Group A and Grad Students post thoughts on readings/film here. All others are welcome to comment on posts.
Group A and Grad Students post thoughts on readings/film here. All others are welcome to comment on posts.
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I would agree with you on your thoughts about the last metamorphosis being told from the child’s perspectives, though I think it definitely works for the piece. I really enjoyed The Camera Mans Revenge as well, as a few others had mentioned on here. The way it was made is truly astounding, takes a creative mind I could only hope but to achieve. I’d love to try a similar technique to that in some of my own work, all the detail is killer!
Perhaps the sexual interesting Betty Boop stems from an era when women were supposed to be less independent and needing a man in their life. This would make Boop a perfect contender for that idea, to sexualize helplessness because Zane said she speaks like a 2 year old and her head is huge. Traditionally in animation and art, anything with a large head and large eyes is cute and reminds us subconsiously of babies. We are wired to find this cute so we don’t abandon our babies or just kill them (old civilization stuff) and so Boop being designed this way we have a built in affinity for her. Now, the sexualizing of her is lost on me in this day and age but I think we all like women that are smart, indepdenet and strong now versus helpless little sex idols like they may have preferred in this era.
This weeks reading was pretty substantial to say the least. One thing I found interesting was the comparison between Betty Boob and Snow White. Is becomes apparent that Fleishure’s use of metamorphosis resists the so called moral function, all while enhancing animation into its modern forma and going well beyond telling just a story. It had been awhile since I had seen any Disney movies like this, so I decided to watch The Little Mermaid today to look for any signs that this could be true. One of the things that really struck me is how seemingly innocent Aerial is, (though she is a bit sassy and rebellious) through the course of the story until she allows Ursula to change her. Prior to this encounter, she wanted to be, “up where they walk, up where they run, up where they play all day in the sun,” mirrors a child’s desire to be grown up. The transformation from innocence happens when she is transformed into a woman, at which point she is naked, symbolizing the loss of innocence. After she fails to kiss the prince, she is turned back into a mermaid, destined for the seaweed garden, and God knows what after that. This is just one example of the so called “metamorphosis” taking place within the films, as we see one thing on the screen, but it clearly had multiple implications to it. Betty Boop is seen as a virginal Snow White. Upon watching some clips of her, I san see the point being made in this reading. She has characteristics that seem appropriate to a virgin, yet her style can be seen as an instrument in and of itself. Her movements can also be seen as arguably gearing toward a masculine audience in that some of the movements she makes with her hips, patting her hair, etc is more geared toward sexuality than just mere observing. The metamorphosis arguably comes in many forms with early Disney and I can’t touch up on that much here. One great example is where the beautiful, yet evil queen, turns into a hag and gives Snow White the deadly apple, so she can be the most beautiful. This is clearly hinting that beauty is also on the inside not just the outside. This is seen as the queen is just as evil of a witch when she is the queen, as she is when she’s a hag. In both of these cases, the transformation takes place, but the character is essentially the same, Aerial is still in love, and the queen is still evil, hinting at the notion that its what’s on the inside that matters.
Trnka’s notion that animation can be used to show the resistance of the artists to the authority. It is often done by very subtle, specific, and ambiguous means as not to draw attention to ones self as well as not making it totally obvious to those who are watching it. I thought it interesting that these artists often didn’t just make the animation just to wow the audiences, but created animation that meant something near and dear to the person who was creating it. Trnka uses some of his work to show the forced misery of servitude, as well as the destruction of innocence, while making it clear that the world around him is a dark, cold, evil place which can’t really be enjoyed. This can be seen in the previous animation films as well as the seemingly innocent person Aerial, and Snow White nearly get killed by the evils that are jealous of them. Trnka’s tension can be felt at the sound of the heavy footstep at the beginning of his film, hinting at a dissatisfaction with society as the heavy footsteps clearly depict the heavy hand of government in an indirect way. This type of tool allows the artist to make his views about the government without drawing any suspicion to his or her self.
I knew that the Soviets were big on film, but was surprised that one had a guarantee of full time work if one was an animator. Moritz talks a bit of focusing on the, “home plight of woman, while removing it from the political arena,” again hinting at subtle ways to oppose ones system silently, while clearly showing the oppression of the totalitarian society. In each of the episodes, the context seems to evolve and change, all while maintaining the same focus. The wig scooting around seems to be hinting at a type of resistance or covering as it scurries away at the, “sound of surveillance,” again clearly showing the heavy hand of communism while hopefully not offending the political authorities. The woman in this piece it is argued seems to be subhuman, a clear indicator of societies views during this time as seeing the woman as less than equal with the man.
The dehumanization metaphore goes even further with episode four, where we see the man being depicted as some sort of robot or something. The beginning also starts with footsteps, again inciting fear that the government is watching you. The man’s robotic actions indicate a person who has all life and hope drained from him. In other words, he is the result of what the communist government has in store, and this can be seen through his actions. The mechanicalization of these people hints at the notion of what they are truly feeling, like controlled, mindless zombies. This was a very common trait during the time of the Soviet Union as it was one of the most tyrannical forces in the history of our planet. The art work from this massive country resounds the notion of totalitarian control in which humans are seen as machines, (expendable) and not true individuals.
It’s interesting how the reading changes are perception of story telling through animation, especially in Disney. Having to review the early Disney animation, I now see the metamorphosis being portrayed in the films. Another example would be Mulan, denying her femininity and transforming herself into a man on the outside. It’s also interesting to see that these artist can put in subtle messages in children’s animation that can portray real life problems. In the movie Mulan for instance, it was to portray equality within men and women.
I really enjoyed the point of William Moritz’s article. His writing provides so much evidence that animation cannot be simplified to children’s entertainment. While television is teeming with children-specific shows that often seem to lack deeper thought and intellectual content – such as Paw Patrol and Bubba-Guppies – there are far more instances where animations provoke thought and intense discussion, as well as the many innuendos and euphemisms cleverly woven in to prove that it was indeed a cast of adult minds in charge of the creation of the animation. Animation, for all of its accomplishments, has suffered over the years and been reduced to entertainment of the youth. And in some ways, animation has evolved to meet the expectations – if it’s animated nowadays it’s usually something everyone will take their children to no matter how adult it might actually be (Like ‘Ringo), but at the same time they still hold on to contemplating far more serious matters like the ones Moritz discusses. ‘Big Hero 6’ talks about depression – especially in teens – while ‘Shrek’ questions stereotypes, ‘Kotonoha no Niwa’ contemplates the nature of friendship and aspirations, and ‘Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki’ explores the idea of “nature vs nurture” and the ability to define yourself.
I was sad to read that the government support and promotion of animation came at a highly-censored cost. It’s an interesting thought that they so heavily funded and ensured the continuation of the art form, so far as to create many animation studios. On the one hand, the Soviets as a government were promoting an art form for the sake of art. But on the other hand, because of their heavy censorship, all art created through those particular channels naturally became art that supported and advertised their communist ideals. It was clever, but there is definitely this idea that your best work comes while you are experiencing the greatest pressures, and that humanity doesn’t like being told what to do. The combination resulted in cleverly crafted animated films that were able to act on numerous levels: entertainment, art, and an analysis of and statement on politics. Where centuries ago (to the not so long ago) it was underground meetings and secret pamphlets and messages and signs, animators found a way to work the highly supportive system to show their own opinions on matters that would normally never be discussed due to the government’s watchfulness. So long as they were smart and subtle, what was once effortlessly used as communist propaganda could also be used to critique communism.
While I haven’t watched films that have creatively worked in deeper messages to such an extent as defying the communist agenda, I have seen films that work in other ideas instead – utilizing the fact that they are often viewed as children’s media. One of Pixar’s newest films, ‘Inside out’, knows that with the children it attracts, it will also have adult viewers. Specifically, it will have a lot of parents or parental figures. I remember when the credits began rolling that all my siblings sitting next to me (each one with kids of their own) were crying at least a little (or a lot in my one sister’s case). The explanations Pixar crafts for why we do what we do as people – delving into the mental mind of young Riley and following her struggles as she loses the ability to express two extremely important emotions due to the pressures of this new place she finds herself in and the expectations of her parents – take a while to hit, but when they do they hit hard. The struggles children face – often forgotten by adults who’s minds have often matured and become organized and balance – tend to be dealt with in a variety of ways: being grounded or guilted into acting a different way being two of them. But for Riley, dealing with such huge changes for the first time in her life, has no idea how to exist in the coming moments. She wants to be happy so that her parents don’t worry, but there is an unavoidable sadness in the fact that her home is gone, her friends have moved on, and all her memories are of a place she can’t see anymore. Adults, even the most well-meaning, sometimes forget that while they have problems with work and bills and house repair and the like, their children are experiencing problems for the first time. They’re kids, and lots of the problems they experience are being experienced for the first time. The film doesn’t place blame on anyone, simply reminds us that problems of a child can’t be dismissed because they are experienced by a child, that present parents/guardians are often key figures and points of stability, and that we are all human. That leaves us a little unpredictable, because we’re all individually crafted through our experiences, and sometimes our emotions can’t always be adequately expressed. Though whether that’s because some of our emotions accidentally were sent into long term memory with our core memories is up for debate.
I agree with you on the account of animation becoming something other than artistic expressionism and more about the entertainment value that can be provided for children. William Moritz discusses how one can utilize a deeper meaning through a conventional entertainment medium. I don’t necessarily think that animation as a whole has been reduced to children’s animation, or just something one can bring a child too; I feel that this notion is the fault of the studio and the capitalist market economy in which we live. William Moritz spoke of animation which was done in a totalitarian communist regime which held widely different ideologies than what we are used too. The animators of that time, like Jiri Trnka whom deconstructed the Soviet control over the media and arts and poked fun at the establishment through means which were clever enough to slide past the censors depicted as cyclops in Eine Muruls work because the censors always see things one way, or the right way. The animation of today is more concerned with getting viewers interested in the content so that they can make as much money as possible. The free world is less concerned with portraying subtle anti-bourgeois propaganda and way more concerned with what kids want to see because adults will take them to buy the tickets and the popcorn.
I completely agree with you on account of the Soviets supporting art for the sake of art; I also feel that this was unexpected coming from the communists. I find it interesting, however, that even thought their existed such absurd conventions for the animators, they were still able to get their message across. For me, that is genius. These artists were pushed to create the imagery which would represent the commune to the best degree that could be manufactured. To take these rules into account and still publish your message requires masterful understanding of artistic expression and metaphorical representation.
I’m not entirely sure that the deeper ideological messages within Inside Out were intentionally aimed at the older audience members, I feel as though Pixar was able to break down incredibly dense and complicated ideals into something that a child could digest. The notion of emotional development is very cumbersome for a child to understand, along with the mental instability which it causes. The idea of emotional anxiety is something popularized by western culture and encompasses the notion of emotions vs. reason. Inside Out is a projected model of the mind contained in a post-Freudian culture where we are more encouraged to embrace our emotions rather then stifle them away. The pinical moment of the film when joy comes to the understanding that sadness is absolutely essential for overall harmony in the functions of Riley’s emotional stability. I feel that the overall theme or message of the film is exactly that, to embrace sadness as well as to experience the free flowing emotions that come with it, which is a token to our societal progress away from emotional anxiety. Inside out provides a model for kids that is not only engaging for them, but also stands as scientifically sound when it comes to the ideologies of human emotional development. To wrap these incredibly complex ideals into material easy for kids to wrap their minds around is just as genius as Jiri Trnka’s “The Hand” which was an allegorical rendition of communist control via omnipresent manipulation and regime.
This is not the first time Disney has attempted to tackle the notion of emotional anxiety, specifically the notion of emotions vs. reason. Classical thinkers deemed that emotion and reason were in constant battle over the control of the mind. The emotional person was viewed in this context as weak due to their giving in to what would be the easiest path to base desires governed by feelings while the strong would rule over their emotions with reason. Disney came out with a short animated cartoon which encompassed these ideas in “Reason and Emotion” in 1943. The short was actually a light hearted propaganda piece warning Americans against the popular fear tactics used by the axis powers during the second world war. I believe that this film was not only a point of reference for Inside Out, but also contributes to the notion of underlying thematic material within animated film.
You are right about how people have managed to create art even when they are being repressed. It has been stated that the loss of censorship causes loss of imagination. Although I disagree with certain forms of censorship, it is important to note certain great discoveries created when people were under pressure. As you point out, a lot of government-sponsored US cartoons were for children. Adult content was strictly forbidden.
Looking through Youtube, it’s easy to find government-sponsored Disney cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s with the goal of educating children to stay in school, to throw away their trash, etc. Later cartoons aimed at adult audiences tended to be films produced by independent film companies instead of big names like Disney.
What I found interesting in the Paul Wells article is the section on fabrication and the section on acting and performance. The section on fabrication focuses on the ideas of three dimensional animations and how they try to simulate real life. Obviously we are aware that these images are created with computers, but while we watch the film, if done correctly, we allow ourselves to suspend our belief enough to see these images as reality.
While this is very true with animation, I feel that these ideas could also be applied to any film, even live action. While a live action film is created using people, the process of capturing the images and processes them creates a sort of disconnect between the reality that once was, and the images we now see projected in front of us. When we go see a live action film, what we are seeing may have once been, but it was killed at the moment it was digitized, and is now re animated for our viewing.
The section on performance intrigued me because it’s something I’ve not thought much about. I know that the characters have been animated and that they’re not alive, but how they came to be is not something that I usually think about at the time I watch the film. I think that the idea of being animated is more apparent in the Toy Story films, due to the set of characters that were used. Because these characters are toys, they freeze when a human comes into the room. In these moments, we are reminded that they are toys, but I think it also reminds us of the fact that they are animated to begin with. In these moments we see the characters as models, without the animation from the animator.
I agree with the fabrication section of the Wells reading. Pixar is known for making good 3D animated films and yes they always simulate real life within their films. When i was young and i would watch 3D animated films I never really thought of the characters as computer made characters. But as i grew older and I started studying animation my eyes are more opened to the Behind the Scenes of each film.
The one Pixar film that I enjoyed and did a paper on was The Incredibles. While researching the film, I discovered that the characters were more realistic than I thought when I first saw it in theaters. The film was Brad Bird’s most personal film, because when he was creating it at Pixar he was having family problems and more heart was put into the film. Bird made the characters have realistic personalities. Even though they are cartoons, Bob was a working father that wanted to relive his glory days, Helen was a mom that was the head of the household and tries the keep their home in order. Violet was a shy teenage girl who was trying to find herself and Dash was a energetic ten year old boy.
Based on the personalities and how the film was made we all get sucked into their lives, but the only thing that sets the audience apart from the Parr family is the fact that they have superpowers. Other than that they could be regular people and I enjoy that from Pixar films, that even though these are 3D animated characters you can still see and feel the human within all the characters.
One of the things I really appreciate about Pixar films is that they take what is already a well written story to start with and add so much emotion. The emotion that is put into the film during the film making process is evident and extracted by the viewer when one watches the film.
The cool thing with Pixar is how far they have come in their fabrication. I remember when I first watched Toy Story I was kind creeped out with how the humans in the film looked. I think it’s because though it looked like a human, it was roughly fabricated and they didn’t really have as much range of expression, which had a feeling of unease to it. Now if you look their newer films like Inside Out, the humans look and express themselves with so much reality it’s incredible. It’s really amazing to see how far they have come from their early days.
Your comment on Fabrication in live action is also an intersting point. With so much use of CGI in films nowadays sometimes there are films that cross the line on what is live action and what is animated. A film that pops in my head is actually one that is not out yet. I recently saw the trailer for the new Jungle Book coming and I was blown away with how realistic the fabrication is. If it was not for seeing the animals talking, it would seem like the little boy was interacting with real animals.
Well I know from other documentaries about Pixar that they were terrified to animate human’s because they couldn’t figure out how to make them look human. But they pushed on making it more real life.
The fabrication now a days is breath taking. I mean the movie Avatar was amazing and you could almost believe that they filmed it on another planet but it was all CGI. A lot of it has to do with new technology motion tracking and all of that. It is crazy how we can create new worlds with fabrication.
As far as narrative is concerned, this weeks reading lead me to believe that one of the most important aspects to observe when studying animations is the amount of control exerted by the creator to all elements perceived. The amount of finesse that the animator or filmmaker uses to adhere to the narrative, in terms of craft, direction, etc., is what can help is what can really provide the narrative. The more control and finesse, the smoother the relaying of information.
However, smoother is not necessarily better, but just one option. If the aesthetic or overall mood/atmosphere is supposed to be jarring or choppy, then the visuals, sound, pacing, and all other elements should adequately reflect this. But if the message or “story” is intended to be easily gathered, then the animator/filmmaker will control all elements necessary to create a balanced, smooth viewing experience.
if the statement that, “abstract concepts and previously unimaginable states can be visualized through animation” is true (which I believe it is), the level of control in the methods and manners of animating are not only the privilege of the creator, but the responsibility. If animation is such an open book, where does the decision to do or not do anything begin or end? This field seems to be such a wildly broad form of visual art that it could possibly never be defined in an appropriate way.
This sentiment is more than likely a good thing. Narrative is a concept that is so familiar to humanity that is deeply characteristic of our evolutionary development. Animation is simply the most recent outlet that we have found which can allow us to visualize the visually-incomprehensible concepts that we can imagine. Therefore control is everything. With a means to create anything and everything, limitations or lack thereof, are crucial.
” If animation is such an open book, where does the decision to do or not do anything begin or end?” I think it depends on the type of animation you are referring to. If you are considering a large studio it is simply money that dictates that. Independent film is where I’d assume that the real freedom of expression in animation is.
I feel the statement of “abstract concepts and unimaginable states” being visualized through animation can be widely accepted, but it is, such as real life, extremely hard to achieve. When it’s done well, it’s done excellently. Then there are those times, when it’s very poorly done, and everything just seems to be not worth it. For when it’s very well done, there are examples like Anomalisa, and World of Tomorrow. Both present pretty unorthodox ideas, but both achieve this in a very different way. With Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman decided to add things more subtly and stylistically. Also, Anomalisa has some fantastic cinematography for a stop motion animated feature. It is done so smoothly and it comes across so jarring.
With World of Tomorrow, everything is thrown at you, but everything works. It plays on the ideas of inevitable death in a really comedic way, and it really excels at it . Don Hertzfelt is a fantastic animator and I hope he wins the Oscar for his short film this year.
Now, I don’t exactly know a poor example of that concept, but there is one example that people consider utter garbage, or genius, and that is the animated short Rejected. With that one, you’re presented with very unorthodox images, and it doesn’t make too much of sense. It does have a very clever fourth wall break towards the end that I really liked upon the first watch, but the rest on first viewing I found a bit immature.
The Paul Wells reading really hits home the limitless opportunities of animation being a tool for story-telling and/or expression. According to the strategies detailed in his text it regarding metamorphosis, condensation, synecdoche, symbolism and metaphor, and associative relations there is pretty much no rules for the adaption to animation from stories. But these strategies I believe also closely align themselves with fine art. Surrealist, cubism and abstraction are founded deeper in many of the same ideals.
Random thought while reading the Wells reading was the talent or skill set of the animator, what bought this up was the section on Acting and Performance. A live actor only has to portray his character, a 2d artist only has to draw his figure, but the animator has to draw, give his figure life and human mannerisms. As an artist I that is quite impressive the effort or work that goes into creating that, I get that studios have scores of people working on them but we have also covered animations made by one or two people.
The Moritz reading takes a look at the methods to avoid censorship in Russia. It’s using symbolism and metaphors for conveying the message of the cause without being blatant. Priit Parn pushing the viewer into the realm of conceptualism, asking them to think to consider then context, not sitting enjoying a nice animation. The addition of Picasso is ironic or interesting being that him himself used his painting as a form of protest.
There is a quite a contrast in the two readings, Wells is more in the realm of telling a story. There can be some deeper context of sexism, and or traditional fables but you were only viewing for pleasure. Much of his examples seem to be US based animation.
A huge majority entertainment shown on the screen in the movie industry right now. From storyboard to the screen is not an rare occurrence in the 21st century. It seems that every other movie that appears in the theater comes from a comic. For example I just went to go see the movie Deadpool yesterday and that movie was originally a comic. Some of the most successful movies in the industries were based off comics. Dark Knight trilogy one of the highest grossing trilogies since Star Wars. The avengers, Captain America, Spiderman, Thor, and plenty more superheroes. Marvel and DC comics superheroes has become the most anticipated movies and top grossing.
Movies are not the only thing being dominated by comics and storyboards. Television has also seen its fair share of comics to the screen. A personal favorite of mines is the Boondocks. The boondocks was originally a comic strip in a newspaper column. Then turned to a cartoon show for adult swim. Many comics have been converted to tv shows. Japanese comics have taken the television by full force. For example a comic Dragonball Z was turned to a show then based off its dominance soon became a real movie to the big screen.
When creating these storyboards, comics, and animations Wells points out what all goes in to this creation of making the story for the creator. The narrative strategies which are metamorphosis, condensation, synecdoche, symbolism and metaphor, and associative relations. the creator has to insure the message and his visual imagery is depicted in the exact way he or she needs it to be. Then being able to capture the animation narrative and transfer it to the big screen is a challenge itself.
Out of wells entire article I found the choreography section to stand out the most to me. He broke it down to a science about the movement of animation. He broke it down to sixteen crucial steps needed to a sure that the animation follows through smoothly and flawlessly. From first the awareness of the body to finally the determined action moods through the expressive qualities of movement. I believe choreography makes or breaks the animation. Before the narrative or message can be portrayed there has to be clarity within the animation.
For some odd reason, the case study on Betty Boop’s Snow White really fascinated me in the Wells reading. The fact that a much more adult version of the same cartoon released four years prior to the Disney classic is enticing to me, just because it really does show just how quickly animation lost its bite and became more child oriented. From the sounds of it, the Betty Boop cartoon has a lot more vaguely experimental qualities than the Disney film itself, with the utilization of transformation and blatant racism and sexism. It made me wonder if the now trippy aspects of it are there because of the short format. After all, we don’t really see adult animated films ever really catching on, unless you count Robert Zemeckis’ “Who Framed Roger Rabbit!,” but that is a hybrid and thus, I wouldn’t feel right calling it an animated film.
The closest I can think of a mainstream adult animated film is Gore Verbinski’s “Rango.” Despite being PG, the dialogue and action in it are very “mature,” and the animation style of almost realism makes it feel like it’s not exactly targeted towards children. After all, who would want to buy a stuffed animal of the creatures in “Rango”? The film has a slow, methodical pace though, and thus, might not be one popular with the general audience, unlike the Betty Boop cartoon. If one wants to make an adult piece of animation and have be truly popular, I feel as though you have to go to television’s short format, although a piece of animation could run much too long there too. However, episodic television can truly embrace the animated ideal of transformation in a way film can’t.
Let’s take a look at what is probably the most popular animated show with the college demographic, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s “Rick and Morty.” Now, I’ve only seen the first season of the show, but I feel like I can analyze it for transformation anyway. Every episode has the characters Rick and Morty (obviously), and each adventure follows a formula. However, the episodes take place in new areas with new scenarios that kick off into the formula, and in fact, after the first few episodes, each new adventure tries to subvert the formula, transforming into something new. These transformations span over episodes too; for example, episode 6 (“Rick Potion #9”) ends with Rick and Morty taking the places of another reality’s version of Rick and Morty, who have just deceased. Rick is fine with it, but Morty is very unsettled by the moral implications of this action. The next episode (“Raising Gazorpazorp”) switches back to being just a wacky space adventure: however, this time Rick hangs out with Summer, Morty’s sister. However, the episode after that one, “Rixty Minutes,” brings up the death of the other Rick and Morty, and Morty’s psychological trauma. The placement of “Raising Gazorpazorp” in between these episodes destroys the convention of traditional continuity, choosing instead to have transformational continuity. The transformation may not come directly from the animation, but the plot of “Rick and Morty” and many other shows take that transformative property and apply it well to the entire structure of the show.
If you’re interested in that Betty Boop cartoon, I highly recommend you watch it. Not only does it fit a lot of additional things Wells states throughout the chapter, but it’s also considered to be one of the best American cartoons.
In chapter 3 of his book, Wells describes the importance of story. One unique way for animation to tell a story is to use metamorphosis and show one object literally morphing into another. I have seen this practice in Betty Boop cartoons. The Fleischer brothers animated the Popeye and Superman cartoons, but their surrealism and metamorphoses were most evident in the Betty Boop cartoons. I was excited to see Wells use “Betty Boop’s Snow White” as an example of a cartoon featuring metamorphosis. The main characters change shape, but the highly-detailed backgrounds behind them change via elliptical cuts. During Koko the Clown’s rotoscoped performance of “St. James Infirmary Blues”, the background changes several times. I recall that one background showcases a cow-headed singer in a tight dress pounding out keys on an old piano. After a few moments of screen time, this background fades into another one.
If I continue to use Betty Boop’s Snow White as my example, the cartoon contains symbolism and metaphor as well. When the ugly Wicked Queen leers at beautiful Betty, the Queen’s face becomes a frying pan and her eyes become eggs. This shows that she is steaming mad. As Wells quotes in his book, Jorges Luis Borges once stated that “Censorship is the mother of metaphor.” Censorship and Betty Boop go hand-in-hand. Reflecting back on her cartoons now, there certainly were a few metaphors. Dizzy Red Riding Hood ends with Bimbo pulling Betty into bed with him. We now cut to Betty and Bimbo sitting on a crescent moon, kissing in the stars. This was obviously a metaphor for sex that went right over children’s heads.
P. Wells argues that animation provides a medium through which metamorphoses may be accurately shown. They offer Fleischer’s interpretation of Snow White through Betty Boop as an example. In the 1933 animated short, various objects morph into faces and back again… vice verse. Wells says that the animated nature of the fairytale perfectly suites Fleischer’s medium. “A rusty lamp turns into an allpowerful talisman” Wells cites from Warner as example. Animation, possibly, becomes a more literary medium than live-action film.
In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, which dates to the first century CE, many classical myths — or “fairytales” — are told through fluid storytelling. A sense of motion drives the plot. Ovid describes a changing Daphne, “when through her limbs a dragging languor spread, her tender bosom was wrapped in thin smooth bark, her slender arms were changed to branches and her hair to leaves.” Filmmaking may easily imply such a transformation, but animation can literally show it.
Moritz deals with either medium’s struggle with censorship. Content creators had the ability to show something like a metamorphosis, but in some cases could not due to restrictions from the culture, the studio, or the government. Moritz cites Eine Murul, which creates meaning through veiled allegories. “Anna must get food (symbolically an apple) necessary for [a] meal; George must find suitable clothing for his costume instead of the grim grey uniforms officially available in stores.” The active avoidance of illicitly mentioning “grey” Soviet rule over Estonia, in Moritz’s opinion, makes for a profoundly more interesting and viewable art experience. This relates to Production Code-era Hollywood, wherein filmmakers sidestepped strict rules over overt themes like homosexuality with the deployment of symbolic framing, word play, and prop use. This era also marks the sterilization of animated features, in Wells’ opinion, during which time Disney’s Snow White used metamorphosis only to advance the plot.
The article I’m going to focus on is William Moritz’s “Narrative Strategies for Resistance and Protest in Eastern European Animation.” Moritz discusses how, although cinema, and animation by extension, was looked upon with favor by the Soviet government and had a great amount of support, that support came at the cost of artistic freedom. Soviet ideology was impressed upon all animators who produced Soviet films. As Moritz writes, that often meant that animators where forced to produce innocuous children’s media which only served to enforce the status quo. However, there were many animators who used animation as a means of conveying protesting messages. These animators were able to conceal their messages in a variety of ingenious ways, often taking advantage of the properties of animation as an art form in order to bypass censors.
Moritz describes several films which fit into this category, including Home (1956), The Hand (1964-1965), Tale of Tales (1979). In the case of Tales of Tales, Yuri Norestein, the film’s creator, had previous knowledge of the much early films Home and The Hand, the latter being his favorite. Each film protested the Soviet mainstream in different ways, appropriate to the time period they were made in, as well as the area. Home, as Moritz writes, was created around the time “Russian troops crushed the Hungarian rebellion against Soviet occupation (and the hopes of neighboring countries to escape communist domination).” The film’s vagueness, Moritz notes, is partially what helped it escape censors. However, Home still “addresses the issue of people trapped in a repressed world.” Tales of Tales, one of the later films, is also indirect and “non-linear,” allowing to bypass censors but at the same time tells a story which “urges artist to accept the burden of keeping better times alive through art.”
Of all the films that Moritz examines, The Hand is one which came under some of the greatest scrutiny. A Czechoslovakian film that, as Mortitz describes, came about around in conjunction with the start of the Czech New Wave, The Hand was creator Jiri Trnka’s last film because it caused him to fall from public grace, a film which too obviously critiqued Soviet censorship of the arts. This was the film which I chose to watch. The Hand is a fantastic film featuring a puppet who tries to fight off an imposing hand. The puppet is a potter who happily mades ceramic pots and uses them to grow plants. The hand, however, tries to force the puppet to begin to make only hands through a variety of ways, including simple persuasion, brute force, propaganda images of hands, brute force, and sexual temptation. While Trnka compares the hand to two forces which were opposed by the Soviets (America, in the form of the hand of the Statue of Liberty holding the torch, and Nazi Germany in the form of a black gloved hand forming a Nazi salute), it’s not hard to see how the hand also represents the Soviet government’s attempts to coerce artists into conforming to Soviet ideology. The film begins with an ominous mood, but soon turns into what seems like a typical children’s film, until suspenseful sounds build up to the arrival, and subsequent invasion, of the hand. The puppet always has a smile on it’s face, but the mood of the film becomes more and more frightening. In this way, The Hand, with it’s message of censorship and pretense of being like a children’s film that grows more and more frightening, I couldn’t help but think of the Youtube video Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, a modern day short which uses puppets to show how the media tries to control how children think and create.
I found this weeks reading by Wells to be very interesting, though I was a little overwhelmed when I saw how much the readings consisted of. I really latched onto the section on symbolism. Due to the nature of animation you can pretty much use it to make a statement upon anything you do not disagree with.It is just like how an artist can use their skills to take a stand against society. One I think is Picasso, which is convenient since he cameos in one of the films in the readings this week.
I especially liked the section on the Hand in both readings. I was intrigued by the symbolism and the idea of government controlling what animation could show, that I went and watched it. I was blown away with the puppetry and just how much power a simple finger gesture can have. I loved how the puppet had no expressions and that the lighting was used to show when he was happy, scared and depressed. I thought it was genius.
The Idea of animation symbolizing human problems reminds me of the movie 9. In it we created machines to help us in war and imperialism,and eventually the machines outsmart us, leading to our own destruction. In the film we see through the eyes of a stitch punk known as 9, a creature with a human soul. At first having the ideas of a newborn baby, he quickly has to adapt and grow up so e and his friends can survive in the mechanical wasteland created by our greed and desire for control. Another film that brings up the idea of social problems is Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. That film discusses the idea of conservation, not destroying our natural resources and polluting our natural world. Though our pollution won’t turn into a monster voiced by Tim Curry, it still hits home that we as a species are slowly destroying ourselves by decimating our natural world.
Jon, your critic or thoughts on 9 are interesting and not a direction I went when I saw the movie. Instead of imperialism and the machines outsmarting us I viewed it as man made problem. We often invent or create a solution that didn’t have a problem to begin with, said solution causes other unintended consequences which then something needs to be created to cure that problem. Regardless symbolism and metaphor could be definitely tied to the humanized problems in the movie.
I found the discussion of fabrication in three dimensional animation to be very interesting, particularly the description of animated 3-D objects as being undead, rather than living. This is an interesting way of thinking about them, particularly in light of the fact that ideas of metamorphosis and transformation seem to be so vial to animation. Transformation and metamorphosis are ideas that are associated almost exclusively with life and living things, the capacity to grow and change is a defining aspect of life. It is therefore odd to describe 3-D animated objects as not alive, not animated, but reanimated.
The use of symbolism and metaphor as a vehicle for narrative content is familiar to me as a student of more traditional, static forms of Art History. Symbolism is interesting in art in that it can make the meaning of a work both more and less clear. Established systems of symbols and attributes are common in may different cultures and periods of art, from the defining attributes of Greek and Roman gods to the images of the fleeting nature of life in Dutch still life paintings. However, if a symbol is misinterpreted, not understood by the viewer, or used unconsciously by the artist, it can greatly change the meaning of the work. Metaphors create and even greater level of ambiguity in meaning and narrative, because they usually encompass a far greater range of ideas and have far less well established signs and meanings.
This paragraph is here because it’s late and I’ve really just got enough to say to make three paragraphs, but I need to have four. I guess I could attempt to come up with something interesting and edify to say in place of this place holder paragraph, but as before mentioned, it’s late and I’ve really just got nothing. Also, for all I know, nobody actually reads these. If you are actually reading this than good for you, bad for me I guess. I hope you find this short interlude to be as mildly almost amusing to read as I have found it to write.
Metaphor and symbolism are particularly useful to the artist when he or she is under the watch of the censor. Much like the many metaphors for sex that have developed over the years in American live action cinema, animators, particularly under the rule of the Soviet Union, used metaphor and narrative to tell stories about the oppressive rule of the government, the day to day hardships of the oppressed, and the desire of the artist to be free from the constraints of censorship. The use of both 3-D animation in the form of puppets, and drawn animation is interesting in The Hand. It brings up both ideas about the controlling hand of the government as seen in the strings on the puppet and the freeing hand of the artist/animator, as see in the moving yet string free drawn animation. But it also bring up the idea of animation versus reanimation that was discussed in relationship to the 3-D animation of otherwise inanimate objects. The drawn animation is animated-given life- by the animator, while the puppet is simply reanimated-made to move in imitation of life- by the implied hands of the government.
Paul Wells’ article discusses strategies in storytelling and the significance of the presentation of these animated images, with one of the focuses being metamorphosis. He mentions 1976’s “The Street”, an animated short about a little boy in a Jewish family involving the final days of the grandmother, and how “Most of the film is a sustained metamorphosis in which images literally flow on from one another”. I watched this short on youtube and was impressed. The imagery flowed seamlessly and it’s subtle enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell how it was made. When Wells mentioned metamorphosis in animation, I instantly thought of the short “Love and Theft”, in which cartoon character’s faces form from one to another. Here’s the link- check it out. https://vimeo.com/16245334
One thing that struck me as interesting was the use of metamorphosis in Fleischer’s Snow White, where it intended a more surreal, abstract, and disturbing sense of the word. I actually think it works better this way, metamorphosis should be able to be weird and discomforting, as it’s highly unrealistic and too the human eye looks frightening and alien-like. As a longtime horror fan, I can only imagine the possibilities of an animated take on Cronenberg’s “The Fly”, or Carpenter’s “The Thing”, where the word metamorphosis is taken quite literally and we receive some pretty terrifying and gory results.
Another part of the article that I found fascinating was the use of Synecdoche, where the depiction of a certain part of a figure represents the entirety. The first thing that came to mind is all of those old Chuck Jones cartoons or Tom and Jerry, where these little animals would be running around but then the human authority figure would come in and they would just show the legs. We would hear a voice, obviously showing that they’re a live human with all of the rest of the body parts a human usually has, but the legs are all we need to see in order to understand that. That, and it helps us see things through the animals eyes.