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‘The Hunger’: An impressively repulsive computer-animated short from 1974
03.14.2014
07:31 am

Topics:
Animation
Class War

Tags:
animation


 
The availability of new technology usually inspires the artistic impulse to create something lovely and elaborate. But the pioneering 1974 short film, The Hunger (or La Faim, in the original French), feels—intentionally—both ugly and crude.  The art has the feel of rough sketches, and only in the movement of the animation can you see the computer technology at work. It’s a strange, eery effect that is intensified by an artfully unsettling soundtrack.

The film received a Special Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA Award for Best Animation Film, and was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award. What’s more, it was actually produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an agency of The Canadian Federal Government (and we can’t even get our government to fund food stamps?)

The plot is simple: a piggish man eats too much and is eventually devoured by the starving masses. It’s all told in a sort of animated Kafkaesque expressionism, and while I’ve always scoffed at the “sinfulness” of gluttony (especially since world hunger has very little to do with actual scarcity, and even less to do with the dietary habits of fat Westerners), it did disturb me enough to eschew cookies for breakfast this morning.  It is grotesque, violent, nauseating, and truly stunning.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Mel Brooks heckles the avant–garde in his Oscar-winning 1963 animated short, ‘The Critic’
12.04.2013
03:42 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Animation
Art

Tags:
animation
Mel Brooks
Jewish culture

Mel Brooks
Brooks accepting his 2001 Tony for ‘The Producers,’ and still mocking Nazis after all these years
 
I highly recommend anyone unfamiliar with the legacy of Jewish comedy to read up on The Borscht Belt. A cheeky play on The Bible Belt, the Borscht Belt—or the “Jewish Alps”—was a scenic region of upstate New York peppered with resort towns, nicknamed for the beet soup favored by the Eastern and Central European Jewish immigrants who vacationed there from the 20s to the 70s. The entertainment traditions that developed in these resorts laid the foundation of what we now recognize as stand-up comedy. Prior to the character-driven monologue style of Borscht Belt comics, the most popular vehicles for comedy were vaudeville and minstrel shows, with jokes either embedded in a more elaborate act, or used as a buffer between them.

While the Borscht Belt comics pioneered the “mic and brick wall” minimalism of modern stand-up, they were also on the ground floor with some of the more experimental stuff. Below is the animated short film, The Critic, a brilliant piece by the immortal Borscht Belt alumnus, Mel Brooks. Inspired by his own experience overhearing a gentleman of the tribe kvetching during an avant-garde movie, Brooks voices the part of an Ashkenazi grouser with affection and bite.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Ren & Stimpy creator John K animates The Simpsons


 
Ok, so it’s just the sofa section of the show’s opening, but as a huge fan of both The Simpsons and Ren & Stimpy I just had to share this. Those two shows were the high watermarks of the 90s golden age of mainstream animation, and very influential on an entire generation of young, impressionable minds. So in a way this is the cartoon equivalent of the Beatles jamming with the Stones - but much weirder. A lot of people won’t like this (and some would say it’s a good fifteen years or more since both were at their peak), but it’s still great to see John K’s dark and twisted take on America’s first family. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I detect a subtle swipe at the character’s roles here, and Is that a hint of bitterness I can taste in the his rendering of their front room in such gloomy colors?
 

 
You can see a lot more of John Kricfalusi’s work at his blog.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Start me up: Radio Soulwax’s brilliant ‘Introversy’


 
Ok, so this is kind of cheeky and infuriating, but you have to admit it’s also brilliantly executed. The Dewale brothers, aka Radio Soulwax, aka original mash-up masters 2ManyDJs, recently mixed the intros of 500 songs together into one hour long set and called it Introversy. That’s a hell of a lot of song intros - and the mix is accompanied by animation of all the sleeves of all 500 of the tunes coming to life. Now that’s dedication!

Introversy was originally posted on the brothers’ website last month, but as the original was not embedable, here’s a cheeky rip of a ten minute segment that has ended up on YouTube. Yes, the audio and visual quality are not great, but you definitely get the gist, and it’s all the more reason to check out the hour long original which is available to download as a free app on the Radio Soulwax website. Soulwax, their apps and website are all highly recommended - their currently streaming Celestial Voyage Pt 2 mix is a great blend of prog rock and space-disco which also features animated sleeves and is well worth checking out. But for now, here’s a segment from the rather excellent Introversy:
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Are the Smurfs Communist Nazis?


Image by Bit Weird.

I’d heard the theory that the Smurfs were a ploy to get us used to the imminent arrival of little blue aliens, but this is news to me. A French academic has published a book claiming that the Smurfs were both Communist and anti-Semitic, claims that have met with a backlash from fans of the little blue guys. From The Guardian:

Antoine Buéno, a lecturer at Sciences Po university in Paris, makes the claims in his new book Le Petit Livre Bleu: Analyse critique et politique de la société des Schtroumpfs, in which he points out that the Smurfs live in a world where private initiative is rarely rewarded, where meals are all taken together in a communal room, where there is one leader and where the Smurfs rarely leave their small country.

“Does that not remind you of anything? A political dictatorship, for example?” asks Buéno, going on to compare the Smurfs’ world to a totalitarian utopia reminiscent of Stalinist communism (Papa wears a red outfit and resembles Stalin, while Brainy is similar to Trotsky) and nazism (the character of the Smurfs’ enemy Gargamel is an antisemitic caricature of a Jew, he proposes). A story about the Black Smurfs, meanwhile, in which the Smurfs are bitten by a fly which turns their skin black and renders them unable to speak, has colonial overtones.

Reactions to the book were immediate and hostile, with commenters on Smurf fansites calling Buéno a “dream breaker”, an imbecile and a crook with “paranoid delusions”, who is ruining childhood memories.

 
Is this strange video perhaps more proof of a connection?
 

 
Thanks to Nicola Blackmore.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Bastien Dubois’s Oscar-transcending animated short ‘Madagascar - A Journey Diary’

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Although it’s a touch more interesting than most awards shows, we tend to treat the Oscars as little more than a gossip source, fashion show, or fun subject for betting pools.

With that said, there are gratifying aspects about the awards themselves, including the fact that French filmmaker Bastien Dubois‘s gorgeous and surreal Madagascar - Carnet de Voyage was nominated for Best Animated Short Film.

It lost, but that takes nothing away from this meditation on mortality on the intriguing African island nation. It’s a dizzying yet coherent display of what seems like a dozen different animation and mixed-media styles. Check it out.
 

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Cabbie Chronicles: The “Steamboat Willie” of Jamaican animation?

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Jamaica has finally distinguished itself a bit in the global animation community. It’s easy to see why JA animators Allison and Anieph Latchman’s five-minute Cabbie Chronicles: Drive Thru Drama short won the Best Caribbean Animation Award at this year’s Animae Caribe Animation and New Media Festival. It’s some straight-up homegrown Kingston street satire.

Don’t get it twisted—Jamaicans have been doing animation for a minute now—for example, Coretta Singer’s fantastical 3-D work has been shown out in the global animation circuit for a couple of years now. And folks can point to the cutting-edge Ninjamaica, but that was a Canadian production. Cabbie Chronicles is straight from yard, and hopefully one of a long-running series that sets the tone for an era of great ‘toons from the island.
 

 
After the jump: check an interview with the screwfaced Cabbie himself…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Digital Tattoo: next-level audio/visual art from Berlin

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Berlin has always been a bastion of innovative cultural work, and one excellent example of this is the Digital Tattoo Productions outfit.

Comprised of the husband/wife team of video artist and animator Edna Orozco and sound artist Dean “Tricky D” Bagar, Digital Tattoo have executed video-mapping-and-sound projects on historical sites in both their home countries of Colombia and Croatia.

They also recently worked on the body-centered dance theatre piece Quia, performed in Bogota and excerpted below. Check it out and keep an eye and ear out for these folks…
 

Digital Tattoo- QUIA from digital tattoo on Vimeo.

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Millions of images: Virgil Widrich’s magical “Fast Film”

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Austrian filmmaker Virgil Widrich and his crew truly turned it out in 2003 with Fast Film, an amazingly obsessed confluence of film history, paper-craft and pre-digital animation.

Born from the scraps of Widrich’s equally well-crafted short, Copy Shop, Fast Film imbues its surrealistic qualities with familiarity, humor, anxiety, dread and hints of sexuality.
 


 
After the jump: How this incredible film was made…
 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Jim Henson blows Middle America’s mind on Carson in 1974

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Did Johnny Carson know what he was getting into when his producers asked Jim Henson to perform without Muppets on his show in February 1974?

By the time of the clip below, Henson and his Muppets Inc. crew were five years into what was becoming a hugely successful partnership with the Children’s Television Workshop on the show that would raise Generation X, Sesame Street.

What better time to do something like, say, adapt electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott’s highly trippy piece, “The Organized Mind” as a short live multimedia stage performance? (By the way, the film playing in the background is apparently Henson’s film adaptation of the same piece of music.)
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Cookie Monster helps train IBM sales staff (1967)
Jim Henson’s “Time Piece”

 
Bonus clip after the jump: “The Paperwork Explosion” another 1967 Henson/Scott collaborative film for IBM…
 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Bizarro French animation of the early 20th century
09.08.2010
11:19 pm

Topics:
Advertorial
Animation
History

Tags:
animation
O'Galop

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Marius Rossillon who went by the pen name of O’Galop was a French cartoonist and early film animator. He’s best known for creating Bibendum, the Michelin man. In these short public service announcements made in 1912 and 1918, O’Galop warns of the hazards of alcohol and tuberculosis. The film on tuberculosis was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation to inform the people of France on the spread and treatment of the disease. In both films, O’Galop uses some pretty bizarre imagery to get the point across.

I particularly dig the degenerate spawn of the alcoholic and the drunk clinging to the psychedelically swaying streetlights. His depiction of TB as a malicious skeleton makes for some amusing imagery.

Music by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Link Wray.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
No Drama Without Synthetic Violence: Ray Harryhausen’s Creatures (Not Monsters!)

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Stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen turns 90 today. It’s a perfect time to appreciate his contributions over more than a half-century. Harryhausen’s parade of creatures—giant squids, gargantuan bees, serpentine genies, sword-wielding skeletons, huge crabs, etc.—have fuelled the nerdy fantasies and stoney dreams of many a Boomer teen.

Although the labor-intensive stop-motion method now seems the quaint realm of the video artiste, we shouldn’t overlook its predominance in the realm of pre-CGI modeling. But putting that aside, as you’ll see in Mat Bergman’s obsessive tribute below, Harryhausen refined the interaction between stop-action models and live-action, which sets him apart from acolytes like Tim Burton  and Henry Selick. Catch the interview as well—Ray’s a truly warm wit.
 

 

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment