Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Idea for flamboyant' music?

Perhaps this could gradually fade in with each passing hour each time the cuckoo bird pops out from the clock until the finale when the music comes in full volume and the bird-.. dare I say it-... "feels like dancin', dancin'!"

Cuckoo Bird

So after a bit of advice from both Phil and Jackie regarding my clock, there was a strong incentive to focus on the actual cuckoo bird that pops out every hour. One particular idea that stood out to me was the concept of the bird becoming more and more flamboyant with each passing hour everytime it popped out. Now, why on Earth didn't I think of that? *Facepalms self*

Here's a mashup of ideas and designs for the cuckoo bird. One idea that really stuck in my head was the idea of artificiality and simplicity as it's essentially just a wooden bird, but to add a bit of comic relief, it might be an amusing idea to design it in the style of flamboyant 60s disco costumes.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Profile: The Brothers Quay

(Figure 1) The Brothers Quay

Receiving scholarships to the Royal College of Art in London, the Brothers Quay, Stephen on Timothy Quay (Fig 1), are stop-motion animators that have had a significant, influential impact upon the world of stop-motion animation through innovative and imaginative characters and sets, crafting them with an intricate eye for detail which often present a dream-like, surreal but morbid and dark theme in their films. Most of their inspiration for these themes come from Polish animators such as Jan Lenica and Walerain Borowczyk.

The brothers specialize in creating a feeling of uncanny suspense for their narrative, using surreal soundtracks and altering the atmosphere and mood to further unsettle the audience. Their characters and sets all accomplish this, particularly withing one of their films, Street of Crocodiles.

This film is practically brimming over with an artificial, dream-like theme which the Brothers pull off almost perfectly. Suzanne Buchan of awn.com writes:

"Watching any of their animated films means entering a dream world of metaphor and visual poetry. In their own words: "Puppet films by their very nature are extremely artificial constructions, even more so depending at what level of 'enchantment' one would wish for them in relation to the subject, and, above all, the conceptual mise-en-scène applied."" (Buchan, 1996)

The works of the Brothers Quay are borderline fetishistic, seen by the topless dolls in this film posed in a suggestive manner; such images can be seen within dreams, or in this film's case, nightmares. Their work is ideally surreal, but also presents small tones of modern society and the reality of modern culture. 

Street of Crocodiles presents this in a subtle way inside of a trapped world which almost looks as though time has frozen and left the surrounding set to age in a horrifying way (again, like a nightmare). Ewa Mazierska observes:

"The world invented by the Quays appears frozen in time, covered with dust and cobwebs, full of mirrors and strange machinery - a world stored in a locked room or glass cabinet that nobody has accessed for decades." (Mazierska:<No Date>)

Dancing screws come to life in a flurry of movement as they fixate themselves back into the floor and clockwork dolls leave their glass cases in a strange display on the uncanny. The audience is left wanting to know what the narrative is behind the film.

Exaggerating the narrative of culture and history in their short films and avoiding the concept of linear storytelling, the Brothers take advantage of the surrealist and dreamy theme in an attempt to evoke a feeling of fear, anticipation or empathy within the viewer. An article on eNote.com states:

"...the Quays eschew linear storytelling for the evocation of intense psychological states by means of oneiric and obliquely sinister images accompanied by provocative sounds and music." (<No Name>:<No Date>)


Mazierska, Ewa (No Date) http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/498256/ (Accessed 25/03/12)

<No Name> (No Date) http://www.enotes.com/brothers-quay-criticism/brothers-quay (Accessed 25/03/12)

Buchan, Suzanne (1996) http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.3/articles/buchan1.3.html (Accessed 25/03/12)


Fig 1: The Brothers Quay (2011) http://hiddenbiscuit.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/brothers-quay.html (Accessed 25/03/12)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Time Machine Presentation

300 Presentation

Gesture Drawings

New Story Ideas


As we see a lone, run-down clock shop, the camera pans forward towards a lone cuckoo clock in the window. The sound of a shop bell ringing shortly before a man, who's upper half is out of view of the camera, picks the clock up out of view.
Later, the camera pans over a wall lined with singing awards and various newspaper articles about blockbuster operas and a pair of hands clad in a pair of strapping suit cuffs places the clock on the wall above a mantelpiece inside a living room. The figure leaves the room and closes the door before we hear a muffled clearing of a man's throat, followed by a song practice. The camera is focused on the clock the entire time. Eventually, the clock's face blinks like an eye and the central pivot where the arms are linked moves like a pupil towards the location of the sound through the wall.
Its pendulums move and act like arms as it raises them up and begins to sing along with him silently as the opera singer in the next room begins his crescendo mid-song. The rest of the animated piece would be the clock singing along before the opera singer stops. The clock reverts back to inanimate state as he does.


The camera pans out of blackness from a medium-sized crate back-stage of an opera. A pair of hands lifts off the lid and a ventriloquist lifts out a cuckoo clock, which winks at him as we hear an audience beyond the curtain and the ventriloquist sits on a stool behind the curtain as they're raised with the clock on his lap. Classical opera music plays and the clock begins to sing as the ventriloquist drinks a glass of water.

The rest of the animation would again pretty much be the clock singing Opera.


This idea doesn't have much of a story, per se. It's more of a demonstration of the clock's personality and movement. This idea involves the clock singing once again, but something a little different than opera.

Yes, yes, I know. It's the 'Trololol' song, but it would fit perfectly with my flamboyant clock! It's up-beat, the song itself is 'colorful', the deliverance is striking and bold and the figure singing it is conspicuously dashing.

The sequence would begin with the clock strolling on-screen atop its pendulums I used as arms in previous iterations, much like Eduard Khil, the singer seen in the video, followed by more or less similar moves to Eduard, but exaggerated seven-fold, accompanied by leaping bounds and spins similar to those found in ballet. The only thing there would be the clock. There would be no background besides a line to define the floor.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Profile: Ladislaw Starewicz

(Figure 1: Ladislaw Starewicz)

Starting out using many 'unorthodox' methods in order to create stop-motion animation films such as dead insects before moving on to create his own models and humanoid puppets, Ladislaw Starewicz grew up in Russia where his interest in traditional animation and the visual arts swiftly took flight. This ultimately lead up to his recognition as a film director in the 20th century when he began to work on stop-motion animation in 1910. The director started out with the strange technique of using dead insects to portray the actors. The use of simple, human-like motion in such simple creatures gives the audience much more to relate to. His first animated film using this techniques was 'Cameraman's Revenge', created in 1912, which used the real life dead bodies of insects in order to create an uncanny realism to the characters.

"From this he developed an array of techniques which he most successfully employed in The Cameraman’s Revenge, a landmark film that offered a template for future animators. So real was the film to audiences that some reviewers thought Starewicz had trained insects to “perform” for the camera." (Paul Gallagher, 2010)

The color-scheme the film uses ranges from a variety of three colors, red, orange and blue, each set clearly identified by the aid of the color scheme. This may have been used to appeal to a younger audience; Starewicz's films were often created with a young audience in mind, but due to the animator's style, by today's standards they would appear to be dream-like and nightmarish with somewhat grotesque looking characters in abstract situations. E. H. Larson discusses this: 

"Starevitch's film "The Mascot" contains some of the darkest, most disturbing, imagery ever created for the cinema, and is practically guaranteed to unsettle the dreams of any viewer, regardless of their age. Starevitch is perhaps the only animator of his generation who surpassed the nightmarish qualities of the darkest elements found in the early cartoon features from the Walt Disney Studios."  (E. H. Larson, 1999)

 It is not certain whether or not his films where in fact tending towards an adult of a young audience due to the fact that they remain uncannily in the center borderline between a disturbing nightmare world or a child's daydream. Plenty of today's animation has the same quality, particularly found in the style that Tim Burton uses in his stop-motion animation films.

Moving on from his deceased insects, Starewicz's puppets included anthropomorphic characters, sometimes with the least amount of human identity in them at all, creating a grisly appearance of, for example, a realistic, dead frog.

"The Mascot", released in 1934 is widely identified as his best-known film and the film in which he truly lets his nightmarish style shine. The fairly simple plot serves merely as a scape-goat in order for Starewicz to reveal his talent with stop-motion animation in its full glory, experimenting with new techniques all the while.

The storyline follows a group of toys who have been separated from their owner, who is at the mercy of scurvy, and their adventures to get back home, all while the main character, a toy dog named Duffy puts his own life at risk to acquire an orange to cure her. 

Starewicz's dreamy and uncanny style is prominent throughout the film, sometimes taking a turn towards something we'd see in a nightmare, especially at the Devil's ball where an all manner of weird creatures feature some screen time. His films are well-known for their dark humor in child-like situations and this film has no shortage of that.


Fig 1 Ladislaw Starewicz (<no date>) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladislas_Starevich (Accessed 18/03/12)


Larson, E. H. (1999) http://www.nwlink.com/~erick/silentera/Starevit/LStar.html (Accessed 18/03/12)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

UNIT 5 Animation: OGR

There is currently no essay introduction on Presentation 2 due to the fact that during my sessions with student support (Pamela, if I'm permitted to name names), we've been concentrating more on the Time Machine presentation since that needs to be done very soon. We haven't had much time to discuss resources to research from or essay structure, so I have little to nothing to work an introduction out of.

Presentation 1

Presentation 2
Figure 1: Lotte Reinigir

During the 20s, Lotte Reiniger (Fig 1), born in 1899 and died in 1981, made a name for herself using shadow puppets in a stop-motion animation technique after gaining an incredible talent cutting out silhouettes from paper with uncanny detail and precision as William Moritz mentions on his article about her on his website, awm.com:

"She had an astonishing facility with cutting--holding the scissors still in her right hand, and manipulating the paper at lightning speed with her left hand so that the cut always went in the right direction. She drew the storyboards and devised the plots and characters, which were closely linked." (Moritz, 1996)

She did not create visually realistic movies, but instead created movies purely out of artistic form and style. Reiniger was inspired to great extend by Chinese shadow puppets when she was a teenager, influencing her through her successful career. Her avant-garde style in the animation industry at the time grabbed the attentions of many critics and ultimately set a turning point in innovation. Phillip Kemp elaborates in his review of the animator:

"Among the great figures in animated film, Lotte Reiniger stands alone. No one else has taken a specific animation technique and made it so utterly her own." (Kemp, 2010)

Reiniger created many paper-cut movies depicting famous children's tales such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, but she started her baby steps into the world of animated films with The Pied Piper of Hamelin, released in 1918, followed by The Adventures of Prince Ahmed, released in 1926. Her films depicted a phenomenal sense of graceful motions for the type of medium used.

Thanks to the shadowy appearance of the figures and props in the foreground, we are left to use our own imagination to fill in the blanks. However, the stunning amount of character that had been put into these simple, cut-out shapes would fill most of it in for us. Abhijit Ghosh Dasitidar of the online newspaper 'Frontierindia.com', tells us about her use of silhouette in character design.

"The cutting strokes provided the figures with characters. As the gaunt sorcerer, the plump good natured witch, and the obese, power conscious emperor are caught in motion, against a background of light and shadow, assigned roles lucidity emerge."  (Dasitidar, <no date>)

During the rise of Disney and with the innovative use of sound in recent animated films, cel-based animation became the new and ruling form of animation, unfortunately overshadowing Reiniger's technique of using cut-out silhouettes. The use of traditional animation was not cost-effective. It used up many resources and took time to produce, but inevitably became the status quoe and animators such as Reiniger began to disappear during the late 1970s when Disney was the dominant force in animated films.

The audiences of today may prefer to view other animated films than silhouetted, sto-motion ones. This is, however, until they could view the works of Reiniger. Her later works in the 1950s, created for and aired on television, were not as well-crafted as her earlier films and captivated audiences with a certain wonderment which was and is, sadly, not present in the majority of other filmmakers. It is unlikely that the world will see the magical works of another like Reiniger.

Moritz, William (1996) Lotte Reinigir
 http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.3/articles/moritz1.3.html (Accessed 17/03/12)

Kemp, Phillip (2010) Renigir, Lotte (1899-1981)
http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/528134/ (Accessed 17/03/12)

Dasitidar, Abhijit (<no date>) Lotte Reinigir's Silhouettes
http://frontierindia.scriptmania.com/page30.htm (Accessed 17/03/12)

Fig 1 Pigeon, Gilliger (2012) Lotte Reinigir
http://pigeon-gillian.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/lotte-reinigerpaper-silhouette-animator.html (Accessed 17/03/12)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Character Design, Influence Maps and Storyboard

After receiving my 'Flamboyant Cuckoo Clock' combination, I was completely stumped at what to create appearance-wise and how I would make the clock's personality revolve around the demeanor of being flamboyant. However, after a quick Google search to further familiarize myself with the adjective, one of the first things I came across this piece of text taken from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flamboyant

Definition of FLAMBOYANT

often capitalized : characterized by waving curves suggesting flames <flamboyant tracery> <flamboyantarchitecture>
: marked by or given to strikingly elaborate or colorful display or behavior <a flamboyant performer>

The example phrase, 'A flamboyant performer' particularly stuck out at me. Knowing that cuckoo clocks function to make a 'cuckoo' sound every hour, the idea dawned on me to combine the performer and the 'cuckoo' into one: A singing cuckoo clock. 

Firstly, before I did any sketching, I needed a design for the clock. I needed something relatively simple to draw so as not to bury myself in a hole, but I also looked at Mr. Cogsworth from Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' for human-like behavior. Since sticking on arms and legs was strongly suggested against, perhaps the best solution was to turn other parts of the clock itself into facial features, the most obvious being the clock face as an eye and the cuckoo door as the mouth.

One concept I looked at was how I would distort the clock face for facial expressions, hence the oddly-shaped analogue clock in the top middle here.

Wall-mounted cuckoo clocks are often seen with two hanging pendulums, which, when looked at from a different perspective, can be seen as two arms. Using this, I gave the clock more expression without just slapping arms onto either side of it; I made use of what was all ready there.

However, I also wanted the animation to be a comedy and what better way to simulate a comedy than to put two opposing personalities in the same situation together? I needed someone grumpy and cold. An old man immediately came to mind, so I looked at many of the well-known grumpy old men in films and games, some more obscure than others like Mr. Rottweiler from Neighbors from Hell (PC) (2003). I especially liked the appearance of Lord Finis Everglot from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2003).

As with the clock, I wanted a simple design; nothing too complicated, but I didn't want to over-simplify it to the point of being a stick man. I went with basic, circular eyes as they provided the most expressionistic shapes.

Here, I refined the design more, taking plenty of inspiration from Finis Everglot. I also wanted to see how his character would interact with the clock. I imagine him struggling to get the damn thing to be quiet and stop singing. (hah)



Life Drawing

I found that the figurative drawing techniques I learned while in the animation classes with Meg have really helped develop my quick-sketch life drawing.

Profile: Walter Disney

Figure 1. Walter Disney

Walter Disney, born in 1901 and died in 1966, was one of the founders of Walt Disney Productions. He was a director, producer, animator and ultimately a perfectionist, seeking new ways to innovate and forward the world of traiditional, 2D animation. His work is known throughout the western world and his films have become the centre of many childhoods ever since.

Disney's most beloved character, 'Mickey Mouse', is the mascot for his company and arguably the most well known cartoon character in the world of animation, becoming a cultural symbol of sorts. He has spawned an empire of merchandise, toys, spin-off cartoon shows, movies and many other forms of media. Thanks to this one animated mouse, Disney's success grew with one of his very first cartoons, 'Steamboat Willie' which was the words very first animated film linked with sound. Leonard Martin, in his book 'Of Mice and Magic', while interviewing the man himself, quotes Disney on his success. He responds with:

"The effect on our little audience was nothing less an electric. They responded almost instinctively to this union of sound and motion. I thought they were kidding me. So they put me in the audience and ran the action again. It was terrible, but it was wonderful! And it was something new!" (Disney, 1980:34) 

The implimentation of a myriad of other anthropomorphic cartoon companions to Mickey caused his widespread success around the world.

Disney began to create his own feature-length film in 1934: an animated, musical retelling of the classic fairy tale 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfes'. The techniques used to create the film were revolutionary for the animation industry and heightened the level of innovation. The film also signified the transition into full length animated movies such as Fantasia (1940), which is composed of seven short films, each of which is synchronized to famous, classical pieces of music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowski. 

The opening sequence, played along side Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor', is a myriad of gorgeous visuals to set the mood of the entire film as a review of flickfilosopher.com tells us:

"Here, these somber strains score blobs of light and abstract stars like you see when you close your eyes and rub your eyelids real hard (as if the movie itself wasn't enough to bring me back to kidhood)." (<no author name>, 1999)

'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' isn't about telling a story as much as it is about bringing the music to visual life in front of our eyes with gorgeous imagery.

Disney further pushed himself and the company to become better at crafting animated films. Such familiar movies like Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, The Lion King and many, many others which have captured the imaginations of children world-wide.


Martin, L (1980) Of Mice and Magic, New York, Penguin Group

flickfilosopher (1999) Fantasia (Review)
http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/1999/05/fantasia_review.html (Accessed on 06/03/12)


Fig 1 Disney, Walter (1901 - 1966) Walter Disney http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/walt-disney/  (Accessed on 06/03/12)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Bouncing Ball, Boulder and Morph

Time Machine: Research into Presentation and Essay

I'll be researching into the film '300' by Frank Miller and, consequently, the comic book of the same name and author. I'll be looking into the film's and the comics' art style and what influenced them. I'll also look into the idea of Classical Greek idealism n terms of 'perfect, god-like bodies' and how that, along with the Modern Age of Comic Books, has influenced the 300 saga, too.


DiLullo T, Snyder Z, Davis V (2006) 300: The Art of the Film, Milwaukee, Dark Horse Books.

Beaty B (2007) Unpopular Culture: Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Farrokh, K (<Date Unavailable>) The 300 Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction, http://www.ghandchi.com/iranscope/Anthology/KavehFarrokh/300/index.htm

Miller, G(<Date Unavailable>) Inside ‘300’, http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/inside-300.html


“The Phrase “three hundred Spartans” evokes not only the ancient battle of Thermopylae, but also the larger idea of fighting for freedom against all odds.” (Foreword, Par. 1) Conveys the idea of freedom through film.

“The Script is not an attempt at a typical Hollywood fashion to recreate the past as a costume drama. Instead it is based on Frank Miller’s (of Sin City fame) comic-book graphics and captions… but with deference made to the tastes of contemporary popular culture”

The overall atmosphere of the film itself—heroically proportioned, muscular soldiers, virtual reality sets, inky, de-saturated backdrops and CG landscapes.

“This Greece was wholly created—a heavily stylized interpretation of the landscape based on myth, rather than reality.

“Using Miller’s 300 graphic novel as his template for story, character and visual design…”

“2D blood needs to be designed and rendered in a way that audiences can clearly identify what they’re seeing is a deliberate exercise in style, rather than a mistake.”

Stylistic blood is a common theme throughout the film. Made to look illustrated and not real.

Dark skies to enhance dramatic effect. “Our skies are created using a blend of photographic and watercolor elements, giving the backgrounds a unique textured feel without being entirely painted.” P. 23

“When miller focuses on backgrounds he keeps representation quite graphic, using broad areas of light and shadow to define shapes…”

Larger-than life monsters add exotic flair to the movie implemented from Frank Miller’s comic. They make for an impressive cinematic impact.

Large-scale animals like elephants enhance the concept of the creature being alien to the Spartan army. Stories passed down through generations?

The art form prominent in Greek culture heavily influences today’s comic’s depicted perfectly formed bodies of main characters, heroes and heroines. This style makes its way into the film by revealing clothing. EG: Queen’s robe, Spartans in nothing but loin cloth-type armor. Reveals and shows off god-like figures.

“Unpopular Culture” by Bart Beaty:

“Sally Everett suggests that ‘avant-garde art affronts the sensibilities of the popular culture by showing distorted images in unnatural colors.’” Beaty, 2007

Because the techniques used in the film such as an unreal and CG generated world and an unrealistic and unnatural color palette, mostly consisting of de-saturated browns, reds and blues, the film gained some attention from its new avant-garde style, differentiating itself from other films of its kind.

Likewise, the various superhero comic books prominent in the 1990s by the likes of DC and Marvel used vibrant, bright colors whereas 300, created by a different comic book company entirely, used these de-saturated colors.

“Dr. Kaveh Farrokh-The 300 Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction”

The producers of the movie (as well as the actors) are honest in stating that they did not consult primary historical sources. The writer of the comic book appears to have relied on the writings of Greek historian Herodotus, whose works, though valuable, inevitably contain an element of bias, as do any historical works from any culture.”

Explains that the artists and creators of the movie admit they didn’t rely on facts. They relied on story passed down through ancient history by the Greeks themselves, hence the larger-than-life animals and monsters that were told to be monsters.

“Hollywood’s is intent on conveying a certain “image” of the Classics. Perhaps there is a desire to “Nordify” ancient Greece just as there is a desire to “Orientalize” the ancient Iranians. At least the portrait of King Leonidas in the movie was consistent with the depictions of ancient Greeks as seen in the vases of Classical Greece.”

The portrayal of Persians was not 100% accurate. Hollywood seemed to be catering more to a ‘dumbed-down’ audience. Perhaps this was a stab at a hint of racism? Is it white superiority? The portrayal of the messenger, the emissary sent to talk with Leonidas and other Persians were also played by black actors whereas there are of course no black actors in the Spartan army. Perhaps this is, once again, the filmmakers drawing from the ancient tellings of Herodotus who didn’t know much about other races beyond their own.

Notes on the Modern Age of Comic Books

The modern age of comic books is widely considered to be the period of time from the mid-1980s through until present day where the stories of comics became a lot darker, their art style grainier and their character more complex in mind and personality. More and more comic book companies came out from hiding and gained more publicity. Dark Horse Comics’ ‘300’ was one of these comic books. Its dark, grainy storyline and art style, the complex personality of its characters and its moral is easily compared with its counterparts about super powered heroes and heroines.

Inside '300' (Gerri Miller)

“With a couple of minor exceptions, the entire film was shot indoors, against a blue screen. Cinematographer Larry Fong devised an efficient method combining overhead and key lighting that made for faster, more efficient shooting — it allowed the perspective to change by turning the simply reversing the lighting…”

With the dream-like backdrops and sets, the blue screening technique was a prominent one throughout the movie. The artificial-looking lighting created not only the effective lighting that was present in the comic book, but also created a constant, well-lit set that enabled the crew to shoot scenes without the hindrance of nighttime or the sun’s natural light waning away or becoming too bright. Green screening was rejected due to technical problems as Watts states during his interview with Miller:

“We have a lot of red in the movie, and sometimes when you have saturated red on a green screen you often have edge problems, where you get a yellow edge. It has to do with the way light travels through film and interacts with the emulsion layers”

“They say that art is never finished, it’s expanded, and there’s definitely a huge element of that in this movie. I’ve done a lot of movies with a lot of shots and a lot of movies with difficult shots but had never done a movie with twice as many shots that were difficult” (Chris Watts, Visual Effects supervisor)

The graphic art team and a large crew of 500 artists had to create a world which was as accurate to Frank Miller’s comic book as possible. They had to incorporate elements that weren’t in his comics, however, but attempted to remain faithful to it. The scene where Leonidas kicks the Persian messenger into an endless pit, for example, had the ‘camera’ view settled overhead the pair in the comic whereas it’s simply view at eye-line in a wide shot during the film.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Profile: Norman Mclaren

Fig 1

One of the most significant pioneers in animation during Britain in the midst of the war, Norman McLaren created animation out of art, using a unique visual style and technique. He studied in Scotland in the Glasgow School of Art and afterwards started his experimentation within the animation and film industry. Since his success, he still worked close with the National Film Board and became a source of inspiration to many animators and filmmakers alike.

A couple of his most notable first animated films where done by using stark, bright colors on a blank strip of film, scratching into the surface to create abstract shapes with simple line. This technique of animation was innovative and bold, creating a new standard for animation to follow at the time. Norman started out with simple animation, but sought to expand his use of tools in order to venture into new media and new techniques in film making. He wanted to see what exactly he could get away with in film. Le Merle, Dots and Pas De Deux were among his most well known films and it is through these films that he explored a suggestion of mood and story through body language and motion.

Fig 2

'Dots' uses McLaren's unique ideal of telling story through movement. These simplistic visuals are further explained by Graeme Hobbs in his article on the McLaren on MovieMail.com:

"All of this information is presented absolutely straight, with the most limited of resources and in the most methodical, even dry, manner." (Hobbs, 1998)

His characters in this film aren't detailed, so the audience simply cannot lean on the idea of stand-alone visual to tell the story before it has happened on-screen. Instead, however, his characters here are simple dots on the screen appearing only to disappear and move to the rhythm of the soundtrack, nothing more; he exuded no particular details in each frame of the animation. Along with his technique of scratching each frame onto each slide of a blank film reel, he also did the same to a blank soundtrack as he created each frame. However, as we move on from 'Dots', we see that McLaren takes the concept of both character and simplicity and applies them both together with his later film 'Le Merle' or 'The Blackbird'.

Fig 3

As we can see, McLaren hadn't much moved on from the use of simple line-work in his films, but we see one of his first uses of character in the Blackbird. Thought it may not look much like a blackbird at first glance, the clever use of shapes formed into its vague shape helps the audience understand that the peculiar arrangement of shapes is the main character as it constantly ships and morphs its lines and circles into different forms. As the music, more specifically the main chorus, becomes faster the shapes it morphs into become more and more complex until it climaxes with a myriad of lines, circles, crosses all hovering in the form of some large pattern or beast. This animation is, at its base, constructed from the same surreal style that McLaren uses in all of his films and this style is used to full effect in one of his other films, 'Pas De Deux' which makes use of stroboscopic camera elements to create a haunting ballet performance. In Khalda Logan's essay which critically analyses McLaren, Logan talks about his techniques and compares it to one of his previous works, 'Line'.

"He exposes the same frames as many as ten times, creating a multiple image of a ballerina and her partner. Black background and backlit figures coupled with pan pipes produce a quiet and detachment similar to that of his film Lines." (Logan, <no date given>)

Fig 4

Fig 5

'Line' uses the same subtly theme of an almost hypnotic sequence of movements. Where 'Line' uses lines to convey a soothing and mesmerising series of images, 'Pas De Deux' conveys the act of dream-like movement on-screen while, when introducing the use of stroboscopic cinematography, creating ghostly trails of figures behind the dancers. The film is described more from its suggestion of mood and motion--how the dancers feel and how they dance around each other as their ghostly trails intertwine with one-another--rather than story or words. The dance itself, combined with its cinematography is relaxing as a soft piano suite accompanies it. 


Fig 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_McLaren

Fig 2"Norman McLaren - Dots (1940)" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3-vsKwQ0Cg
Fig 3 "Le Merle (The Blackbird)" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc1DlBU18Fw
Fig 4 "Pas de Deux prt1" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAZFvQ1Uv9k
Fig 5 "Pas de Deux pt deux" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHQIfPbeoBw

Friday, 9 March 2012

Profile: Michael Gagne

Fig 1

     Michael Gagne, most well known for his works on various media such as books, film and comics, attempts to create a unique experience for the viewer and to send them on a journey into his own imagination. Unlike most artists, Gagne rarely has a style besides his simplistic art and instead adapts to whatever he is currently working on at the time and expresses a significant illustrational technique in his works. His has an almost surrealness in whatever style he portrays, however, which is shown in his 6 minute short film called 'Sensory', a film composed by Paul Plimey. Gagne has a strong sense of musical inspiration and imagined the film playing along side the music.Consequently, the abstract animated short was developed. From his website, Gagne explains this to us:

"Like Kandinski taught us, every shape and sound has an equal vibration in the soul. When Paul Plimley saw a portion of the film for the first time, he said to me with tears in his eyes, "It's like you read my soul" (Gagne, 2010)

     The music featured in Sensory is strong, bold and yet also quiet and timid at times and the animation plays through it perfectly. Each time the music takes effect, an explosion or lightning bolt lights up the screen with a myriad of moods and feelings and each sequence of music is portrayed through fast moving shapes and angles to enhance the drama. Nothing is overly complicated and it only uses simple shape.

     Moving on from Sensory, but still staying true to Gagne's use of simple shapes, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, was one of Gagne's works in the video game industry. The art style used throught is consistant with the use of shiloettes and non ocerly-complicated figures which only adds to the game's unique art  style. In a way, the aesthetics look almost dream-like or nightmarish like it were being viewed from inside the mind of an unconsious being, perhaps while in a comatose Game review Sinan Kubber reviews the art style for this game and how it can be realted to a comatose with:

"...it used a simplistic, silhouetted art style to convey some strong visual metaphors about the different stages of being comatose." (Kubber, 2011)

     The use of bright color is also prominant with it use of florescent yellows, blues, reds and oranges mostly in the backdrop in order for the foreground shadows to stand out. Gagne's use of fluid movement and the way he uses it to portray the surreal tells us that he can creatively convey abstract worlds and themes.

     Gagne has taken a forward and confident approach to all forms of media with his simplistic style and unique visual cues and in the worl of animation, Gagne defines his characters through simple line and movement almost like that of a simple comic strip.


Fig 1 http://www.gagneint.com/Final%20site/About%20Michel/about_michel.html