It looks like the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE’s Mick LaSalle isn’t alone when it comes to film critics who make uninformed sweeping generalizations about the animation art form. Take for example this recent comment (found on Shannon Tindle’s blog) by INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO host James Lipton regarding the use of rotoscope in A SCANNER DARKLY:
In theory, if you rotoscope a really good performance by a really good actor, it ought to be much more effective than an animated performance that’s been drawn or computer generated to match a voice.”
Lipton’s comment reveals a very obvious bias: he believes that an animator is incapable of creating a performance that can compete with a live-action performance. Ironically, Lipton asserts that the only way to achieve a great performance in animation is to have it performed by a live-action actor and then rotoscoped, or in other words, remove the animator as the person who gives life to the character. Comments like Lipton’s and LaSalle’s only serve to illustrate the uphill battle that the art form still faces; with so many stellar examples of animation created over the years, there are still plenty of critics out there who maintain their petty prejudices about the art and remain largely oblivious to animation’s unique and powerful qualities as a communication medium.
UPDATE: Animator Kevan Shorey offers his thoughts on Lipton’s quote and the frustation of working in a medium that is so poorly understood by the mainstream.
Tomorrow evening, July 28, illustrator/toy designer James Jarvis will be having an art show/book signing at Meltdown Comics (7522 Sunset Blvd., LA, CA 90046) from 6-10pm. On display will be numerous pages of development and prepatory drawings (example below) from his recent book project VORTIGERN’S MACHINE AND THE GREAT SAGE OF WISDOM. Reportedly, there’s interest right now in transferring Jarvis’s work to animation. His drawings and toys definitely lend themselves to CG design, and I can imagine his stuff working well if it was animated properly. For more info about the show, visit MeltComics.com or call 323/851.7223.
One of my last-second purchases on Sunday, just before I left the San Diego Comic Con, was snagging this copy of the November 1936 issue (at right) of POPULAR SCIENCE magazine. I love old magazines. This one was in a stack of several PS issues, but it had an article that totally justified the $15 price tag: two pages describing the mechanics of Max Fleischer’s patented three dimensional Stereo-Optical Process.Fleischer Studios isn’t even mentioned in the piece, albeit Max is refered to in the last sentence. But among the great graphics and interesting tidbits, the article reveals:
“Several sets can be prepared on the rotating table at the same time. As soon as the filming of one set is completed, the table can be swung to the next.”
The level of detail in these sets has always amazed me. The shots usually last only several seconds – but always ignite gasps of awe from audiences, even today. In fact, there’s nothing in computer graphics today that can compare to the magic in those Fleischer three dimensional sequences. I’ve scanned the article for you to read, below. Excuse the moray pattern which causes parallel lines to appear over the pictures. Click on each page for a larger image.
A prominent Pixar animator emailed me last night with the subject header “This is real” and a link to this must-read-to-believe SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE review of MONSTER HOUSE. I don’t know anything about the reviewer, Mick LaSalle, except that I’ll never be able to take another word this guy writes seriously. It’s one thing to have a subjective view of a film – it’s another to be so glaringly ignorant of the art form you’re discussing to completely dismiss one hundred years of accomplishments and proclaim something so obviously inferior as a technological advance. Here is the most egregious part of LaSalle’s review:
Animated films always had the advantage of being able to go anywhere and show anything, to defy the laws of physics and follow the imagination as far as it could go. But they never had the ability to show the human face. There was never any point to a close-up in an animated film — there was never really anything to see. But with the motion-capture process, real actors give their performances with computer sensors attached to their face and body, and that recorded information becomes the template for the computer animation. If an actor is bug-eyed, the character will look bug-eyed. Moreover, if the actor is thinking or is full of doubt, the technology will be able to render subtle qualities of pensiveness or doubt in the animation.
Imagine what Disney might have done with this in the creation of the Seven Dwarfs. Imagine all the things that will be done with this in the future. “Monster House” looks like the ground floor of something important.
So the only question that remains is, Who’s going to break the news to Ollie Johnston, the last of the Nine Old Men, that all those classic Disney features he animated on were a waste of time because he never had the ability to show an emotive human face? Poor guy, if he’d only had motion-capture to help him animate.
UPDATE: Storyboard artist Jenny Lerew weighs in with an eloquent response to Mick LaSalle’s less-than-eloquent review.
Who says Stop-Motion is dead? I just got Ken Priebe’s great new book The Art of Stop-Motion Animation, and it pretty much details, step by step, everything you need to know to move clay, cut-outs, puppets and inanimate objects frame-by-frame in front of a camera. Over 300 color pages, loaded with great research (including a thorough overview of the history of stop motion shorts and features). Mike Johnson (co-director of Corpse Bride) wrote the Foreword, and a CD-Rom is included with helpful examples of stop-mo reference. If you are interested in making films, this book has a lot to offer.
One of the highlights of the San Diego Comic Con this year was my chance to play straight man for comic genius Robert Smigel. That’s me (“the nerdiest of the nerds”) on the right in the photo above (look close you’ll see my Oswald Rabbit and Hornswiggle buttons). To see a video of me and Triumph (the Insult Comic Dog) at the Con, go to http://www.nbc.com.(Thanks, Earl Kress)
Buck Biggers, co-creator of Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, King Leonardo and the Go-Go Gophers, will appear in-person at the monthly Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention on September 10th. He’ll be selling and signing copies of his book How Underdog Was Born. And if you are lucky, he’ll sing the Underdog theme song – he wrote that too.
The cult of John K. comes to the Bay Area.The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco is hosting a presentation by John Kricfalusi this weekend. A retrospective of Kricaflusi’s work, entitled John K. Saves San Francisco!, will also be screened at the Castro Theatre on Friday and Saturday, with separate kiddie-show and adult-skewed cartoon screenings.
The presentation at the Cartoon Art Museum will allow Kricfalusi’s fans to hear about his twisted animation experiences and meet the man himself in a unique meet-and-greet event, and give attendees a chance to ask questions or have their DVDs signed by this off-the-wall and talented artist. Visitors will also have the opportunity to win free screening tickets for the showing at the Castro Theatre that evening. Kricfalusi will also be donating a piece of his original art to the Cartoon Art Museum’s permanent collection. This event is free and open to the public, and co-presented by The Castro Theatre.
John K. will do live introductions for each cartoon Friday night at 8pm and Saturday night at 7pm. For more information on the Castro Theatre screenings and admission prices, contact 415-621-5288 or visit www.castrotheatre.com.
“Montreal -40Â°C” is a recent music video directed by Louis-Philippe Eno for the Montreal band Malajube. It doesn’t break much new ground, but it creates a nice mood within a sparse setting and the integration of live-action and animated elements is well executed.
I could write about everything that happened in San Diego during my two-day Con visit, but nothing could possibly say as much as this photo of my new Comic-Con buddies and I. Click on it for its full-size glory. Thanks to Gabe for the photo.
Here’s the first of several posts on a few of the experiences I had, and some of the stuff I got, at the San Diego Comic Con 2006. Above is a postcard found on the freebie table touting the release of POPEYE on DVD next year. Interestingly, the postcard was provided by King Features, not Warner Home Video. Glad to see such a teaser at this year’s event, but I’m hoping WHV pulls out the stops to promote Fleischer Popeye at next year’s Comic Con.I still collect promotional buttons, and the two best items I got this year were handed to me for free. At the HOT WHEELS booth on Sunday, Mattel Toys handed out these nifty “Matty Mattel” buttons (below left). Does anyone under the age of 45 even know who Matty Mattel is? Meanwhile, a few days earlier, fellow Random Cartoons creator Andrew Dickman (Ivan The Unbearable) was spotted wearing this promotional Disney Oswald button (below right). When I asked Andrew who was handing those buttons out, he generously gave his button to me (without me having to beg!). They weren’t given out at the con, but only at the Disney Studio, to Disney employees, the day Oswald was traded back several months ago. Needless to say, I was a very happy camper and wore it proudly all weekend.
(Super-Thanks to Jon Reeves and Andrew Dickman)
I want to thank everyone who showed up last Friday night at the Comic Con for my annual WORST CARTOONS EVER screening. You haven’t lived until you hear a crowd of over 500 people singing the MIGHTY MR. TITAN theme song. If you couldn’t make the show, I have this year’s all-new program on DVD-R and will gladly sell you a copy for $15. (post paid). Ordering information and a list of the contents are on my Garage Sale webpage.
Mark Mayerson rips apart the new book CREATORS: FROM CHAUCER AND DURER TO PICASSO AND DISNEY by British historian and journalist Paul Johnson. According to Mark, the book is riddled with errors about the animated art form, such as:
Winsor McCay is misspelled. Max Fleischer is erroneously credited for Felix the Cat. The Three Little Pigs was released in 1933, not 1932. Alice in Wonderland was released in 1951, not 1957. Carl Stalling was a composer, not an animator. It’s Carl Eduarde, not Edwards. It’s Grim, not Jim, Natwick. It’s Tytla, not Tytler. It’s Ted Sears, not Wears.
What’s particularly disgusting about Johnson’s text is not only the factual inaccuracies, but that he may have deliberately falsified history to promote his personal agendas. For example, his description of how the Disney strike happened is a complete fabrication, but it makes sense that he would write something like that after reading this Wikipedia article about Johnson, that says, “In his Enemies of Society (1977), following a series of articles in the British press, he vehemently attacked the trade union movement for what he saw as its violence and intolerance, terming them as ‘red fascists.’ He also at this time started to inveigh against liberal and left-wing causes.”
Check out Mark’s blog for more of his thoughts on Johnson’s book.
The Ottawa International Animation Festival is right around the corner and the selections for its 2006 edition were announced last week. The full list of films in competition and showcase screenings can be found HERE. My immediate thoughts are that (a.) the selections look really solid and (b.) I’m glad that there’s far fewer films being screened in Ottawa than at Annecy. The Ottawa festival takes place September 20-24.
Chuck Jones once said in an interview that when he wanted to draw believable human characters, he would pattern his drawing after Sam Cobean’s because his “characters always looked to me more like life than life itself.” Prior to becoming a NEW YORKER cartoonist, Sam Cobean had worked in the animation industry at Disney and Columbia. One of Cobean’s earliest print assignments – a WWII-era US military training pamphlet – has now been posted on-line HERE. Subject matter aside, I think Cobean’s drawings are absolutely amazing: funny, direct and super-appealing. If I’d seen any comic book in San Diego with drawings of this caliber, you can bet I’d be raving about it right now.