Were my computer time not so limited, I’d be commenting like crazy on my friend Crystal’s 12 Days of Cartoonary on her site The Uniblog. Cartoons featured include the Chuck Jones classics Duck! Rabbit! Duck! (pictured above) and Feed the Kitty (which I analyzed here), the Disney short Donald Applecore, Tex Avery’s too hot for the kiddies Red Hot Riding Hood, and the Coo-Coo Cola cult episode of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. More great cartoons are on the way, so check in often.
Archive for the ‘shorts’ Category
So the 2011 Oscar nominations are out and I have a confession to make.
I have only seen one of the Best Animated Feature nominees.
I think I can be forgiven for not having seen The Illusionist yet. This latest film from Sylvain Chomet – director of 2004 Best Animated Feature nominee The Triplets of Belleville – is still gradually making its way across the country and won’t be playing near me until this Friday. (To see when and where it’s playing near you, check the official site.) But I have no excuse beyond bad timing for missing How To Train Your Dragon. Despite numerous reports from critics and friends whose opinions I respect that it’s quite good, I just haven’t made the time to see it. It’s a problem I intend to remedy before the Oscars are handed out.
So what can I say about this year’s Best Animated Feature nominees? Sizing up the competitors
Has it really taken me this long to get to Chuck Jones? Granted, there are any number of important animation artists and topics that I have yet to touch on. But Chuck Jones? Chuck Jones, the creator of so many beloved animated characters? Chuck Jones, winner of numerous awards for his work, including a Lifetime Achievement Oscar? Chuck Jones, director of no less than four of the top five films in the prestigious list of the 50 greatest cartoons of all time? Chuck Jones, the man who….
Wait. Let me back up for a minute.
(I’ve decided to start announcing the winners of the previous week’s trivia contest in a separate post, since my comments on them are getting longer.)
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were driving home and listening to a story on NPR about the 2009 selections for the National Film Registry. Every year, the National Film Preservation Board selects up to twenty-five films to be preserved for posterity at the Library of Congress. NPR mentioned a few of this year’s particularly interesting picks, including the Muppets’ big screen debut The Muppet Movie and Michael Jackson’s game-changing music video Thriller. Another film that got a brief mention was “a 1911 mix of live action and animation that influenced Walt Disney.” Curious, and slightly embarrassed that I didn’t immediately know what film was being described, I looked it up online once we got home. I discovered that the short in question was Little Nemo, which left me feeling both glad that the film would be preserved to be enjoyed by future generations and slightly annoyed at NPR. It turned out that their description was a very condensed version of the National Film Preservation Board’s own blurb on the short, but I still felt that it missed much of the point. I like Disney plenty, but I’m not a fan of the idea that in the world of animation, all roads lead to Disney. To suggest that animator Winsor McCay and his work are important chiefly because of their influence on Walt Disney is far from the whole story.
The week of Thanksgiving, with its feasts, visits from friends and relatives, and vacation time for my husband, has left me behind in my writing. I have a film review and a book review in the works, but for now, please enjoy my short comments on this short piece of animation.
Pixar’s George and A.J. was originally available as a special feature for customers who purchased Up through iTunes and has been making the rounds on the internet for about a week now, so perhaps you’ve already seen it. It’s a short cartoon about the two nurses who were supposed to take Up protagonist Carl Fredrickson to the Shady Oaks Retirement Village, only to be thwarted by Carl taking to the skies, house and all. The story shows the impact of Carl’s departure on George, A.J., and the local seniors.
As you may have noticed, this cartoon is pretty different from most of the other Pixar shorts like Partly Cloudy – the short that ran alongside Up in theaters, or Dug’s Special Mission – the short that debuted on the film’s DVD and Blu-ray release. It’s hand-drawn rather than computer animated. There is very little actual animation and no real lip-synch. And the voice cast is different. What’s going on here?
The world of animation is an ever-changing one, with long held assumptions about the medium constantly being challenged by new generations of artists. Sometimes these changes take effect gradually, the new idea passing through many hands and many different projects before finally taking hold with the general public. Computer animation, for example, did not begin with Pixar any more than hand-drawn animation began at Disney, but it took Toy Story to convince the world that a computer animated film could be both a critical and commercial success. But in some cases, an entire movement or concept in animation really can be traced back to one individual or studio. UPA is one such studio. Though their name and work may not be well known to the modern public, UPA was almost solely responsible for creating a graphic style of animation that still influences the medium to this day.
“Remember, he’s just a mouse.” – Walt Disney
Mickey Mouse celebrated his 80th birthday last year. With countless appearances in short cartoons, feature films, television shows, comics, theme parks, and various other media, Mickey has stepped into roles from amateur pilot to master of ceremonies, band conductor to ghost exterminator, apprentice to the sorcerer to teacher of preschoolers, average little guy to corporate symbol. With such a long and prolific career, it can seem hard to define Mickey as a single personality. But there are milestone moments in the Mouse’s history that give us a picture of who Mickey was at the time and who he ultimately is.
Brave Little Tailor has long been considered one of the classic Mickey Mouse shorts. Animations fans and critics hold it in high regard. It was nominated for an Academy Award the year it was released. Most merchandise depicting Mickey through the ages includes him as he appeared in this cartoon. The short expertly combines humor and drama and focuses on narrative at a time when many short cartoons concentrated mainly on gags. In both story and visuals, it is one of the best Mickey Mouse cartoons.