Articles, reviews

A Journey Through Spanish Animation (2015)

Minotauromaquia Pablo en el laberinto (Pablo in the Labyrinth, 2004)

Minotauromaquia Pablo en el laberinto (Pablo in the Labyrinth, 2004)

Spanish animation lurks in the hazy parts of (even the European) animation field. Few pioneers and modern film makers may ring the bell outside of Spain, but most that ever happened in between the early days and today has never been so well documented. Not before this brand new collection of well selected gems through Spanish animation history. Here’s a fix for the problem: del trazo al píxel 3DVD “journey”.

Watching the history of Spanish animation is much like watching the Spanish version of classic Dracula with Bela Lugosi. Not being the polished mainstream- or even underground icons of animation, Spanish history of animated films is like a crude, surreal version of better known history of animated films.

As a counter version to Méliès, there’s Segundo de Chomón, for all the Mickey Mouses, there’s a Spanish styled variant, for Zagreb and Bozzetto there’s equals in the sixties and seventies, just as for Švankmajer, Pixar etc.

Not exactly better or worse, just different. What’s common in these pieces, is the deep black humor, darkness, pessimism and lack of moral or happy endings. Even the soft porn has a morbid end. Uneasy and high quality in general, this collection is very much worth the investment.

The booklet has great liner notes and three discs of short animated films catalog the unknown, yet fine works in roughly three different eras; The black and white era of the pioneers, the outstanding, surreal, psychedelic and bold critics of the sixties onward, until the third type, contemporary greats.

Radio RCA, (circa 1935)

Radio RCA, (circa 1935)

Apart from short films, the collection also offers a full length adult animation and pack of early commercials (like Radio RCA commercial with female nudity just few years before Franco.)

Here’s a few picks from the pack. A lot more would deserve getting an introduction right here, right now. But then again, that’s why there’s the wonderful collection to order anyway, so you could witness it all by yourself eventually. With English subtitles to all shorts and introductions.

Garabatos Valeriano León (1944)

Garabatos Valeriano León (1944)

Garabatos Valeriano León (1944) dir. Jaume Baguñà

An animated version of a comic magazine from that era. Short jokes are dark and funny even today, although some may feel a bit tacky. Fun is made out of everyday life as well as the end of life, i.e. from social stumbles to execution.

El gallito presumido (Cocky Cock, 1949) dir. Jaume Baguñà

Like titled, cock at the yard is a truly cocky one, enjoying admiration of all the hens. Yet, when too admired, like spoiling the breakfast by serving an egg with a tweet, hen is fired. So, everyday life is kind of paradoxical dance on wire. Cartoon teaches no morals and ends up in no other conclusion but injustice. Oddly enough, the story might stick to the viewer’s mind better just because of that.

El gallito presumido (Cocky Cock, 1949)

El gallito presumido (Cocky Cock, 1949)

El Sombrero (The Hat, 1964)

El Sombrero (The Hat, 1964)

El Sombrero (The Hat, 1964) dir. Robert Balser

Surrealism in Spanish cartoon is properly introduced as late as the mid sixties. Although the title, el Sombrero, somewhat sounds like a very Spanish story, the overall style reminds more of Zagreb and Italian masters of animation.

Troubled by a hat, symbolically, a man has a burden he needs to get rid of in order to carry on with his life. He cannot do it himself, and needs faith to drive him back on the course.

The style of animation is strangely rough and smooth at the same time. Robert Palser later directed animation of Yellow Submarine (the well known surreal graphic style of the cult classic is indeed seen already in this one.)

Íncubo Rose (1974)

Íncubo Rose (1974)

Íncubo Rose (1974) dir. Miquel Esparbé

Again, we’re closer to Zagreb and Bozzatto in graphic style, but the critic of this erotic odyssey of devil goes straight into Spanish politics and history.

Rather simple drawings and amateurish animation perfectly fulfills it’s purpose. After the “’70s horror film titles” the film seems to be a comedic take on one’s journey into losing virginity, but the downsides of the attempts are quite cruel and sad in the end.

Probably the little devil deserves it’s punishment, as he does after all seem to try raping an angel to begin with. Effective and nerving from the first seconds.

La doncella guerrera (Warrior Princess, 1974)

La doncella guerrera (Warrior Princess, 1974)

La doncella guerrera (The Warrior Maiden, 1975) dir. Julio Taltavull

A ballad with notably Spanish feel to it. Told in Goyan narration, illustrated in vein of Gothic period plates, with amazing graphic style and restrained animation direction by Robert Balser of Yellow Submarine and The Hat fame, that will guarantee the viewer captivation.

The story is an ancient ballad. One of those with a girl dressed as a man to be able to fight as a soldier. For an artsy film, this is an easy, feel good one in comparison to the heavy themes of the era.

Día a día (1977)

Día a día (1977)

Día a día (1977) dir. Pablo Núñez

Another Zagreb-esque film, with imaginative twist. Dull everyday life is spiced with footage from black and white war-, nature-, entertainment- and sports docs. It’s a method of caricaturing the feelings of a boss yelling at you when you’re late for work, or when you get off of work. Lions roaring and birds fleeing.

Basically rather traditional “day of an unlucky everyday soldier” type of story, but very well crafted with mixed media. Funny and identifiable.

La edad del silencio (Age of Silence, 1978)

La edad del silencio (Age of Silence, 1978)

La edad del silencio (Age of Silence, 1978) dir. Gabriel Blanco

Nasty and irritating to watch, not to say listen to. An ultimate portray of sustained freedom of speech. Ultimate political work of a protester who would not be silenced no matter how much he’s tortured and literally shut up. Based on Ops’ (El Rote) drawings.

Gastropens II. Mutación tóxica (Toxic Mutation II, 1994)

Gastropens II. Mutación tóxica (Toxic Mutation II, 1994)

Gastropens II. Mutación tóxica (Toxic Mutation II, 1994) dir. Pablo Llorens

A plasticine animation of it’s time, from the funny digital editing tools to the awake of awereness in toxication of “E numbered” food. A grotesque work that might make the next b-day buffet a bit uneasy.

Additives give birth to a mutant alien in man’s stomach, bite by bite, giving the hero of the day an appear closer to the day of the tentacle. Story wise flawless little gem.

Las partes de mí que te aman son seres vacíos (The Parts of Me that Love You are Empty Beings, 1995) dir. Mercedes Gaspar

Grotesque, sadistically erotic pixallation of a man and a woman having a loose dinner with various body parts being cut off and replaced with something else. Also serves some so-so surrealism and awkward 90s editing. Still somehow captivating.

How to cope with Death (2002) dir. Ignacio Ferreras

Dance macabre. A winged grim reaper comes to take what he thinks is his – the life of an old lady, passed out in front of television. The old lady doesn’t think she’s ready for it yet. One of the early Ferreras’ films with the exact graphic beauty that can be found from his feature length film too.

Encarna (2003) dir. Sam

A housewife has it with all the assholery around her, and starts a brutal revenge campaign. Plasticine turns red and holey. Even TV-Shop-Jesus.

Pablo in the Labyrinth (2004) dir. Juan Pablo Etcheverry

Picasso is lost in a grey rock maze, being hunted by a minotaur. His works are being recreated in plasticine amazingly well, that itself is worth watching, but there’s not really much additional storyline to it.

Cirurgía (Surgeon, 2006) dir. Alberto González Vázquez

A date. Lies to be told in order to get to the woman’s heart. At the same time simple and layered, funny and frank portray of the difficulties in being honest at the first date. Sometimes straightforward simplicity in animation just works.

Alma (2009)

Alma (2009)

Alma (2009) dir. Rodrigo Blaas

A little wintertime gothic, horror story of a closed doll shop. Ideal 3D CGI. A semi-classic in it’s genre.

Birdboy (2010) dir. Pedro Rivero, Alberto Vázquez

The dark life in a small town after industrial catastrophe has an outcast Birdboy taking care of a girl who lost her father in the factory explosion. Dark story hints of better, while everything easily seems hopeless. Based on a comic book by the author, this animation adds to the parts mainly left out of the comic.

El ruido del mundo (Noise of the World, 2013)

El ruido del mundo (Noise of the World, 2013)

El ruido del mundo (Noise of the World, 2013) dir. Coke Riobóo

A composer suffers from a condition of hearing all the cruelties and cries of the world, that soon distracts him to compose anything else that the despair of the world. Animated with backlit plasticine on glass, giving it outstanding graphic output.

Canis (2013)

Canis (2013)

Canis (2013) dir. Anna Solanas, Marc Riba

The dystopian bestiality of Canis may be heavy to watch. The black and white puppet stop-motion introduces desolate human beings surrounded by death and starvation of mad dogs. Even the only bit of hope is topped with pessimism and injustice, making Canis the ultimate feelbad film of the collection.

World not too far from Eraserhead’s, Le Dernier Combat’s or Suzie Templeton’s Dog etc. makes it absolutely beautiful. The film is riveting on all ends. It’s among the most powerful films made in Spain.

From doodles to pixels – one hundred years of Spanish animation:

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Animated Horror Films

Halloween is a great time for short horror stories. Here’s a few picks from my favorite haunting short films, that deserve to be watched with full attention. Dim the lights, adjust the volume, watch the films. Headphones recommended when without company.

Animation and horror have always been bonded to each other. As a technique to special effects, it has been one of the most important elements of horror films. From the first stop trick -films by Georges Méliès to various stop-motion monsters and digital monstrosities have been animated.

Most often animation and horror run into each other in video games. At least if we do not go into the world of hentai. Anime and especially hentai are a bit far from the genre, as are the cosmetically horror romantic big money animations at the cinema.

Horror is all but fictive live-action film only. Horrors and terrors can be experienced strongly in the mediums of animation, documentary, video games, and why not theater, circus and music. Most of the traditional live-action horror has actually became a bit dull, yet animated horror has also degenerated because of the digital coldness.

Live-action films are sometimes troubled with bad and unnatural acting. While watching a documentary film, one is touched by true human emotions, instead of acting. In case of animated film, characters are just as credible as their creator crafted them to be. The settings of animated films are special. Perfect setting for a vivid nightmarish place one can immerse in.

The brooding old school synthetic sounds. The edgy and beautiful techniques to tell a story and move a character. The film editing. The greatest legend of horror animation, Jan Švankmajer, left behind the puppet theaters just because he understood what one could do with film editing.

I. Zofia Oraczewska: Vulture (1987)

czas

As a short intro we shall set the mood with this Polish cut-out animation by Zofia Oraczewska. She served Polish animation culture nearly 40 years and was known for a style similar to classic Polish poster art. The film starts with a vulture finishing a feast on a desert full of corpses. It spreads it’s wings and flies to a nearby cave just to reveal something far more shocking.

The ending is all about timing and boldness of animation. A frank, thought provoking allegory to appetite the paranoia for the rest of this matinee. Oraczewska had approached grotesque dinner parties before. Another great watch would be Bankiet from 1976, a classic short film about a very unpredictable menu at the restaurant.


II. Raoul Servais: Harpya (1979)

harpya

A man interrupts a beating on a street. He attacks whom he think is the bad guy, and thus sets free a harpya, that will from this moment oppress the man night and day. Servais’ uneasy topics and atmospheres have been very captivating from early on. His earlier film, Sirene (1968) had giant reptile-like cranes on a construction site kill an innocent mermaid blatantly in the middle of beautiful backgrounds, colors and composition.

 Harpya is visually every bit as stunning, although animating technique is very different from the more traditionally drawn Sirene. The nightmarish feeling of Harpya comes strongly from it’s technique, pixallation, that means animating humans. The film not only has animated human actors, but there’s live-action going on simultaneously.

As it’s made without assistance of computers, Sevais’ time consuming pattern may actually be unique in film. Since the viewers are used to see people act and move the way the do in real life, it’s creepier to see such unpredictability. Shocking images, demonic harpya and constant grasp on the viewers nerve.

III. Jan Švankmajer: Down to the Cellar (1983)

downtothecellar

Many would say Jan Švankmajer is one of the all-time greatest animated film makers, and I wouldn’t blame them. He’s known for the most beautifully grotesque Eastern-European stop-motion films, of which Little Otik and Alice are the greatest feature lengths. Many of his finest are still short films, and one them have had a bit too little attention; Down to the Cellar has next to none of actual animation in it, but maybe just because of that, it’s one of the key titles.

A little girl with a basket steps deeper into a dungeon-like cellar to get some potatoes. All kind of odd, harrowing things are happening in each storage. Girl keeps going forward, although she’s as wary as any kid would be alone in the cellar, even without seeing a set of leather shoes having a breakfast, or a man burying himself under the coal. Very little animation is seen, and maybe that’s the reason why it’s all the more effective. For more animated masterpieces, see Dimensions of Dialogue, Meat Love and Flora.

IV. Georges Schwizgebel: Ravissement de Frank N Stein (1982)

frank

There’s a story in Arabian Nights, where a person who should pass a rocky mountain road to achieve something. Besides the path there are stone figures, statues, that will curse and blaspheme anyone who tries climbing the path. If the person takes a look at them, or turns around, he or she will turn to stone. This film has the same thrilling sensation.

Schwizgebel’s film has a very simple concept, but it works extremely well. There’s an endless dungeon of rooms that first all look alike, but start slowly altering just a bit at a time. The most important feature is the graphic angle. The experience is shown in a first person view, like in the video games, but without the ability to control the movement.

The faceless figures start appearing and standing up, and the viewer can’t see what they’re doing or where they going next. The “first-person view” is something that is, sadly, very little used in this medium. The soundtrack, a free roaming synthetic chaos, is also essential to this thrilling experience.

V. Jacques Drouin, Bretislav Pojar: Nightangel (1986)

nightangel

Canadian Jacques Drouin is practically the only man in the world still surviving the tradition of European pin screen technique. When his craft was combined with the stop-motion puppetry of great Czech animated film maker, Bretislav Pojar, one of the most beautiful cooperations were born. A film with chilling atmosphere, amazing images, haunting sounds and ghostly music.

A lonely man, who whilst watching outside the window, thinks he sees an angel in the snowy park. As he quickly runs out, he gets hit by a car and gets blind-folded for a long time. Everything around him, the puppet, is animated in foggy black and white pin screen, to create the feel of blindness for the viewer. The amazing craftsmanship and mixing of techniques in a romantic, ghastly and beautiful tale makes it thus unequaled in many ways.

VI. The Quay Brothers: Street of Crocodiles (1987)

street

American duo who was so greatly inspired by the Eastern-European way to mess with the medium of animation, they decided to move working and later teaching in Europe. Mostly inspired from Czech stop-motion animation, Jan Švankmajer and the greatest pioneer of stop-motion film, Ladislav Starewicz. They almost became authors of pastiches.

They took what was already there and finished it. Perfected it in many ways. Maybe because of that, their work never surpassed the Slavic animations, since authentically it always needed to be even cruder. Still, works like Street of Crocodiles stand up as a great European dark animation. Relatively slow at tempo, but rewarding film, with very impressive and creepy doll figures.

VII. Paul Berry: The Sandman (1992)

sandman

This gothic horror film influenced with German expressionism has slightly more crooked Sandman the people are used to. A little boy is on his way to bed, and the walk feels lasting an eternity as he constantly fears that somethings always there.

The Sandman is actually rather rude take on the subject, and it opened the doors to the league of Burton and Selick. Berry did actually animate in Nightmare Before Christmas and Jack and the Giant Peach, but unfortunately died only in 40 years of age. Otherwise he might have been out there making films like Coraline today.

VIII. Alexandre Bubnov: Clinic (1993)

clinic_1

One of the latest greatest Ukrainian masterpieces, Clinic, borrows a lot from Nikolai Gogol. Especially his work Viy. A man is tormented by nightmares throughout a night. He keeps waking up in cold sweat. No wonder, as the terrors of his nightmares are so graphically violent.
The changes in Europe circa 1990 had maybe a bit unexpected and certainly unwanted effect on the future of European animation culture. Ukrainian studios had just started to blossom, but it kind of ended to Clinic. Kievnauchfilm and Borisfen-S-studio films worth checking out include; Michael Titov’s The Meeting (1984) and The Battleground (1986), Nazim Tulyakhodzayev’s There Will come Soft Rains (1984) and Sergei Kushnerov’s 9½ Minutes (1993). Why not Bubnov’s Blue Beard’s Wife (1996) too.

IX. Suzie Templeton: Dog

dog

This puppet film certainly is no fun and games. The film approaches the fear and terror of a child in a very striking way. And the fear and terror of a grown up too. A dad is saying good nights to his son, and adds to it, that his mother did not suffer. Lights turn out, and the child is left with a splattered blood stain at the wall just next to his head.

Dog may be a bit too heavy for some viewers and would leave a very uneasy feeling, as the film is about giving up and having neurotic illness that affects the others in terrible ways. It’s not a very hopeful scenario, but the film is a masterpiece nevertheless, and a good film to end up this matinee.

Safe and restful Halloween!

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Lotte Reiniger and the silhouette animation

achmed2teaser-big_905There’s a lot of different techniques that will alone make a great visual experience. One of them goes back almost one hundred years, silhouette animation, pioneered most importantly by a young German girl.

Lotte Reiniger made silhouette animation, because she was good at it. Cutting silhouettes from paper was a common interest of young females in the dawn of last century. Lotte’s skills with scissors was considered above others and with all that enthusiasm this wannabe actress had, it was only a matter of time when she was picked up.

She cut silhouettes of other actors and actresses when she wasn’t on stage herself, and by the stage side she was found by film director Paul Wegener, who asked her to craft title screens for his new film. At that time, title screens were still a noticeable area of work. Alfred Hitchcock for example began his career creating a dozen of titles from 1920 to 1922, before making any films. Though, all of them are lost.

At the time of Wegener’s next film, Der Rattenfänger von Hameln, faith entered the picture. The intended rats did not act like they were hoped, and Lotte cut the rats from paper and animated them on screen. Her first animation work can be thus found on that picture.

Reininger became familiar with other German experimental film makers, and was soon an insider. Pioneers of abstract film helped Lotte start up her professional career by convincing the financiers and helping with the special effects. Carl Koch ended up being not only a collaborator for life, but also marrying Lotte.

After the first short film was made, Lotte had some reference to show and she was hired to do a commercial for Nivea. Faithful to her style, but in reverse method the film had one colored figures on black background, not vice versa like usually.

The commercial helped her finance more short films and after a few fairy tale films she started a project now known as the first existing feature length animated film ever made. It is true, there may have been an Argentinian film made already in 1917, but there’s a little evidence on that. The film is anyway lost and no images are found.

 

Lotte Reiniger: Prince Achmed (1926)

Lotte Reiniger: Prince Achmed (1926)

Lotte Reiniger: Prince Achmed (1926)

Lotte Reiniger: Prince Achmed (1926)

 

Prince Achmed of course is Lotte’s most famous piece, because it’s a feature length. A longer film is always a process of it’s own, but in this case, greatest technical abilities, musical visualization, fairy tale and humor can be found from her short films.

Especially a sort of sub-plot from Prince Achmed, Seemingly Dead Chinese, shows Lotte’s ability to do black comedy. A drunken Chinese man is thrown from man to man, as they all think he’s dead.

The boldest and most intense film is Carmen, classical opera about a gypsy woman dancing and singing in the crowds, amazingly conducted. In some sense, it’s the very finest piece Lotte ever made. It is fast paced and the animation and rhythm meets in perfect harmony all the time.

Lotte had a long break from animation during the WWII, and moved to England. It was a land of all new oppurtunities for her. BBC ordered a series of classic fairy tales, and in mid-fifties she did dozens of silhouette animations based on Brothers Grimm, H.C. Andersen and other standards.

Many of the most charming fairy tale adaptations can be found there. Among the most beautiful ones are definitely Thumbelina and Snow-White and Rose-Red. Her ability to tell a story and make it beautifully graphic was at it’s best during her most active era.

 

Lotte Reiniger: Thumbelina (1954)

Lotte Reiniger: Thumbelina (1954)

Lotte Reiniger: Snow-White and Rose-Red (1954)

Lotte Reiniger: Snow-White and Rose-Red (1954)

 

In those films, all compositions of nature, human and animals is flawless, each frame is like it was taken from a picture book, animation is smooth, and all is represented in glorious black and white, just like Lotte always though was best for this style.

Lotte also tried vaguely different approach after that. A cut-out animation. Technique of animating wasn’t necessarily all that different, but the looks was. Instead of being just black figures, the characters had actually faces and colorful clothes et cetera.

The fact, that Lotte experimented with cut-out animation is very unknown, but not because those films would’ve been weaker. The cut-out films are actually among the best of her latter works.

Basically, Lotte’s active career ended in the late fifties, but she did come back for two, quarter of an hour long, ambitious and showy pieces for Natioanl Film Board of Canada.

Canada has the most Europe-friendly approach for animated films outside the continent, and therefor it’s no wonder it was NFB that gave Lotte the oppurtunity to show yet one more side of her.

These films parody and satirize romantic epics and fantasy literature. First beinig Aucassin and Nicolette (1975), based on medieval parody of the same name. It was adapted to shadow puppetry for the first time in 1909 by French Paul Le Flem. Last film adaptation Lotte did was based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring from 1854.

Lotte is often said to be the only film maker using silhouettes as the most common technique of professional film making, but the style was popular in Germany for long, even after Lotte left her birth country. All the way from the late fifties to the dismantling of the Wall.

 

Manfred Henke: Ali und Der Hexenmeister (1986)

Manfred Henke: Ali und Der Hexenmeister (1986)

Michel Ocelot: Icare (1989)

Michel Ocelot: Icare (1989)

 

The film studio owned by DDR, called DEFA, actually produced loads of silhouette films for many decades. The most important film makers of this style were Bruno J. Böttge and Manfred Henke. All followers, including them, were true to Lotte Reiniger’s style. Especially the films from the fifties was seeking to be almost exactly the same.

Bruno J. Böttge’s films are equally good from every decade. He never strayed from the path too much, he settled for making Reiniger-pastiches. Some of DEFA directors went too far with the experimenting with the effects and overall image of the films and ruined the whole concept.

Silhouette film became mainly an aesthetic style, not technical. The black shadow figures were soon filled with colorful clothes and pieces of jewellery.

Manfred Henke made a lot of uninteresting basic works, but he also made something great. Ali und Der Hexenmeister from 1986 is one of the greatest hidden silhouette gems. It is practically unknown, yet very nicely crafted, adventurous tale with powerful music and sound effects, a lot of tension, good tempo and great images filled at times with surrealism and psychedelia. It has also a lot of tracking shots, that are not usually seen at all in silhouette films.

Still, the greatest contemporary silhouette animation film maker is French. Michel Ocelot had the idea on a workshop, and flatly copied Reiniger’s style too, but he could bring the whole aesthetic style to this date, with rich details and ornament-like nature design. From the eighties, all the way to this day, silhouette animation stands as his biggest trademark alongside with Kirikou the character.

 

Playdead: Limbo (2010)

Playdead: Limbo (2010)

Buzea: Eroul fara nume (2014)

Buzea: Eroul fara nume (2014)

 

As a style, silhouettes are again a small trend, but the contemporary silhouette animation is being made entirely without scissors. In the world of video gaming and mainstream film titles, the CGI silhouettes have become darker and darker, even more gothic in general. Part of it’s of course amazingly good, but it’s always a pity when a handmade art form disappears.

Silhouette animation cut with scissors is pretty much dead.

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Death Maze Challenge (2014)

DMC001

 

Even though animation has come a long way, there’s still so much to discover. The formats, the mediums, the people are all evolving, all the time. YouTube is among the most popular medias of this age, and video games are the most inflating forms of entertainment there are. Almost all video games are practically a form of animation itself, but even that considered, there’s some really notable pieces nodding up to some classic animated films too, like Machinarium and Limbo.

What is truly bizarre, is that aesthetics of classic video games have not so much mixed up with the animated films. Until just lately. But while animated films haven’t crossed so much with for example platformers deliberately, some much older techniques have a lot in common with this newer medium. Most distinctly silhouette animation, Lotte Reiniger, Bruno J. Böttge, Manfred Henkel and Michel Ocelot. They’ve all made some fantastic silhouette films that at times have the same aesthetic feel as the platformers. A recent addition to this tradition is a very nice Romanian music video by Stefan & Ducu Buzea – Alex Bratu: Eroul Fara Nume!

Also from Romania, comes this whole new approach on the medium called Death Maze Challenge. A new episode was originally supposed to be screened on every Monday at YouTube, starting from today. Due to all the work load on one-man band behind all this, Virgil Mihailescu, it is now a bit uncertain whether it’s going to last for many episodes that way. The concept is great nevertheless.

What is this all about? I had a chat with Virgil Mihailescu, and you can read all about it after you check out the teaser from here and if you like it, subscribe to Death Maze Challenge.

 

DMC002

 

ea_1 You’re doing an animated series based on the laws and aesthetics of entirely different medium, the classic 2D platformer. It’s a very traditional type of video game standard, and within just around five years it’s been popular again due to successful indie games made by people who grew up playing them.

(I myself played hundreds of video games during the 1990s, I especially loved the platformers, adventure games and strategy games, everything to do with progress of man, mankind and technology. I didn’t like where the gaming industry in general went with 3D at some point, but it was indie-games like Machinarium, Limbo, VVVVVV, Hotline Miami, Super Meat Boy and Bindings of Isaac that got me interested again.) So, firstly I’m interested in your gaming history now. What’s it like?

dmc_1My gaming history is not that impressive. I don’t play as much as others. I didn’t even have my own PC until I was quite old.. like 18-19 years old? I was a musician and didn’t care much about spending time on a computer. But even if I didn’t have a computer as a kid, some of my friends did, and I was mesmerized.. I started drawing platform games on paper, sort of like table-top games, and played them with my friends..

My first console [I was about 14] could only play Tetris and the Snake. I didn’t care much for the latter, but I was obsessed with Tetris. It’s only much later though that I had a decent PC to run fancy games. I like lots of games, like shooters, action RPGs, open worlds, sandboxes, a bit of strategy, empire-building games, racing and I’m especially interested in Indie games because they often embody the vision of one person and are born out of passion for games and the need to play a game that doesn’t exist yet, not from the need to make money.

Let’s stay with platformers. Probably the first I ever played was Dizzy. I’ve been constantly on and off platformers, but they’re a recurrent motive.. I played a bunch of NES and SNES games on emulators, on the PC, but I’m more interested in the recent ones. Limbo, VVVVVV, Risk of Rain, Nifflas’ games, Rayman, Broforce, Spelunky, Starbound, N, Super Meat Boy and lots of others.

Nowadays platformers are getting more and more sophisticated, more alive, more dynamic and original, people keep trying new things.. on top of tried and true game mechanics, which is great! I think 2D platformers are a gold mine, like shooters. They have this excellent core mechanic: jumping very accurately, no holding hands here. Being precise when navigating around a death maze.

They still have a lot of potential, I’m sure a lot of things have not been tried yet, and as AI evolves, as computers evolve, so will platformers. I’d love to play an empire-building game inside a sandbox platformer for ex. A 2D platformer where you build your own armies and go conquer a procedurally generated world.

 

DMC003

 

Are you more into the retro platformers or new indie-games, the neo-retro platformers. Or both equally? Your work reminds more of the new ones. And does your inspiration to do this work come more from animation or video gaming?

The main idea for Death Maze Challenge comes from stick figure death mazes. You can find tons of them on YouTube. I only wanted to give them human expression. They’re fancy stick figures with a bit of character, who don’t just fall into a trap, but feel miserable about falling into a trap. And don’t just move from A to B but are happy or excited or unsure or afraid to go from A to B. The inspiration comes just as much from film and animation as it comes from games.

Your idea is fresh and interesting way to explore the medium. It’s also a great example of new kind of influences and way of thinking and possibly story telling in contemporary animation. Traditional animated film makers have been looking up the book illustrations, painting, comic books and different techniques, and not being interested in video games at all. I’m still surprised the video game looks and platformer looks and the whole method of telling a story has not been exploited properly. Do you want to explore the idea further, telling a large scale story, journey or progress of man or another unit or theme in more metaphorical manner? Or do you wish to try completely new things in the future?

Thank you, it’s very nice of you to say that! I hope that I will indeed manage to do some things in DMC that you can’t normally do in a platformer, and take people unexpected places.. We’ll see. I must confess I don’t know where this series is going. And I’m very happy about that. You might find this insane, but I really want to be just as surprised about every new episode as the audience will [hopefully] be. Even more so, I hope there will be a response, and if people contribute with ideas.. that might take the series even further and zanier.

Also, my initial plan was to start working on a feature. And drawing flat worlds and 2D animation that doesn’t move in depth.. is much easier than involving a 3rd dimension. So.. that was the first step, and then I kept drawing and planning all sorts of stories.. like this one: A boy, a girl, 2 swords, 1000 platforms. That was one of the early ideas for a platformer-feature-film. :} They’re going to Candy Mountain to defeat the mean old man who chased them out of Candy Paradise.. or something. And they’re eating sandwiches, sitting on a platform, in mid air. And they help each other climb the mountain of platforms and defeat the tons of buzzing bees defending Candy Kingdom and so on. :} And then I thought of many other such stories, of ‘real people’ having to deal with a 2D platformer. But then for this YouTube series I wanted something simpler, no story, just craziness.

I agree the gameplay isn’t exactly featured in movies often. Strangely enough, since gameplay can be pure visual entertainment. Games on the other hand are trying really hard to become movies. Strangely enough again, since good gameplay is something very different from good storytelling, if you ask me. Story messes up gameplay and vice versa.

I don’t usually see game characters as empathic humans, most of the time they feel just like game objects with a very limited, scripted agenda. They deliver information, puzzles, bullets. It won’t happen that an NPC will simply not be found where expected, because he woke up late, or felt ill, or just didn’t care. I have to be able to rely on that NPC being at work every day.. or I will get very frustrated for not being able to progress in the game.

This is not only nonsense but also really boring for a story, it’s a logical progression, not a chain of unexpected events. I think gameplay is all about logic and balance, story is all about the unexpected. That being said, of course the 2 worlds can happily collide, and I think we’re only starting to understand how games can have real storytelling behind, and the movies, I hope, will also start to pump some more adrenaline or just borrow some fresh ideas from the wild world of games.

 

DMC004

 

How about your history on animation then? How long you’ve been practicing the medium and how?

I started learning animation 10 years ago. I’m a 3D animator by day. I worked in commercials and games, did a bit of freelance, and now I work on the awesome Total War series for the Creative Assembly. I started writing and drawing stories as a kid though. I became a musician then, studied composition, rediscovered the visual arts and here I am, many years later, doing music and drawings. I always wanted to make animated films, still do, but I have no idea how to turn my cartooning into a business, I’m no businessman.

If I make a pilot for a TV series I wouldn’t know how to pitch that to Whichever Network. So I’m starting this YouTube series, I’m happy that it’s my own stuff and there’s no 3rd parties involved. Who knows, if there is an audience for it. It will grow. And then it might be followed by a story-driven series. But for that I will need help.. I won’t do that on my own. I hope a solution will come in time.

How did you end up in the particular aesthetics on your animation?

I like simple drawings, I want to focus on expression.. not on lighting and shading. I want very simple limbs for my characters, so I can draw them really fast. And I thought more seriously about some Rayman-like game-like animation, because it’s easy and fast to animate. I really like what they did in the recent Rayman 2D games, they’re expressive platformers with many simple animations that combine and flow really well.

My stuff is simpler, fewer poses and animations, but I can make crazier combinations and I can adjust things on the fly. I mean a stop/skid/turn pose might be used for climbing or jumping or dodging bullets, you name it. And if I don’t like the face I erase it and pop another one in pretty quickly. Everything is based on a small number of initial drawings, like.. 5 head shapes and 5 body shapes, plus maybe a prop or two. Turn that into a bunch of poses/animations. Go crazy.

I also always loved black and white comics. I think you either do black and white line drawing, or you go with color and think in terms of color, shading, lighting, but not line. I usually don’t like colored line-drawings, I think color often looks kind of cheap and out of place there.. There are exceptions, maybe using colored lines, and I find that hard to draw. I want to be able to sketch things really quickly, focus on ideas, shapes. Keeping things black and white allows me to do that.

 

DMC005

 

Your favorite / most influential films?

Oh man, this is hard. I like lots of things. My favorite directors appeal to the 12-14 year old child in me I guess.. Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa. So let me try a top 10..

1 Alien.
The best SciFi movie ever made. I like that it’s simple and primal, it explains little, it shows you.. not too little, not too much. The perfect film.

2 Jurassic Park.
Grand idea. I really like Spielberg when he is telling stories for kids, like ET, I think that’s where he’s at his best. Jurassic Park is not ET, which I like for its simplicity and emotional moments, but it’s more colorful, exotic, and fantastic.

3 Seven Samurai.
It’s hard to pick my favorite Kurosawa movie. I guess between this and Yojimbo. I like the charismatic.. intense characters, the idea, the setting. It’s a serious film for kids of all ages, which is the kind of stuff that I’m most interested in.

4 Saving Private Ryan.
One of my favorite quests and war movies. Great story, great characters, great idea, great cinematography.

5 Dr Strangelove.
Each Kubrick film is unique and amazing, but this is his funniest. It’s simple and fluid, it talks very simply about a potentially complicated political situation and just focuses on the ridiculousness of it. I love ridiculous and surreal humor.

6 The Lord of the Rings.
The story is silly but.. there is nothing more epic ever made, so far. I’m waiting for better fantasy anyway, something like what Alien is for sci-fi. And I don’t necessarily mean gritty realism, I’m waiting for fantasy that is really fantasy, only.. for the very demanding 21st century audiences. People go crazy for fantastic worlds, but are always afraid that the storytelling will be superficial and silly. Because it usually is, in fantasy at least.

7 Burn After Reading.
I like all Coen brothers movies, and especially this total, crazy, creative clusterfuck.

8 Reservoir Dogs.
Intense.. I guess my favorite Tarantino movie. Yet again, I like that it’s simple and primal.

9 Deconstructing Harry.
Simply because it’s one of Woody Allen’s best films [this one and Annie Hall are my favorites] and Woody Allen is enormously funny.

10 Kung Fu Panda.
One of the best superhero movies ever made, excellent characters and story, really funny. And I had to add an animated film, right?

Your views on animation in Romania?

We have the Animest festival, and we have our animation pioneer, certainly the only famous Romanian animator, Gopo. But what can I say… it’s not doing that great, for the time being. There are very few people working in the field, very few studios.. like FrameBreed for example. They’re some of the best on the Romanian market.

There’s little demand and little offer, and nobody can afford quality animation. Also, not much in terms of learning actual character animation in schools, although that’s generally true almost everywhere. : } People probably mostly learn just like I did, on their own, thanks to the world wide web..

That is very true.

So, all you animation and video game buffs out there, do encourage this awesomeness by spreading the word. If you’re still not sure about it, check out this other teaser here and be convinced. A grim marriage between tension, black comedy and horror soundscapes! Fresh, contemporary, fun art.

DMC006

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Tove Jansson and her long-nosed creation

Tove Jansson: Juhlat kaupungissa, 1947

Tove Jansson: Juhlat kaupungissa, 1947

“Painting was the most important, holy thing for me,

but my paintings were never noticed.

When I drew a rather ugly long-nosed figure,

everyone was interested.”

-Tove Jansson

 

The famed Finnish artist named Tove Jansson, as well as her most famous creation, the Moomins, conjure up many different things to different people. For some she’s a novelist, for some a comic strip author, for some an illustrator and for most of us she’s simply the creator of the Moomins.

She always wanted to be recognized only as a painter.

All of her family were heavily into arts, mainly painting and sculpture. Her father wanted her to be a great artists, and Tove had all what she needed to become one. Illustrations and comics wasn’t considered an art, and when she began working mostly on that, her work, especially the Moomins was despised by her father and other art colleagues.

Garm-magazine, 1940s

Garm-magazine, 1940s

Tove made thought provoking, satirical illustrations and caricatures for Garm-magazine during the war. She was not afraid to speak up and show the horrors of war. Her father didn’t like her ridiculing Hitler, which she boldly, against the official propaganda code, did.

Her father also did not like Jews or communists, and both Tove brought in to their house. Although Tove have said there is nothing more repulsive than hate, at the end of war Tove and her father stated they hated each other.

“I have no reason to give birth to a cannon fodder. I’ll give birth when men stop killing. Likely never.”

Tove started to draw this small, rather ugly, long-nosed figures (as she puts it), in the corners of the illustrations. Just a little trademark for fun. Probably most of the people wouldn’t even notice them. At that time, the figure was still nameless.

When Tove wanted to do something less serious than painting, she wrote a short story, just to put it on her drawer for years. It had to be romantic and adventurous. These little ugly figures found their way to the books too, and were soon called the Moomins.

Muumit Rivieralla, 1955

Muumit Rivieralla, 1955

The Moomins became famous from the comic strips, that started appearing in the British papers too. Tove didn’t havemany friends or colleagues to talk about this kind of art, but found at some point a special someone, Tuulikki Pietilä, a Finnish graphic artist, whom she spend the rest of her life with.

Many of the characters themselves are based on actual people. Moominmamma was inspired by Tove’s own mother, Signe. Atos Wirtanen, the man Tove was romantically in relationship is the basis of Nuuskamuikkunen (Snufkin), Tiuhti ja Viuhti (Thingumy and Bob) resembles Tove and her lover Vivica, and Tuutikki (Too-Ticky) was rather obviously Tuulikki.

“I pitied the other kids in their clean houses. No sculptures and books all around, and no artists as parents.”

The personal Tove is not at all unknown in Finland, although she was out of public for the last ten years of her life. She wrote a lot about her personal things in her many letters. She also filmed a lot with a Super 8 film camera with her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä. They filmed at their island cottage, an atelier in Helsinki and at their travels in all over Europe for many decades. This material have been published and shown on television and sold on dvd.
Tove Jansson in 1940s

Tove Jansson in 1940s

Tove was offered a possibility to do animated films based on the Moomins, but she consider such a project too time consuming and didn’t want to leave painting and other things for too long time. She did however cooperate with the licensed films and series, such as the Dutch-Finnish-Japanese anime from early 1990s.

Films and series of the Moomins have come from many different countries. Earliest from the late 1950s, a puppet tv-series from West-Germany, Die Muminfamilie. The most recent is yet to be premiered – a traditional animation feature film, Muumit Rivieralla (2014).

In between there are three Japanese anime series, first from late 1960s, with young Hayao Miyazaki as one of the animators.

Die Muminfamilie, 1959

Die Muminfamilie, 1959

Shin Mūmin, 1972

Shin Mūmin, 1972

Šljapa Volšebnika, 1980

Šljapa Volšebnika, 1980

Opowiadania Muminków, 1978-1982

Opowiadania Muminków, 1978-1982

The weirdest, very free adaptation is Šljapa Volšebnika from Soviet Union.  The most low-key and true to original illustrations are Swedish short films, Kuka lohduttaisi nyytiä (Who Will Comfort Toffle? 1979) and Kuinkas sitten kävikään from (The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My, 1993).

And of course there’s the Polish cut-out animation series Opowiadania Muminków (The Moomins 1978-1982). It’s material was restored and reused in two Finnish feature length films, Muumi ja vaarallinen juhannus (2008) and Muumi ja punainen pyrstötähti (2010). Latter being shown in 3D and having new theme song sung by Björk, a big Moomin fan. Third film is set to be premiered around 2016.

All in all, Tove Jansson’s Moomins may be the best known cartoon merchandise from Finland (at least if we do ignore Angry Birds.)

Today, Moomins are generally best known in Finland for the following things, in this order;

The anime series from the early 1990s, directed by Hiroshi Saitô. The ceramic mug merchandise, designed by Tove Slotte after Jansson’s originals. Tove Jansson’s original novels. The comic strips. The Polish stop-motion series. Possibly the Moomin World in Naantali, Naantalin Muumimaailma.

The two anime series (Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka and Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka: Bōken Nikki) and a feature film (Mūmindani no Suisei) were made between 1990 and 1992. In Finland, both series were lumped into one program called “Muumilaakson tarinoita”. It is the same name the Polish animation version was called before. For the younger generations, the softer, pastel looks of the Moomins is commonly thought as the real Moomins nowadays.

Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka, 1990

Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka, 1990

This series that boosted the Moomin legacy to the next generations to come, was a brainchild of Finnish Dennis Livson, co-foudner of Dutch production company Telescreen (Alfred J. Kwak). He wanted to do an animated series of Moomins already in the early 1980s but did not get the rights from Tove until he later became friends with her brother, Lars. He also created the Moomin World. In his last years, he still hoped to make an animated feature film of Muumipappa ja meri (Moominpappa at Sea). He never got the rights.

This year it has been 100 years since Tove Jansson’s birth. The new traditional animated feature length film will premiere in Finland within two months.

Muumit Rivieralla © 2014 Handle Productions Oy, Pictak Cie © Moomin Characters ™

Muumit Rivieralla © 2014 Handle Productions Oy, Pictak Cie © Moomin Characters ™

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A Brief History of Animation

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emile_invert

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Visuaalinen taide syntyy aina aluksi muutamista viivoista ja pilkuista. Maalaustaiteesta animaatioelokuvaan, video- ja kännykkäpeleihin. Historiaan ja kehitykseen tutustuminen on hyvä tapa oppia ja käsittää pohjimmiltaan kunkin olemus.

All visual artforms start from scratch. From paintings to animation to video- and mobile games. There’s always those few lines and dots making the base for a whole new artform. Knowing a little about the history and evolution is a very fine way to understand the essence of any subject.

Emile-CohlAnimaatioelokuvan synty on monivaiheinen, eikä ensimmäistä animaatioelokuvaa, saati animaatiota, voi yksiselitteisesti määritellä. Erilaisia rajapyykkejä voi nimetä rajaamalla määritelmää. Rajattuna ensimmäiseen julkisesti esitettyyn juonelliseen piirrettyyn, animaatioelokuvan historia alkoi vuonna 1908, Émile Cohlin Fantasmagoriesta.

The birth of animated film is nuanced. The very first animated film, not to mention animation, cannot be indicated unambiguously. Various land marks can be titled by defining the attributes in detail. For example, the first public screening of a narrative cartoon can be traced down to Émile Cohl‘s Fantasmagorie in 1908.

Mitä tulee animaation esihistoriaan, viimevuonna esitettiin teoria luolapiirrosten kätketystä mahdollisuuksista kuvien liikkumisen suhteen. Oli siinä perää tai ei, mahtuu luolapiirrosten ja Fantasmagorien väliin vielä pitkä historia animaatiota, jonka etapeista kukin saa valita oman versionsa animaation syntyhetkestä.

There are growing amount of theories about the pre-history of animation. Just last year it was suggested, that early cave paintings embodied elements, that made animation of the figures possible. May it be true or false, it’s a fascinating theory. Nevertheless, between the cave paintings and Fantasmagorie, there’s still a long history of animation. You choose when the contemporary animated film was truly born.

Outlines of Animated Film
Animaatioelokuvan ääriviivat

C0HL
Fantasmagorie oli ensimmäinen piirretty. Hieman yli minuutin kestävä elokuva on piirretty paperille ja kuvattu negatiiville, joten se näyttää liitutaululle piirretyltä, surrealistiselta tikku-ukkofantasialta. Nykyaikana se muistuttaa harrastelijan flip-book kokeiluja, mutta Cohlin muodonmuutoselokuvat kehittyivät teknisesti ja tarinallisesti laadukkaammiksikin. Piirroselokuvan lisäksi hän taitoi pala-animaation ja hyödynsi taitavasti esimerkiksi pyöriviä pahvirenkaita, jotka nopeuttivat tekoprosessia huomattavasti.

First cartoon, Fantasmagorie lasts for just over one minute. While drawn on paper and shot onto negative film, it looks like everything’s happening on a black board. The film introduces a stickman-like figure in surrealist fantasy. As artistic as flip-books from the modern day amateurs, but the quality of Cohl’s tales of transfiguration evolved technically and storywise very quickly. He soon mastered the cut-out animation and use of a cardboard wheel, speeding up the process of animating.

Amerikkalainen J. Stuart Blackton kokeili vastaavaa tyyliä fläppitaululle piirretyillä hahmoilla jo aiemmin, joskin kyseessä oli lähinnä pilapiirrosmaisia elehtiviä kasvoja.

Cohl was not the first to try out animating drawn figures. American J. Stuart Blackton made two simple one-joke films on flip charts before, 1900 and 1906. Basically caricatures making faces.

sugundo_bobs2Animaatio kun on paljon enemmän kuin pelkät piirretyt, suuri merkitys on stop-motion elokuvilla ja etenkin nukke-elokuvilla. Espanjalainen Segundo de Chomón jalosti Georges Méliès’n johdattamalla tiellä aavemaisten ja taianomaisten trikkifilmien menestystarinaa, osaten antaa arvoa varhaiselle animaatiollekin.

Animation is a whole lot more than mere cartoons. Especially stop-motion- and puppetfilms are of great importance. Segundo de Chomón bred technique of fairy films made famous by mostly Georges Méliès‘ ghastly and magical trickfilms. He also had much heavier impact on animation.

Chomónin elokuvassa, Bob’s Electric Theater, nuket moniottelivat jo vuonna 1906. Varhainen esimerkki kartoitti mahdollisuuksia laajasti, mutta myöhempi löytö paljasti vielä jotain paljon suurempaa…

In Chomón’s 1906 film, Bob’s Electric Theater, puppets fight in three different sports. Early example of puppet film may have been the most influential at the time, since something far greater was found only much later…

Forgotten Silver
Unohdetut kuvat

shiryaev1Vasta vuonna 1995 löydetyt arkistot paljastivat yhden animaatiohistorian suurimmista löydöistä, Venäjän kansallisbaletin päätanssija ja opettaja Alexander Shiryaevin yksityiskäyttöön tehdyt paperipiirroselokuvat ja nukkeanimaatiot vuosiväliltä 1905-1909.

As late as 1995, the archives of Alexander Shirayev revealed the home-made, never before publicly shown masterpieces of puppet animation, as well as a few interesting animations on paper, which date in between 1905 and 1909.

Uusien löytöjen autenttisuuteen sopii aina suhtautua varauksella, mutta Shiryaevin elokuvat ovat ilmeisen aitoja. Samaa ei voida vedenpitävästi todeta 1899 valmistuneista tulitikkuanimaatioista britteinsaarilta.

Newly found material should always be a matter of suspicion, but Shirayev’s films are most likely authentic. Same cannot be stated by everyone in case of a certain match film from 1899.

matches1899Arthur Melbourne Cooper muistetaan parhaiten vuoden 1908 leluelokuvasta A Dream of Toyland. Vanhemmaksi väitetyssä Matches on Appealissa tulitikku kirjoittaa liitutaululle, vedoten kansaa tukemaan sotilaitaan maailmalla. Tikut pelaavat kahdessa muussa kokeilussa krikettiä ja lentopalloa.

British Arthur Melbourne Cooper is best remembered from his stop-motion toy story, 1908 film A Dream of Toyland, but he claimed his first stop-motion animation dates back to Boer War. Matches on Appeal is an advertisement for matches. In the film, a match writes a message on black board. Other match films portrayed the matches playing cricket and volley ball.

Jokaisesta tikkufilmistä puuttuu alku, jonka lisäksi ne unohtuivat tekijän mukaan useiksi vuosikymmeniksi jopa häneltä itseltään. Oli miten oli, niillä on hädin tuskin elokuvallista arvoa nykypäivänä, toisin kuin esimerkiksi Shirayevin mestarillisilla töillä. Ne ovat alansa huippua edelleen, eikä toteutukseen edes kykenisi moni Shirayevin liikkeen ja baletin perinpohjaisesta tuntemisesta johtuen.

In addition to these match films missing title screens, Cooper had mysteriously forgotten the films for decades. The films are undeniably well made, but do not bear great cinematic significance. Shirayev’s work for example does make a difference, for the sake of unique sense of motion and above all, ballet.

Film Trickery
Trikkielokuva

cendrillion_2

Méliès on fairy film -aikakauden tunnetuin stop-tricksteri ja elokuvassa Cendrillion (1899), Tuhkimo, hän hyödyntää animaatioon verrattavaa efektiä kurpitsan muuttuessa vaunuiksi. Tönkköä mutta totta.

Georges Méliès is undoubtedly the best known fairy film -era stop-trickster. In his early film, Cendrillion (1899), Cinderella, he uses an effect similiar to techniques of animation. Pumpkin grows into a wagon in three stages. Same with the mice-turned-chauffeurs. Abrupt, but influential for sure.

Aiemmat elokuvat vain flirttailevat tekniikalla, joka on animaatioelokuvan perusta. Ensimmäinen stop-trick ei nykykäsityksen mukaan ole kuitenkaan Méliès’n tekemä, vaan Thomas Edisonin studiolla kuvattu Skotlannin kuningatar Maria I:n mestaus noin puoliminuuttisessa The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scotsissa (1895).

Almost all Méliès’ films before Cendrillion play with the idea of animation, without actually exploiting the technique. Still, even though Méliès made the stop-trick famous, it is one of Thomas Edison‘s short clips that was dated even before Méliès’ works. A staged beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots took place in 1895, yet Méliès almost certainly was not aware of this.

Aesthetics of Tinted Fairy film
Satuelokuvan väritetty estetiikka

zecca_aliStop-trickin lisäksi filmin käsinmaalaaminen sivuaa animaatiota. Kuvien päälle maalattiin freimi kerrallaan värejä, joka sivuaa tekniikaltaan rotoskoopattua animaatiota. Tekniikka yleistyi vasta 1980-luvulla. Tunnetuimpiin esimerkkeihin rotoskoopatusta animaatiosta, eli näyttelijän päälle piirrettystä animaatiosta, lienee musiikkivideo A-ha: Take on me (1986).

Another animation technique invented but not exploited until later was hand-coloring the film. Tinting the films was popular, and the unnatural dreamlike coloring gives the film the aesthetic feel similar to animated film. In addition, roughly the same method is the basis of rotoscope animation, popular in the eighties, most notably known for the A-ha’s music video Take on me (1986).

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Useissa Edisonin, Méliès’n, Ferdinand Zeccan ja de Chomónin elokuvissa on upeasti väritettyjä kuvia, vaikka vain viiden minuutin elokuva vaati kymmeniä ja satoja värittäjiä. Vuosisadan alun fairy filmit jakavat tästä syystä esteettisen tunnelmansa animaatioelokuvan kanssa.

Many films by Edison, Méliès, Ferdinand Zecca and de Chomón has beautifully tinted colors, and even for a five-minute film, the process employed from dozens to over hundred female workers.

Ensimmäisestä piirrosfilmistä on nyt kelattu vuoteen 1895, jolloin elokuva virallisesti syntyi Lumieren veljesten järjestäessä Pariisissa ensimmäisen maksullisen elokuvanäytöksen. Tämäkään ei ollut liikkuvan kuvan, sen enempää kuin animaation alku.

Now that we have rewinded from the very first cartoon to the official birth of cinema, first public screenings of the Lumiere brothers’ films in 1895, we do not stop here, but only go further down the history.

Théâtre Optique, 1892

reynaudCharles-Émile Reynaud heijasti pariisin eliitille praxinoskoopillaan jo vuonna 1892 esityksen, joka kantoi nimeä Théâtre Optique.

Before cinématographe was patented by Lumiere brothers, Charles-Émile Reynaud reflected his early animations with a praxinoscope to his fellow parisians. The first public show in 1892 was called Théâtre Optique.

Theatreoptique

Muuttumattomalle taustalle heijastettiin hahmoja hyödyntäen ensikertaa filmikelan reunoille painettuja reikiä, joka teki pidempienkin animaatioiden syöttämisen mahdolliseksi.

The figures were projected on the unchanging background using the film perforations, the tiny holes in the film stock, for the first time in history.

Reynaudin satojen teosten kohtalo on samaa luokkaa Méliès’n tuotannon kanssa, kinematografin syrjäyttämänä ketään ei kiinnostanut ajastaan jälkeen jäänyt tekniikka ja Reynaud heitti lähes kaiken Seineen. Vain kaksi teosta säilyi, jotka restauroitiin ja uudelleenkuvattiin 1980-luvulla. Työstä vastasi puolalainen tuottaja ja elokuvantekijä Julien Pappé.

The destiny of Reynaud’s works is similiar the the Méliès’ films. After cinématographe dethroned his primitive praxinoscope, he threw all but two of his works to Seine. The only two existing works have been restored by polish producer and animator Julien Pappé in the eighties.

Chronophotographic guns
Sarjavalokuva-aseet

chrono1

Filmejä kuvattiin vuosia ennen ensimmäistä julkista näytöstä. Ensimmäinen kissavideokin kuvattiin jo vuonna 1890. Kaksi sekuntia pitkällä pätkällä oli tarkoitus tutkia kissojen putoimista jaloilleen.

There were films before the first public screenings. Even the now popular youtube-genre, cat videos, “started” as early as 1890. Two seconds long film was supposed to be a study of cat’s falling on their feet.

Filminpätkän kuvasi ranskalainen tiedemies Étienne-Jules Marey, joka teki kaikkiaan animaatio- ja näytelmäelokuvan eteen yhtä paljon kuin hänen aikalaisensa Eadweard Muybridge, vaikka vain jälkimmäinen muistetaan laajalti. Molemmat onnistuivat taltioimaan liikeen eri vaiheita kronophotografisesti ennen elokuvaa. Muitakin varjoon jääneitä kokeilijoita tietenkin oli, kuten saksalaiskeksijä Ottomar Anschütz.

The study was filmed by french scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who made notable work on animation and cinema, as well as his contemporary chronophotographer, Eadweard Mubridge. Still, only the latter is well known cinematographer-before-cinematography. Of course, there’s others left in the shadows too, like the German inventor Ottomar Anschütz etc.

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Marey kuvasi tapahtumien kaaren eri vaiheet yleensä yhteen kuvaan, käyttäen eräänlaista sarjavalokuvakameraa. Aiheinaan ihmiset, urheilusuoritukset ja eläimet. Samanlaista intoa vaatii hahmoanimaattorien työ, näytelmäelokuva vain harvoin.

gunMarey shot motion of events mostly in one single phograph, with a photographic gun. Mostly people, sports and animals. Same enthusiasm shown to the study of motion is essential to even the modern-day animation filmmakers, not so much to the live-action filmmakers.

Tutkimustyönä toteutetun taiteen tekemistä Marey teki vuosikymmeniä, jonka lisäksi hän julkaisi kirjan eläimen mekanismista, La Machine animale vuonna 1873, ja ihmisen liikehdinnastä, Le Mouvement vuonna 1894.

Marey studied motion intensively for years and published books on animal mechanism, La Machine animale in 1873, and on human locomotion, Le Mouvement in 1894.

Muybridge kuvasi erillisillä kuville. Hänen ensimmäinen kuvasarjansa kuvasi hevosen ravia todetakseen josko eläimen kaikki kaviot ovat jossain vaiheessa samanaikaisesti ilmassa. Sen hän sai aikaiseksi järjestämällä kameroita tiuhaan riviin, jokaisen räpsäistessä kuvan hevosen edetessä niiden kohdalle radalle sijoitettujen vaijereiden avulla.

Muybridge shot different stages of movement separately. Famously, his first try at capturing the different stages of motion rose from the disagreement if all four horse hoofs are ever simultaneously in the air. Muybridge managed to record the answer shown below. He set several cameras in row beside the race track, and they all shot the picture when the horse passed a string connected from the race track to the camera.

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Muybridge on mainitusta kaksikosta se joka saa edelleen tribuutteja, joka inspiroi ja mainitaan elokuvan esi-isänä.

Muybridge still gets all the praise and tributes, his work still influences filmmakers and he is commonly even stated as the grandfather of cinema.

Tehtävä animaation mekanikkasta kiinnostuneille aloittelijoille – rajaa kuvan yksitoista ensimmäistä vaihetta erillisiksi kuviksi ja järjestä ne peräkkäin esitettäviksi esimerkiksi Windows Movie Makerilla. Toista loopissa sopivalla nopeudella.

A task to the beginners intrested in the mechanics of animation – trim down phases from The Horse in Motion into eleven (exclude the last) individual files with graphics software and arrange them in order with Windows Movie Maker. Play in loop with a suitable speed. Should look something like this video here. Took around fifteen minutes for me to build it up.

Victorian toys and devices
Viktoriaaniset lelut ja kojeet

phenaZoetroopit ja monet muut lelut edelsivät vuosisadoilla elokuvakojeita. Phenakistoscope on viktoriaanisista optisista illuusioista merkittävimpiä animaatiota ajatellen. Noin kahdeksasta kuuteentoista kuvaa käsittävät piirretyt loopit esittivät yhdelle katsojalle kerrallaan jonkun yksinkertaisen tapahtuman.

There were optical illusions hundreds of years before cinematography. Phenakistoscope is animation-wise one of the noteworthy. A device consisting of approximately from eight to sixteen looping pictures stating different stages of short transaction.

Kiekkoja katsotaan kojeessa sijaitsevien reikien läpi, sillä silmää on harhautettava esittämällä liike erillisinä freimeinä. Tarpeeksi nopeasti esitetyt kuvat luovat illuusion liikkeestä. Strobovaloilla saadaan aikaiseksi sama efekti.

The discs are supposed to be watched through small holes in the device, because human eye needs to be tricked by presenting the motion in frames. It is possible with high enough speed. A flashing strobo-light would do the trick aswell.

Pre-history of Animation
Animaation esihistoria

caves1 – Kopio

Uusia löytöjä ja teorioita löytyy aika ajoin edelleen. Viimeisen kymmenen vuoden aikanakin melko paljon. Marc Azéman esittämä teoria viime vuodelta on otettava skeptisesti vastaan. Hänen mukaansa jo luolamaalauksia esitettiin animaatioina. Vaikka päällekkäisiä liikkeen vaiheita sisältävät kuvat saataisiinkin elämään ehdotetulla soihdun liikuttelulla, ei ole mitään näyttöä artistien todellisista tarkoitusperistä.

Many new discoveries and theories have taken place during the last ten years. Marc Azéma suggested last year that a flickering flame could have been used ase a mean of animating the cave painings. One should be skeptical about such theories, since even if that really works, the original artist may not have even dreamed about it.

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Articles

Introduction to European Animation pt. II

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Art animation can be found anywhere in the world, but in Europe it used to be more of a rule than exception. Animation has rarely been used as a commercial entertainment like in the US, although the amount of computer generated 3D pictures has increased nowadays. With that, a major part of signature style is gone. Hardly anyone can create individual pieces of art with this trending vehicle.

European Animation is more uncompromising. The film is as long as it needs to be. There’s not clear restrictions of time, no need to be a standard short film or a feature lenght. The film runs for exactly fourty minutes if it is the time needed to tell the story. At the moment, there’s practically only the French animation with potential of becoming an industry any time soon.

In the US, European animation is generally considered too dark and bold. The other, greater problem is the likes of Disney, trying to maintain a sort of monopoly status. Seen concretely for example when The Mole (Krtek) had it’s try out there.

thelittlemole Rumcajs2

Traditional animation from (especially Eastern) Europe is usually made of very natural ingredients, there’s a lot of national romantics, painting inspired, folklore based, art nouveu -like, puppet theatre derived illustrations. Dark and crude. Scary even. In addition, there’s not many other mediums keeping the aesthetics of German expressionism live either.

One must respect the variety of styles. There’s the silhoutte films, stop-motion, puppet films, cut-out animation, scratching, destructive, the pin screen technique, mixed-media as well as the hand drawn cel animation, computer generated images and much more.

One of the most essential sources of inspiration is arguably Jiří Trnka’s illustrations from 1939 onwards. His one and only true love was the puppet theatre and later the puppet films. He was financially forced to express his visions through fairy tale illustrations, and the visual style of illustration was heavily inspired by the puppet works.

Quoting Jaroslav Boček‘s book Jiří Trnka – Artist & Puppet Master (1962), his technique and style revolutionised the whole Czech children’s book illustration, when Bruin Furryball in his Forest Home was a sensation of the Christmas book trade in 1939.

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Soon even the cartoons were inspired by the crude, puppet-esque character design. The result is highly visible even today, yet not as clearly in the mainstream. The best known big-budget contemporary film makers in the world that owe their style partly to these films and illustrations, are US film makers like Tim Burton, Henry Selick and so forth.

Political changes in Europe circa 1990 had crucial effect on financing the quality animation in Europe. Yuri Norstein is still making his one hour long cut-out animation Overcoat, started in 1981. Jiří Barta could not do a film for decades after his 1986 masterpiece Krysař. The intended follow-up, mixed-media film Golem is still looking for sponsors.

“Usually, animated films were shown in front of feature films in Prague. It was very simple to distribute animation in the last years [of the regime], as we were not questioned about what our films were about. They were simply animated films: not for children, not for anybody. In one way it was a much easier situation. Of course, censorship was a problem; now we have got freedom in our thinking and our ideas. But now we have the problem of finding sponsors and producers and so on. In the Czech Republic, there is not a very strong system for financing film because parliament hasn’t voted in a new [film] law. In this film area, there is very little money in the grant system to finance auteur projects. Of course, you can make some commercials and you can ask anywhere you want—not only in the Czech Republic but also foreign countries.”

– Jiří Barta at Kinoeye

read the full interview

nick2 Adventures of Sinbad the Sailor

The commonly repeated elements, aesthetics and motifs in European animated films are generally from the long tradition of ones own history and culture, but there’s a few other influences too. For a long time, oriental tales have been popular in both European animation and illustration. The most important title is the Arabian Nights, or, Tales of Thousand and One Nights. It’s a horn of plenty equal to H.C. Andersen or the Brothers Grimm.

Oriental influences also include the Chinese shadow theatre, brought to France in the 1700s. Émile Prisse d’Avennes imports grew interest on Arabic arts in the 1800s, and last but certainly not least the appreciation of puppet theatre in Czech in early 1900s. Later influences would be Japanese ink wash painting, calligraphy and even anime.

Anime is a worldwide phenomenon now, and even though it’s a term for only Japanese animation, it has been stylically adapted to the US cartoons today. Basically, same goes to “European” kind of animation. It can be practised elsewhere. Next time, about the sister countries of European style outside the continent.

Before that, take a look at the unfinished films by Yuri Norstein and Jiří Barta.

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