Posts from the ‘Animation’ Category

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda film poster, with Po in the middle.

Image via Wikipedia

On Tuesday I saw Kung Fu Panda 2. I enjoyed the film a great deal, but I’d have to say that the original film is a bit better. I love Jack Black but think that James Hong as Po’s father Mr Ping is hilarious.

One thing I thought was interesting was the use of 2D animation in different parts (mainly flashbacks) of the film.

Gerald McBoing Boing

I know I’ve posted this several times before, but it’s a great cartoon and has inspired me after I watched it at the MIAF on Saturday night.

UPA Retrospective

Tonight I went to the first session of the UPA retrospective at the Melbourne International Animation Festival at the ACMI cinemas. It was a great night with lots of great cartoons. It was good to see such an enthusiastic audience too. It was the first time I have been to see animated shorts on the big screen, and it was good to see people still laugh at these things, although most of the audience seemed to be made up of animation students.

Guest of honour was Tee Bosustow, son of UPA founder Stephen Bosustow. He spoke enthusiastically about the studio and let slip that Sony are finally releasing a dvd box set of the UPA shorts. Actually he said that Sony had outsourced this to two other companies and they will be releasing the DVD. If this is true, and I don’t doubt Tee’s word, this is great for classic animation fans. A UPA set has been a long time coming, and I thikn both John Canemaker and Jerry Beck have in the past tried to persuade Sony to release these cartoons, but failed. If I recollect correctly there was some rights issue with Classic Media owning the Mr Magoo character, despite the Magoo theatrical shorts being owned by Sony.

Most popular cartoon tonight would be a toss-up between

The Jaywalker

Rooty Toot Toot

and Madeline

Melbourne International Animation Festival – UPA Showcase

Today the Melbourne International Animation Festival begins at ACMI and there is one part of the program that I am very excited about and really looking forward to seeing. Every year the MIAF has at least one retrospective on animation history, and this year they have chosen one of my favourite studios from the golden age of animation in UPA. I have previously made posts about UPA, which you can find here.

There are three different programs for UPA, with the first being next Friday evening. The first one features the cartoons Blues Patterns, Outlaws, Mr Charmley Greet A Lady, Be Quiet, Kind, And Gentle,  The Lost Duchess, Madeline, The Jaywalker, Bringing Up Mother, The Wonder Gloves, Christopher Crumpet, and Rooty Toot Toot. Of these I have only seen Madeline, Christopher Crumpet and Rooty Toot Toot, so it should be an interesting evening.

Program 2 is on Saturday evening and features some of the more well-known UPA cartoons as well as some of their earliest work. Hell Bent For Election was the first UPA cartoon made, directed by Warner Bros. Chuck Jones as a favour to the fledgling studio, it was made to help re-elect Franklin Roosevelt as president of the USA. Brotherhood of Man is another industrial cartoon made for the auto workers union to help ease the desegregation of that industry. It seems quite strange today that some people needed a film to tell them that black and white people could live and work together. Flat Hatting was made for the US Navy (I think) as an instructional film of what not to do for the pilots. Then there are the classic commercial cartoons they made such as The Magic Fluke, starring the Fox and the Crow, Gerald McBoing Boing, one of my all-time favourites, The Unicorn In The Garden, Fudget’s Budget and the interesting and gloomy The Tell Tale Heart. I have seen all of these films with the except of Flat Hatting and Fudget’s Budget, but it will be the first time I have seen any of these on the big screen, which I am really looking forward to.

Program 3 is on Saturday afternoon and features UPA’s only really well-known character in Mr Magoo. This is a good cross-section of Magoo’s theatrical cartoons and features The Ragtime Bear, his first cartoon, Trouble Indemnity, Barefaced Flatfoot, Hotsy Footsy, Magoo Express and When Magoo Flew.

All in all it promises to be a very good time and I cannot wait to go. More information can be found at the MIAF website.

Who said cartoons were always for kids?

Here’s a look at Betty Boop and how her cartoons contained some… adult elements in them.

Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Cover of "Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of...

Cover via Amazon

I love stop-motion animation, whether it is King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, Jason and the Argonauts fighting of a marauding band of sword wielding skeletons, or Wallace and Gromit flying to the moon to get some cheese. I’m not exactly sure why the reason this is though. Perhaps I just appreciate the pain-staking efforts that the animators go to bring an inanimate lump of clay to life. I know that I would be extremely frustrated if I laboured for a whole day and only had three seconds of film to show for it. I feel sad that stop-motion animation and traditional hand-drawn animation have largely been replaced by CGI, whilst I absolutely loathe motion-capture animation. (Yes, James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis, motion-capture is a form of animation, regardless of what you say. It is also a very poor cheating form of animation!)

In recent years stop-mo has undergone a bit of a renaissance. In 2009 Henry Sellick released his brilliant animated version of Alan Moore’s Coraline to great acclaim, whilst Wes Anderson’s version of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox was also very good. Britain’s Aardman Animation have been at the forefront of stop-motion animation for the last two decade thanks to Wallace and Gromit.

Curse of the Were-Rabbit is Wallace & Gromit’s first foray into feature-length films. Aardman were previously responsible for the great Chicken Run in 2000, but Wallace & Gromit have been around since the early 90s thanks to great short films like A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. A Grand Day Out was nominated for the Academy Award for best animated short film in 1993, whilst both A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers later won this award.

Whilst I probably do prefer the shorts and Chicken Run to Curse of the Were-Rabbit, it is still a great movie to watch. The animation is great, as it always is from Aardman, and Wallace & Gromit are as enjoyable as ever. However I do think that perhaps they are both more suited to short films than feature-length ones.

The Fox & The Grapes

Here is one of my favourite cartoons of all time. Directed by Frank Tashlin when he briefly headed the Columbia animation studio in the early 1940s. Tashlin’s colleague at Warner Bros Chuck Jones was inspired after viewing this cartoon that he based the premise of his Roadrunner cartoons after the blackout gags that were used here.

I just wish that Sony would release these onto DVD.

Doggy Poo

Here’s a South Korean animated film about dog poo.

Despite being about dog poo this is a surprisingly funny, cute and emotional film.

Betty Boop’s Birthday Party

August 9th is the 80th anniversary of the release of the first Betty Boop cartoon called Dizzy Dishes. In that cartoon she literally was a dog, but it wasn’t long until she became a sex symbol.Betty Boop’s Birthday Party from 1933 features lots of rubber hose like animation. At this time Fleischer’s still had Betty constantly moving, always bouncing to the beat even though she’s not really doing anything.

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

I thought I would review this one early, as it is one of the most controversial cartoons ever made. Unfortunately when talking about this cartoon, which is a part of the infamous Censored 11 cartoons that have been banned from being shown on TV or released on home video/dvd because of the racial stereotyping in the film, it is hard to talk about this for its entertainment value.

Firstly if anyone tells you that this cartoon is not racist they are bullshitting. Yes, it may be a product of its time and Clampett may have been an aficionado of African-American culture and he may not have meant any harm in what he was doing, and the film may be one of the first cartoons to feature black voice actors in the lead roles, but that does not diminish the offensiveness of the film. The film was made specifically to parody African-Americans and their culture. It relies heavily on stereotypes that back in the 1940s were common but are now considered to be highly offensive. I suspect that even in 1943 there would have been some people who felt very uneasy at having seen this cartoon if they had been taking notice.

So how can I enjoy a film that is so racist? Well much like Birth Of A Nation it is the technical aspects of the film that make this such a great film, not the storyline or characters. The animation in this film is brilliant and some of the scenes as is the catchy song.

Should this film be banned? Mmmm… that is difficult to answer… perhaps it shouldn’t, although I don’t think that it is the type of cartoon that is suitable for children to watch. The problem with the banning of this film is that it has caused its reputation to increase to such mythic proportions. This is true of the other members of the Censored 11, although none of the others are even worth watching with perhaps the exception of Avery’s All This And Rabbit Stew.

Also it is true that this is one of, if not the first time black voice actors got the lead part in a cartoon. I think that even though they unfortunately making an unsavory caricature of their own culture by banning this film it does detract from their contributions. (Yes I do know that this is a weak argument.)

Milt Gray talks about Coal Black on Michael Barrier‘s website and readers, as well as Milt and Michael reply here.

An African-American‘s thoughts on Coal Black can be seen here.