Thursday, September 04, 2008

02: Mary, Scissor Sisters

Mary, Scissor Sisters
Don Bluth, 2004

Animated music videos are usually a really good estimate of how good the animator is. Because usually the animator won't have a structured storyline or plot to rigidly follow, but rather a vague idea of what the band wants. Then you have to factor in how much money is being thrown at it- usually its not that much. At the end of the project you come out with around 2-3 minutes of animation that probably months and months has gone into. Singles, especially these days have a limited shelf life, and with supposed Music Channels like Mtv moving on to more mainstream "entertainment" rather than actually showing music videos, and other channels following suit, and Animated featurette is going to catch people attention- even if its rubbish. But of course, if that music video is good, it'll live on through requests and classic video reruns, or even in the back of our heads.

Of course, Mary has the wow factor. But would you expect less of Don Bluth? His distinctive, edgy-Disney (if you'll pardon the comparison) has been used to great effect in alot of my childhood favourites; Rock-a-Doodle (1992), Anastasia (1997) and Titan A.E (2000) aren't exactly Disney level in terms of popularity perhaps, but I know for certain I'm not the only one who remembers them (Yes, I COULD mention All Dogs go to Heaven, but I really didn't enjoy it as a child, so I never mention it). So a familiar style that draws in all the kids of my Era.

Then there’s the quality of the animation itself. All the backgrounds are simple and look a little weird in comparison to the actual characters- but I think that’s because they look a bit too bright- I would have toned the contrast down a touch but they look fabulous because their such parodies of the medieval style fairy tale backgrounds- like the ones in Sword and the Stone for example. And I love the tower and the outside of the looks all mysterious and foreboding but still whimsical.

The characters themselves- I have no idea what going on with the three troll women (I do love them, but they don't have as much character as the humans do), but "Mary" and her rescuer remind me alot of Anastasia’s humans, and they have that really lovely pretty but flawed feel about them, which makes them alot more interesting to watch than say any of the Disney princesses and their card-board cut out princes'.

I really could have sat through a full-length movie of this. As it is, Mary is a lovely insight into the daydreams of a bored and lonely office worker- and one of my favourite Animated music videos.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

01: 1928 Koko's Earth Control

So, for the first cartoon, I thought it'd be fun to to revisit the cartoon master list I was hosting over on dA and pick out the one cartoon I had that featured that was apart of the series that I took this blog name for.

The Inkwell Imps (or at least the version I'm talking about) was a series of animated shorts from 1919 to 1929 featuring the adventures of a clown called Koko and his best friend Fritz the dog. The series was the first work to be produced by Max Fleischer, and is notable because it was one of the first to feature live action and drawn animation together- several decades before the more commonly associated major feature of Who Framed Rodger Rabbit.

I picked this cartoon at the time, because it’s a part of the Fleischer history that I skipped over quite a bit during my essay at college, and I was actually rather afraid of. The cartoons I usually prefer from the studio are the more refined and well-developed era of 1930 to 1934. The characters by this point are fleshed out (to the extent they were ever going to get, but I'll get to that later), the animation has settled into a beautifully surreal stride and the backgrounds are lushly painted, even for a black and white cartoon (again more on that in later posts) But I was actually pleasantly surprised with this short.

For one thing, the Interaction is limited and in a way that’s good. There’s a much later short, where Betty and a (horribly racist stereotyped) Janitor share words, and its poorly done and I didn't really care for it. There’s also the famous Rise to Fame short that’s included on every dvd release has, that seems cute at first, but it is after all, a clip show.

The interaction in these early shorts are limited usually, and in this case, to the human hand drawing out the characters. And I really love how it looks. Obviously very inventive in its day, in retrospect it looks almost phython-esque. Creator/creation relationships are hard to establish, whether it’s real or not (ala Duck Amuck for instance), and keeping it so limited is a nice way to start a cartoon.

Enjoy this one, and keep a look out for more gems in future posts.