I don’t really know where to go with this, the last blog of the semester.  This semester has been frustrating, but overall it was a great experience.  I know I was in the presence of some great artists.  Good luck to all of you in the future.

As for the future of animation, I think it will be just fine.  Most will ride this 3-D craze for a while, but some will stick to the classics.  Games are going to get more intense and even more realistic.  Music videos will still be a great outlet for really good artistic expression.  Speaking of which, here is one that inspired my Final Project.

Christopher Smith - Gently Gently

Link:  http://vimeo.com/10620682

I love how minimalistic it is.  The focus is not on movement of the figure, but movement of the camera and lens. I love how he manages to tell a story with these images. The snow globe effect adds a haunting beauty, and the equally haunting song tops the whole thing off!


I remember a game that caused its fair share of controversy back in the day and rocked my f@#king socks off!  The day was the 80’s, the system was the Apple II, and the game was Oregon Trail. The gang at gamespy.com have a great description:

Try taking a journey by covered wagon across 2000 miles of plains, rivers, and mountains. Try! On the plains, will you slosh your oxen through mud and water-filled ruts or will you plod through dust six inches deep?

How will you cross the rivers? If you have money, you might take a ferry (if there is a ferry). Or, you can ford the river and hope you and your wagon aren’t swallowed alive!

What about supplies? Well, if you’re low on food you can hunt. You might get a buffalo… you might. And there are bear in the mountains.

At the Dalles, you can try navigating the Columbia River, but if running the rapids with a makeshift raft makes you queasy, better take the Barlow Road.

If for some reason you don’t survive — your wagon burns, or thieves steal your oxen, or you run out of provisions, or you die of cholera — don’t give up! Try again… and again…

The actual best part of the game they didn’t tell you about is that you could get away with putting obscene names and epitaphs on grave stones!  Elementary school was awesome!

What I want is for someone to come out with a new and improved Oregon trail that had huge expansive 3-Dimensional environments that the user can explore freely if he chose.  It could have actual snippets from American History and have multiple interchangeable story-lines that would depend on the user’s actions in the game.  For example, you could join a Native American Tribe and try and fight off The U.S. Calvary or other tribes. You could do the classic and go with a group or fly solo.  It would be like Grand Theft Auto, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and Oregon Trail combined.   Though, it would have to keep the classic staples of the river forging, game hunting, and grave naming.  So hopefully someone will answer my prayers someday!

With the release of James Cameron’s Avatar(2009), it looks like 3-D’s reign of terror is gonna last longer than I had hoped.  Don’t get me wrong, I went to see the thing in the third dimension and it was fun, but I enjoyed it even more in the normal format.  The story is old and boring, but the artistry is so alluring and meticulous.  Avatar is the only movie I every went to see in 3-D, not counting attractions at Universal Studios, and is probably the last one I will see for a long time.  The technology still doesn’t live up my to high expectations.  I want the experience to seem so real that there has to be a disclaimer for people with heart conditions.

3-D movies have their niche in the film industry, they make a relatively bad movie a little bit better.  They are okay for the system if they are used in moderation.  The more they are “whored” out, the quicker they loss their appeal.  It gets annoying when they start attaching it to almost every single thing coming out.  There is a 3-D version of the eyesore better known as Step-Up(2006) coming out.  Someone needs to draw a line before they reanimate Glitter (2001) and turn it into 3-D nightmare that even Freddy Kruger wouldn’t touch.

I’m glad that a there are still films that stick to 2-D, some thanks to taste and some thanks to budget restraints.  Iron Man 2 was supposed to be in 3-D, but “budget issues” kept that from happening.  I’m thankful, but apparently Iron Man is going 3-D in number three.  I am personally looking forward to seeing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). it looks like fighter games meets sappy Emo songs.  Strum!

Enjoy. http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi390202393/

This week in class we are discussing animation that is tailored to adults.  Examples of these types of animation are: South Park, Archer, The Boondocks, and pretty much all of Adult Swim’s lineup.  These cartoons are scene as adult only because of obvious content that would be unsuitable for children, like language and topics of discussion, i.e., sex, drugs, and ultra-violence.  In Archer, sexual references are made just about ever other minute and in South Park, one of the main characters, Kenny, dies gruesome deaths every episode.  These cartoons cater to newer generation of adults who have developed a crude and sometimes sadistic sense of humor, I myself being one of those.  What I am not and never will be is a sick individual who gets his jollies off on watching what is called Hentai. (I’m not posting a link. If you want to see it, Google it.) How the hell did society become so twisted that no children’ cartoons are safe?

Hentai is basically animated porn, apparently live-action pornography is not perverted enough.  I understand that human beings are naturally voyeuristic, we want to see what goes on behind other peoples’ closed doors, but wanting to see two cartoon characters go at it seems a bit too much.  I imagine this started with comic-strip like cartoons found in Adult magazines like Playboy or maybe even early with the illustrations in the Karma Sutra, but these were made to be comical and instructional.  Have people become so immersed in consumer culture that they now have the desire to make love to products, or watch products make love to each other?

The truly disturbing aspect of this form of animation is that now it is incorporating cartoons that were strictly made for children.  Shows like Kim Possible, Phineas and Ferb, and Pokemon have been transformed into drawn orgies.  Animated porn that resembles traditional Japanese Anime is one thing, but animated porn based on Pokemon, WTF?  Is nothing sacred anymore? Kids today are becoming more internet savvy and it won’t be long before they come across these animated abominations.  I can see it now; a new generation of perverts who will one day have the technology, thanks to plastic surgery, to transform their bodies to look like cartoon characters so they no longer have to fantasize about cartoon sex; they can actually do it.

People always say, “Its whats on the inside that counts”, and that couldn’t be truer; especially when referring to stop-motion animation puppets.  Sure the outside is what the audience sees and it should be interesting or at least catch a gaze or two, but the armature is key. The armature of the puppet is like the skeleton of the human body.  It helps support the puppet body.  If you ever worked with clay, then you would know that it only has a limited amount of strength when you work with it.  Clay has to be soft, or still have some water in it, to be able to be manipulated; so you have to be careful when designing a structure that will not only be able to move, but also hold a position without collapsing.

The armature adds this much needed support and also allows for smoother and a more believable movement.  If for instance your subject is meant to mimic a human figure, then the armature would have joints similar to the human skeleton, i.e. ball and socket.  The picture to the right is an inside/outside look at a puppet from Peter Lord and Nick Park’s  Chicken Run (2000). You can see the intricacy that goes into designing these skeletons that never are seen and never really fully appreciated.

I will be doing a stop-motion animation project for my Final Project for this class, but my armatures will be extremely basic.  They will just be wires bent together will not nuts or bolts or proper joints.  I would one day like to be able to construct my own intricate armatures, but I am still learning the arts of small metals, welding, and molding.  So the next time you watch a stop-motion animation cartoon, remember that it wouldn’t be possible with out talented “armature artists” whose sole purpose is to design and construct skeletons.

The thought of watching Anime or Japanimation gives me a headache.  An ex-girlfriend of mine was always insistent that I watch Cowboy Bebop (1998).  I indulged her, as painful as it was.  I liked the concept of a gang of bounty hunters traveling around the galaxy looking for the next big score.  The story is fine, its just the animation I have trouble with.  I think the problem lies in the hyper-realistic style of animation that Disney started and Japan has been working on perfecting.  I guess I like my animation to look more “cartoony” and less real.  If I wanted to watch a cartoon that mimicked real life, then why wouldn’t I just watch a live action film?  I appreciate all that Japan and anime has done and will continue to do for the animation industry, but I will never jump on that band wagon.

I have been told to watch an animated program on the FX network called Archer (Reed and Thompson 2010).  They said if you liked Frisky Dingo (Reed and Thompson 2006), you will love this f@#king cartoon.  I never really cared for Frisky Dingo so I was a little skeptical.  I was impressed and now addicted.  It is a funny and stylish show that has one of the best cartoon voice actors around, the wonderful H Jon Benjamin.   Archer utilizes what Furniss describes as “limited” animation in Chapter 7 of Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics (2007), and uses it to cleverly poke fun at the spy genre.

“In limited animation, one finds that there is much less shape-shifting of characters, and more reliance on only x- and y-axis movement”, writes Furniss. (p.134) I really don’t see any shape-shifting in the animation of Archer.  There really isn’t that much shifting of any sort occurring.  Only the characters mouths and facial expressions seem to alter. As for movement, the majority lies with the characters’ heads.  Their bodies rarely move, and when they do it is often rigid and robotic. The movement is also heavily reliant on the x- and y-axis.  I like this minimalistic approach to animation, so this doesn’t explain why I didn’t care for Frisky Dingo.

The reason I didn’t care for Frisky Dingo and the reason I love Archer is narrative and dialogue.  Furniss says that “limited animation is dominated by it’s sound, typically in the form of voice-over narration or dialogue between characters.” (p.134)  Archer’s stylish lack of animation value is more than made up for with is raunchy comedic verbal boxing matches between an array of off-color characters.  The Mom/Boss vs. the Son/Employee, the skinny slut vs. the fat slut, and the battle of the ex-lovers/co-workers(which is my favorite, “Danger-Zone”) are just a few.  Frisky Dingo had snappy dialogue but the story and characters we too “out there” for me to care what there were saying.  A white ghost thing named Killface with a weird set of friends and enemies battling over what?  Archer is easier to grasp; sex, drugs, and alcohol wrapped around the spy world.  Start with two competing spy organizations, Isis and Odin,  to compile the backdrop and then add the dysfunctional staff of Isis as the focus.  Now finish with the awesomely talented H. Jon Benjamin, the genius voice from Dr. Katz (1995) and Home Movies (1999), and you got a kick-ass cartoon.  His voice and comic timing are epic, and can be clearly noted as the “dominant sound” of the animation.  If Frisky Dingo had H.J.B. then I might have been more inclined to tune in.  Maybe.

*This photo sums up why I love Archer.