video, highlighting the genre’s place at the forefront of creative technology, and its role in pushing the boundaries of creative production. With innovation and exploration as hallmarks–from the A-Ha ‘Take on Me’ video, to Chris Milk, Radiohead and others introducing new forms of interactivity and viewer participation–it is apparent that music video as an art form is constantly being redefined.
The Wall Street Journalreported yesterday that, according to a study by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers plan to hire 8.5% more interns this year. This data is based on a poll of 280 companies, “most of them large firms that recruit on campuses, between November and January.” While American companies plan to hire more than 40,000 interns this year, the projected average intern wage will fall to $16.20, from $16.70 last year.
I can’t let Black History Month pass without making mention of the fantastic Facebook gallery called African-American Animators–Past & Present. It’s disheartening to think that for the first fifty years of American animation history, there were no black animation artists. Frank Braxton broke the color barrier in the mid-1950s, and animation (and America as a whole) has changed much since then. Now, we have this wonderful tribute to the diversity and talent of the black animators who work in our industry, many of whom I’m proud to call friends, others who I’ve featured in my ‘zine Animation Blast (Ed Bell, Phil Stapleton, Milton Knight), and even one of my animation teachers (Lenord Robinson).
“Realigning My Thoughts on Jasper Johns” is an art project by Baltimore-based JK Keller that digitally reprocesses the animation from The Simpsons episode “Mom and Pop Art” into a glitchy, bright hot mess. Keller explained his process:
I ripped all the frames, then used software to turn the ripped images into vectors. Then I processed the files through Illustrator using the default Alignment & Distribution tools (23 different combinations). The resulting files were then brought back together for the 23 final videos.
With the audio, I used a similar process, making a spectrogram image of the audio from each cut in the episode. Then I applied a variety of processes to the image to mimic the alignment/distribution used. Then took the resulting image and turned it back into audio.
The project is intended to be shown as an installation of a 9 screen grid. Viewers would be able to adjust dials and switches to adjust volumes & video sources to create their own juxtapositions of the 23 videos.
Interested in the incorrect use of default software tools and how they can be used to generate new forms, and the absurdity that results between default digital manipulation and purposeful manual influence.
The results of Keller’s experiment are visually mesmerizing. The introductory video is below followed by the rest of the project on this YouTube playlist.
What kind of books might an animation artist have kept on their bookshelf sixty years ago? They certainly wouldn’t have owned many animation books. In the 1950s, there was no Illusion of Life or Animator’s Survival Kit, and the entire number of books published about animation could be counted on one hand. Inspiration for the classic animation artist lay beyond the world of cartoons and animated film.
I was reminded of this when I found a photo of Jules Engel, a background painter who started at Disney prior to joining the Modernist studio United Productions of America (UPA). The shot below was taken at UPA circa 1954-’55. Engel later made his own independent shorts and created the CalArts Experimental Animation program, which he ran until his death in 2003.
After examining the image (and a similar photo taken from a slightly different angle), I was able to identify many of the books on Engel’s shelf. (Click HERE for a larger view of the image.) Engel’s books span the spectrum of visual arts from photography to painting to dance and theater. His collection confirms much of what we already know about the artists who worked at UPA, and their commitment to exploring the possibilities of the animation medium. Far from working in a vacuum, they were fully aware of the latest trends and ideas in the contemporary art world.
Below is an inventory of the books that are identifiable in the photo of Engel’s bookshelf. I’ve tried to include the covers of the specific editions that Engel owned:
British Circus Life by Lady Eleanor Smith and John Hinde
If you’re in San Francisco, you’ll want to head to the Asian Art Museum sometime before April 22 to catch “Deities, Demons and Dudes with ‘Staches: Indian Avatars by Sanjay Patel.” The one-man show by Sanjay Patel, who works by day at Pixar, is an extension of his illustrated book projects that explore Hindu religion and iconography through a contemporary lens–The Little Book of Hindu Deities and Ramayana: Divine Loophole. The photos I’ve seen of the show online–wildly colorful large-scale murals spanning entire walls of the musuem–are sufficiently impressive. If you’ve seen the show in person, share your thoughts about it.
Fox Business’s Lou Dobbs claims that President Obama’s “liberal friends in Hollywood” are “targeting a younger demographic using animated movies to sell their agenda to children.” He cites Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty and Illumination Entertainment’s upcoming The Lorax as evidence of this indoctrination. One of Dobbs’s guests claims that these films are creating a generation of Occutoddlers, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement which these films allegedly promote.
Of course, I wouldn’t put it past Fox that they’d try to stick it to Chris Meledandri, who runs Illumination and is a competitor of Fox in the animation market. After all, Meledandri used to run 20th Century Fox Animation and oversaw the earlier Dr. Seuss animated adaptation, Horton Hears a Who!, which was distributed by Fox.
Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty opened in the US with $6.4 million last weekend, and a total of $8.7 million over the four-day holiday period. The gross tops the previous high for a Ghibli film premiere in the US, Ponyo, which opened with $3.6 million in 2009.
Arrietty was distributed by Disney, whose last hand-drawn animation release was Winnie the Pooh. That film’s opening weekend take was slightly greater–$7.9 million–but it also opened in nearly 900 more theaters than Arrietty (2,405 theaters for Pooh versus 1,522 theaters for Arrietty).
Arrietty may not be a box office smash smash, but it’s a respectable showing for a stateside anime release and proves that there is a market for mid-sized theatrical runs of unconventional animated fare. Before it’s all over, Arrietty will likely end up as the third-highest grossing anime feature of all time in the US, behind only Pokemon: The First Movie and Pokemon: The Movie 2000.
In recent months, he and his wife Betty have experienced countless calamities including a fire that destroyed their home in 2010. Now, Betty has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and is facing quadruple bypass surgery and has lost sight in her left eye due to glaucoma. Unable to find steady industry work (but still actively searching), Vaughns was forced to file for an early retirement so he could pay his wife’s medical bills. The whole sad situation is spelled out on detail on their blog. It would be great if the animation community stepped up to the plate and lent a hand.
Faces by Alexander Gellner (Germany): “This is an abandoned project and study, pretty much in preparation for my One Minute Puberty piece…I want to develop this approach further at some point. For now, it’s a nice study and tribute to a certain michael jackson video. The “John Jay Marathon” tune was made by beatbox legend Mando.”
I was digging around for some UPA photos the other day when I stumbled onto this photo that I’d labeled “Tee Hee and visitors.” Tee Hee is, of course, the gentleman on the right–a sequence director on Pinocchio and the “Dance of the Hours” segment in Fantasia, before moving over to UPA where he worked with director Bobe Cannon on shorts like Gerald McBoing Boing, Fudget’s Budget and The Jaywalker. When I looked at this photo again though, I thought, “Wait a second…these aren’t any ordinary visitors…they’re the legendary husband-and-wife design team of Charles and Ray Eames!” At least I’m fairly certain they are. If anybody can confirm this, please do.
The cross-pollination between creative disciplines was an essential ingredient of the “cartoon modern” era. I wrote a little bit about Charles and Ray Eames and their relationship to animation on the Cartoon Modern blog. The story goes that Charles Eames was so impressed after he visited the UPA studio that he bought stock in the company. The Eames later created some animated projects and hired animation artists like John Whitney, Dolores Cannata, Ed Levitt and Chris Jenkyns. Here’s a film they produced in 1958 called The Expanding Airport:
BREWMASTERS NOTE: This week Cartoon Brew takes a closer look at the five Academy Award nominated animated shorts. Each day at 10am EST/7am PST we will post an exclusive interview with the director(s) of one of the films. Today, we discuss Studio AKA’s A Morning Stroll with its writer/director Grant Orchard:
Amid Amidi: At Pixar, when artists pitch their short film ideas to John Lasseter, if Lasseter really likes the idea, he hugs you at the end of the presentation. Did you get any hugs at Studio AKA when you pitched A Morning Stroll, and if so, who hugged you?
Grant Orchard: Not really, some curious questions and then an — ‘OK, we trust you, give it a go’. I bet you think we’re all very Downtown Abbey over here. All arch and stiff, but no, it’s all free hugs and love man. In fact it sounds like Mr. Lasseter is holding back a little, he should share it around a bit more.
The commercial directing team of Dan & Jason has been developing Office Buddies over the past few years at the New York commercial house Hornet. The earlier episodes, including the funny “Stapler Face Off”, have screened at festivals like SXSW and Platform.
BREWMASTERS NOTE: This week Cartoon Brew takes a closer look at the five Academy Award nominated animated shorts. Each day at 10am EST/7am PST we will post an exclusive interview with the director(s) of one of the films. Today, we discuss the NFB’s Sunday with its writer/director Patrick Doyon:
An Oscar nomination is the ultimate hard-won honor for a short filmmaker. Thirty-two-old Canadian filmmaker Patrick Doyon achieved the Oscar nod with his first professional film. His short Sunday is as quiet and reflective as the day of the week its named after. Told through a young boy’s point of view, the film celebrates the triumph of imagination over the mundane routine of childhood.
The events that take places in this quaintly drawn world are accompanied by a feeling of foreboding. “Death is very present throughout the film,” Doyon says. “The three crows are never very far.” The apprehension about the future–signified by a large factory with a “for sale” sign on it–is in part rooted in Doyon’s childhood memories growing up in the Quebec town of Desbiens. “As young as I can remember, the factory was always closed. Maybe just a few times, it was functioning, but only for a short period of time,” Doyon says.
Watch a making-of documentary about Sunday.
Doyon acknowledges that a lot of the film is autobiographical–going to church with his parents, visiting his grandparents–but he took liberties with the animation. For example, though he lived near a railroad and his house vibrated with each passing train, his home didn’t jump and bounce off its foundation as the houses do in Sunday. “This is the pleasure of animation: not trying to recreate reality,” he says. Continue reading →