Friday, 6 February 2009

ANIMATED CONVERSATIONS

While in New York, recently, I met up with two of my favourite animated people...

Firstly, I got to spend time with the legendary JOHN CANEMAKER (left), artist, Oscar-winning filmmaker and one of the most erudite scholars of the art of Disney and animation in general.

John's powerfully poignant film, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film explored the difficult emotional terrain of father/son relationships as seen through John’s own often turbulent, sometimes explosive, relationship with his father.


Beating Pixar's One Man Band to the Oscar (in a category that was first won by Walt Disney in 1931 for Flowers and Trees) The Moon and the Son featured powerful vocal performances by Eli Wallach and John Turturro and employed stylised animation techniques to tell what is a challenging and deeply moving autobiographical story.


You can read more about the film and see a preview on HBO.

John not only shares my passion for the Golden Age of Disney animation (we followed one another in front of the cameras for the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD interviews) but also with the historical and contemporary variety of what is a truly international - universal - medium.

Talking about our shared obsessions over dinner reminded me of the frustration I frequently feel about the way in which animation is - or, rather, isn't - understood and acknowledged in the sphere of popular art.

It's always got my goat that whilst even the most unsophisticated cineast understands that 'films' comes in many different guises and genres: Westerns, thrillers, mysteries, fantasies, comedies, musicals etc, whereas when it comes to animation, most people simply think of 'cartoons' without realising the extraordinary breadth and depth of styles and techniques that have been - and are being used - to create films that can run for anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours.

Fortunately there are people such as John who, through his books on such giants as Windsor McCay (Gertie the Dinosaur), Otto Mesmer (Felix the Cat), Tex Avery (Porky Pig, Daffy Duck et al), and Disney's 'Nine Old Men', as well as his own filmmaking, have provided an antidote to this shortsighted take on animation.

Visit John's website to find out more about his films, books and artworks.


My second animated encounter was with animator and blogger friend, ELLIOT COWAN...


Elliot, of course, is the cartoony-looking one in the foreground!

I've written about Elliot's work on and off, here and there and now and again, so long-standing/sitting readers will be familiar with his animated duo, Boxhead and Roundhead who are finally beginning to get the notice they deserve among aficionados of the quirky...


Boxhead and Roundhead inhabit a constantly threatening, cross-hatched, George-Orwell-meets-Edward-Gorey world and are (as I've said before and will keep on saying until it becomes a reality) destined for that unique form of Greatness that is reserved for those who truly suffer!


I adore their pessimism, their ruthlessness and their manic desperation in the face of Fate: they inhabit our bleakest nightmares; they are the dark soul of the Toon!


Check out their two most recent and very different exploits...





And you'll find all Boxhead and Roundhead's adventures (along with Elliott's other animations) on YouTube.


That's all folks, but do remember, there's more to animation than just Shrek, Finding Nemo and The Simpsons!

Images: Artwork from The Moon and the Son: John Canemaker © 2005; Photo of Cowan & Sibley: Elliot Cowan © 2009



4 comments:

Elliot Cowan said...

Hey Brian - you're brilliant!
Thanks for the post.

Boll Weavil said...

Tex Avery was always my favourite. He made me realise that, as children,we always apply a childlike set of of rules about what can and can't be done in animation. When, suddenly, the main character steps outside the picture and talks to the animator or a dog loses his fur and is found to be sporting a pair of red and white striped underpants underneath, I was totally aghast and then delighted. What great stuff !
ALATE: The state that comes about in oneself when, on the way to work, one passes the computer and realises one hasn't checked the Sibley blog yet and it will only take a minute.

Brian Sibley said...

Hey, ELLIOT, so are you! My pleasure...

Hey, BOLL -- sorry, getting carried away there...... Anyway, yes, Tex Avery was the Master of screwball animation, although I always preferred the more sophisticated humour of Chuck Jones: just as I prefer Keaton to Chaplin...

luinfalathiel said...

Re people referring to animation as just "animation" or "cartoon" movies - I definitely have noticed this with my Korean students. Every time a student has said they've seen a movie recently, I will always ask them, "What kind of movie was it? A comedy? Thriller? Action? Romance?" Frequently the answer is just "Animation". When I ask "What kind of animation?" I get funny looks. You'd think that all animated films have no storyline or emotions involved!