Sunday, August 22, 2010

Slowest...blogging season...EVERRRRR!

Despite global tensions on many fronts and seemingly in all quarters, personally this has been a mellow, pleasant summer for me and my family, something I don't take for granted. It has also been a busy one. This has led to slower blogging than ever but although the internet has been labeled officially dead (really? it seems more comatose to me), I haven't given up yet. I thank all readers and viewers here for your continued and patient support...

Since I don't have a TwitBook account, here's some bit-sized reflections on events of recent weeks:

1. Pres Romaillos, who died in July, was a phenomenally talented artist, a dedicated member of the animation community, and a kind, good natured, sincere human being. I remember him as a young student barely out of school eager to learn and eventually ranking in the top of the heap as a Supervising Animator on films like MULAN and SPIRIT. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family. Like anybody who knew or worked with Pres, I will miss him.

2. On my son Danny's birthday in July we all saw DESPICABLE ME and it was a huge hit in this household and obviously many more. Simple story, fun to look at and lighthearted cartooniness. 3 qualities rare enough in animated features, and this one was a monster hit to boot! Maybe this will help re-define what an animated movie can be: in other words: not overly gross but certainly not too precious; off-beat in topic, setting and execution (the minions were happily unexplained and entirely accepted by audiences everywhere), and generally not overly grounded in the typical animation "reality." Kudos to the film makers, not least of which was the incomparable Sergio Pablos, who came up with the original story.

3. Despite my crabbing about the publicity art, I did in fact attend the Chuck Jones exhibit at the Motion Picture Academy here in Los Angeles, (the exhibit closed today), which was, in fact quite good. I went several times and it never fails to inspire when a selection of original art from the golden era is on hand to see. Oddly, they did have the Friz Freleng cel I griped about back in April, but what the hey, most of the artifacts were choice: from Mike Maltese's thumbnails for WHAT'S OPERA DOC? to the first model sheet of Pepe LePew to a good number of sketches, character layouts, washes and doodles by Jones himself.

4. Having finally caught on to 2009's A TOWN CALLED PANIC, I have also downloaded Season One of the film's precursor TV series and tracked down some other choice clips by the creators Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar . Here's my favorite: an early entry of PIC PIC THE MAGIC PIG. They've artfully married Tex Avery craziness to the deadpan post-modern humor of Gary Larson. Why isn't more animation like this?

5. I recommend the book WALT IN WONDERLAND (out of print, but worth looking for) as a insightful companion to viewing the early ALICE and OSWALD Disney silents, which I did recently. The authors make some salient and objective points about Disney's faltering first seven years as an animation producer, notably tracking the development of certain gags and themes as well as mis-steps and dead ends.

6. I immediately followed up checking out the Disney silents with a re-viewing of the black & white Mickey Mouse shorts. If the previous films had been an uneven training ground for Disney, Iwerks & co, Mickey comes on the scene with unprecedented authority: the first five films (the ones Iwerks had the most influence on) are, in my opinion the best of the lot. Later films piled on more technical advances and artistic enhancements, but few to none capture the crisp purity of PLANE CRAZY, GALLOPIN' GAUCHO, STEAMBOAT WILLIE, THE BARN DANCE and THE OPRY HOUSE. After these films and Iwerks' early departure, the drive to increase the amount of visual detail (both in the graphic vocabulary and the animation mechanics) ironically makes many of the subsequent films feel more crude; (Iwerks own studio films suffer identically, IMO, so the trend must have been endemic). It's strange but it seems to follow a persistent pattern: something starts out raw and scrappy and instantly pleasing, then success ushers in an era of technique heavy improvements that often obscures the original charm. It's too bad.

Last but least, I have found a few odd moments to do some unpaid drawing here and there, although a full work load has limited my time for that. I will sift thru the bunch and post a few in the near future if anything stands out as worth sharing...


Thursday, August 5, 2010

God's Gift to the Animated Movie

Without a doubt, one of the most original films I have ever seen, animated or otherwise. Recklessly and relentlessly funny and oddly touching at the same time; it's a triumph of pure and simple film technique and outrageous narrative originality. My highest praise really can't do it justice. My admiration to the filmmakers.... This is one of those movies I wish I had seen in the theater first, but check it out on DVD... You aren't likely to be sorry...