FILM OF THE DAY! (Monday - 27/Nov/2017)
---Adam (1991), dir. Peter Lord
Animation is often seen as the modern-day equivalent of "The Creation of Adam", in which a god-like being sculpts a creature of their likeness from a ball of clay.
It's fitting then, that we begin with a comical interpretation of the myth as directed by Peter Lord, from Aardman Animations (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, Creature Comforts).
This was one of the first non-W&G Aardman shorts I ever watched, and it won me over with its purely visual comedy, the myriad of concepts and skits it tackles in such a short runtime, and that charming (if sometimes bleak) tone that made the British Claymation studio a darling the world over.
Hopefully, it will win you over as well. Enjoy.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tknyqudOKEw
LOOK OF THE DAY! (Tuesday - 28/Nov/2017)
---Geri's Game - Behind-The-Scenes Interview with Director Jan Pinkava; Cartoon Brew
Geri's Game, a charming Pixar short about an old man playing chess (you might remember it being included on the VHS/DVD of A Bug's Life), celebrated its 20th anniversary just a few days. To add to this, renowned animation news site Cartoon Brew held an interview with the film's director Jan Pinkava, who went into the film's production, his philosophies and inspirations for creating it, and what it meant for Pixar at the time.
It's a great interview, full of interesting insights, sketches and storyboards for unused concepts and story ideas, and even a few name-dropped directors who helped to inspire the film's final direction. If you're a fan of Geri's Game, I can't recommend this interview enough.http://www.cartoonbrew.com/cgi/geris-game-turns-20-director-jan-pinkava-reflects-game-changing-pixar-short-154646.html
FILM OF THE DAY! (Wednesday - 29/Nov/2017)
---Neon Genesis Evangelion Episode 9: Both of You, Dance Like You Want To Win! (1995), dir. Seiji Mizushima, Hideaki Anno
(Or in this case, an episode...)
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most widely recognized anime around. Directed by Hideaki Anno (who did Shin Godzilla last year), it's a character-driven mecha anime that soon goes down some very strange roads, and is as ground-breaking as it is divisive. Depending on who you ask, Evangelion is either a masterpiece worth celebrating every day or the biggest pile of pretentious nonsense since City of Angels.
I side with the former, and consider Evangelion to be a series that everyone should watch at least once.
So why am I talking about its NINTH episode, of all things? For three reasons:
1. Today happens to be the 22nd anniversary of this episode's premiere on Japanese TV, so it seemed like a good reason as any to talk about it.
2. It was the first ever episode of Evangelion I ever watched. It's a bit strange, but while I had been wanting to watch the show for some time, I was nervous to do so thanks to many things I'd heard heard about the series (namely, its subject matter and rather disturbing themes). However, when I heard that there was a light-hearted episode that wasn't like the rest of the series, I figured that could be a good way to test the waters before going forward. And so I watched Episode 9.
And that leads onto...
3. Episode 9, despite the somewhat odd tone it can have in relation to the rest of the series, is a fantastic episode. It demonstrates some of the show's key strengths, such as how effortlessly it conveys its world and characters without clunky exposition or awkward cuts between different segments of the cast.
Even though I knew nothing about the show's plot or cast, I still managed to understand quickly what was going on through character interactions. I knew that something had happened between Kaji and Misato in the past, just through the tense scenes they shared together. I quickly grasped onto the relationships between the main three pilots (Shinji, Asuka and Rei), without having to be told upfront about it.
What makes the storytelling really work, however, is that despite its simplicity, there's still a lot left unsaid. Scenes occur and then will often end on a question of some sort, and it always keeps me thinking about these characters, always keeps me reading between the lines to see what's going on underneath. Not that Evangelion confuses obtuse presentation with complex storytelling, mind you. It's simply that the show tells its story in a very straightforward way, but then leaves enough open to keep me thinking about it long after the episode's wrapped up.
The film-making itself is also something to behold. The opening scene, a montage of pictures secretly taken of Asuka while students gossip about her, is a quietly voyeuristic sequence that grabs your attention from the off-set. The superb climactic fight against the Angel contains no sound other than a fantastic classical piece composed by Shiro Sagisu, letting the music sync with the animation in a truly unique way. And that scene between Shinji and Asuka at night! It's been five years since I first watched this episode, and I still haven't seen anything quite so subtly sinister since.
It's a great episode, and it's what made me take the plunge to watch what would become not just my favourite animated TV series, but also something that dramatically changed my life for the better. Maybe I'll tell you about it someday...
Unfortunately, unlike most of these recommendations, I can't easily link to the episode for you to watch it, or even a way to acquire it in a reasonable manner. Evangelion DVDs have been out of print in the West for years (you can find them online, but they're super expensive), and it isn't available on legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll or Netflix. And no, I'm not linking to torrenting or piracy sites; if you're curious enough, you can find that sort of thing by yourself.
At the very least, I'll post the only scene from the episode left unscatched on YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCrZZAZr5S8
All I can say otherwise is that if someone asks you watch Evangelion with them, if it's Episode 9, maybe consider taking the plunge. You might find more than you expected.
LOOK OF THE DAY! (Thursday - 30/Nov/2017)
---Dragon Ball Dissection: The Bardock Special; MistareFusion
One of my favourite YouTube series is Dragon Ball Dissection, a retrospective where MistareFusion reviews and analyses the world-renowned Dragon Ball manga every step of the way. It's a series full of great insights into characters and plot points, and one that's had me think about the series in new ways over the years. If you're a Dragon Ball fan, it's a series to definitely keep an eye on.
Occasionally, he also looks at the TV anime adaptation (split into 'Dragon Ball' and 'Dragon Ball Z', the latter of which is much more well known to most of you reading this) to see how it differs from the source material, and any interesting tidbits that get his attention.
In this episode, he examines the TV special "Bardock: The Father of Goku"*, which tells the ill-fated, forgotten tale of series protagonist Son Goku's father, Bardock. It's an fascinating special, due to how it takes on a tone completely unlike anything else in Dragon Ball, and while being a prequel of all things!
This video examines (among other things) how the Bardock Special manages to avoid the pitfalls that come with making prequels, the character of Bardock and an interesting way of writing a sympathetic villain protagonist, and what makes the Bardock Special so... special.
If you're a Dragon Ball fan, definitely give this video (and Dragon Ball Dissection in general) a look. And even if you're not, maybe check this out and see what you think.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME8HCK4hZG8
*This is the name used for the English localization, which I decided to use for the sake of being concise. The original Japanese name is translated as "A Lonesome, Final Battle - The Father of Z Warrior Son Goku, who Challenged Freeza".
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND! (Friday - 1/Dec/2017)
---Mickey Mouse (2013), dir. Paul Rudish (supervising)
One of the best things about working on the '1001 Animated Films You Should Watch' project is checking out films, shorts, shows and other works that I might not have previously given more than a passing glance. And what's even better is when I check out one of those works and it becomes one of my favourite things to have discovered this year.
Which brings us onto the topic of this post: the (frankly fantastic) series of Mickey Mouse shorts being released since 2013. If you grew up watching Disney shorts from the 30's-50's and are expecting these new shorts to be like those, please leave your expectations at the door: this is not your grandparents' Mickey Mouse.
It's a fast, frantic series full of wild chase scenes, over-exaggerated character expressions, and ridiculous escapades - it honestly feels more like Ren & Stimpy than anything to do with what most people would think of when it comes to Mickey Mouse, and I love it! There's such a manic energy behind every element of the series; the animation, the storyboarding, the soundtrack, the acting; that I find it utterly delightful, and the release of yet another episode always makes me giddy to sit down and see what wonderful madness is about to unfold.
Even the worst episodes never fail to put a smile on my face, and that really speaks to how much I adore this series. So, I figured that it would be the best place to start with when doing these weekend collections.https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 0j5p-lsDnx
This custom playlist contains every episode aired of the series so far in chronological order (it's totally legal, too, since it's uploaded on the official Mickey Mouse YouTube channel!). Maybe I'll go more in-depth on some of these shorts at some point, but my highest recommendations would be:
New York Weenie (Season 1, Episode 4), dir. Aaron Springer
Tokyo Go (Season 1, Episode 5), dir. Paul Rudish
Gasp! (Season 1, Episode 7), dir. Clay Morrow
Bad Ear Day (Season 1, Episode 9), dir. Chris Savino
The Boiler Room (Season 2, Episode 9), dir. Paul Rudish
Al Rojo Viva (Season 2, Episode 16), dir. Dave Wasson
Movie Time (Season 3, Episode 4), dir. Dave Wasson
Entombed (Season 3, Episode 17), dir. Dave Thomas
Canned (Season 4, Episode 2), dir. Paul Rudish
Touchdown and Out (Season 4, Episode 3), dir. Dave Thomas
Bee Inspired (Season 4, Episode 5), dir. Eddie Trigueros
But if you enjoy even just one episode, then I'll be glad to have shown them to you. Have a good weekend, everyone!
FILM OF THE DAY! (Saturday - 2/Dec/2017)
---Diamond Jack (2017), dir. Rachel Kim
This animated student film's gotten quite a bit of attention ever since it was uploaded earlier this year, and for good reason.
It's a short, exciting chase full of twists and turns, simple character designs that lend themselves very nicely to animation, and a great jazzy tune that punctuates the action. But what I particularly like about it is how it echoes the spirit of 1960's TV anime (and I'm not talking about the Osamu Tezuka/Astro Boy inspired look).
Creation animation for TV is always going to be an arduous task, since it demands a ridiculous amount of content in an unreasonably small span of time. In order to get things done without killing their entire workforce, animation studios chose to make cuts in certain areas - namely, the number of drawings used.
In America, this led to shows where dialogue-driven stories was the main focus, since the animation wouldn't be anywhere near as good as during the days of theatrical animation (Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, etc.). While in Japan, this led to shows where the creators tried to make those few drawings as interesting as possible, through storyboarding, exciting character animation and so on (for examples, go watch this collection of animated sequences by Hayao Miyazaki
Diamond Jack echoes and respects this legacy by containing a small number of drawings, but using each one to effectively express the characters' emotions and actions. It can be a bit rough at first, at least compared to Western cartoons full of silky smooth animation, but there's something impressive about how there's so much life put into these characters with only a fraction of the drawings used elsewhere.
If you don't believe me, check this short out and see what you think. Maybe you'll learn something new.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRpiBvwKX6c
LOOK OF THE DAY! (Sunday - 3/Dec/2017)
---Creating 3-D Animation: The Aardman Book of Filmmaking; Peter Lord & Brian Sibley*
To round off this first week, I'm going to recommend the book that arguably kicked off my interest in animation appreciation. This book was given to my brother when working on his Game Design course at St John's College, and I started reading it whenever he wasn't using it for anything.
It's a detailed book that goes into the history of animation (as provided by famed animation historian Brian Sibley), the tools needed to create plasticine animation, insight into various aspects of production such as animation principles, set design, lighting, model-making, and more.
To demonstrate many of its points, the book used examples of films Aardman had created over the years, and it encouraged me to go and give many of them a look. Adam (as discussed earlier this week), Wat's Pig, Not Without My Handbag, and Loves Me, Loves Me Not were among those shorts, and they made me want to know more about the world of animation.
This book is arguably responsible for leading me down the path I'm on, the creation of the 1001 Animated Films project, and for this Facebook page. For that, I'm eternally grateful, and I can only hope that if you are curious enough to check out this book, you'll get something out of it too.https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cracking-Anima ... 445&sr=1-5
*Also known as "Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation", which is what you'll find in the link (the book has since been updated to feature some of their newer work, such as the Shaun the Sheep movie)