Animusings

Thoughts on storytelling and the world of animation. Caution! SPOILERS!

Producing ‘The Three Musketeers’

Recently I watched the 1948 version of ‘The Three Musketeers.’    It was an action packed epic worthy of its time period and full of the hottest actors of the time.  I watched it for several reasons, the first and foremost being my love for the 1993 Disney version.  It was closely followed by my love for Gene Kelly, and after learning that the silent movie scenes from ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ were taken from the 1948 ‘Three Musketeers’ I was all the keener to watch. After watching it I turned on the Disney version again.  I observed quite a few observations in changes in film story-telling.

The 1948 Musketeers actually follows the book more closely.  It’s impossible to follow the book with any degree of regular accuracy, given the length and topics.  At best we get a ‘good parts’ version.  The 1993 version changed the storyline quite a bit, and given the adultness of the topics and stories, I’m not at all surprised.  There’s plenty of mistresses and cheating going on!   The Disney version is family friendly, with D’Artagnan following in the footsteps of his loyal father to protect the king from the evil Cardinal.  The 1948 version tells the story of the Queen carrying on with the Duke of Buckingham and the 3 Musketeers’s adventures in protecting her reputation and thwarting the Cardinal’s designs.

Both movies are star studded.  Vincent Price and Tim Curry play the Cardinal in their respective films, and both are excellent, dignified-but-evil choices.  I kept laughing at the opening credits of the 1948 version because I recognized so many people.  Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Angela Lansbury, June Allyson . . . Although looking at the cast list for the 1993 edition, I can’t help but think that they all became more famous AFTER the movie.  Kiefer Sutherland went on to be the infamous Jack Bauer, Charlie Sheen went on to be the infamous . . . Charlie Sheen, and Chris O’Donnell (who looks SO young in this) is doing quite well in CSI: Los Angeles.  1948 was pretty earlier for a lot of the actresses I saw, so I wonder if the same thing happened for them.   On the other hand, since I was an oblivious teenager when the 1993 movie came out, I probably had just never seen anything they had been in previously.

I must say I was rather unimpressed with Gene Kelly as D’Artagnan, and it took me a while to figure this out.  Kelly is a dramatic actor. Well trained, intense, and quite a perfectionist.  I admire this in a dancer and a singer.  He makes a fantastic dramatic lover on stage and screen. What he does NOT do well is buffoonery.  I can only imagine the director said to him, “D’Artagnan is a country  boy come to the city, a stupid fool who has a lot of growing up to do.”  Kelly must have studied the silliest men he could think of on film and attempted to imitate them.  Sadly, I’m guessing it was the Three Stooges.  There’s an awful, cringeworthy scene where D’Artagnan first sees Constance as he spies on her from the room above.  He makes awful noises, runs around, stuffs his handkerchief in his mouth . . . this is NOT natural behavior for Gene Kelly, and it shows.  (And of course my husband walks in the room during this scene and rolls his eyes.  Why couldn’t he have come in during the awesome, acrobatic fight scene  ten minutes earlier?)  The movie gets better as it progresses as D’Artagnan comes into his own.

Chris O’Donnell is less intense and better suited to the young country boy role, but some of his lines come out quite awkwardly.  Still, he’s consistent and graceful, showing from his introduction onward that D’Artagnan was never a country bumpkin, but came to Paris already self-assured, cocky, and quick-witted.  Disney allows a quick lesson in ‘romancing’ women, but hey, doesn’t EVERYBODY have to go to Paris to learn that?

The introduction of each of the Musketeers is quite different.  Both movies follow the traditional altercation followed by a duel later in the day.  However, I had a hard time distinguishing each Musketeer in the 1948 version.  They blended in with the crowd, and while they were given consistent personalities, sometimes it was hard to discern who was speaking during which fight scene.  The 1993 version provides more screen time for each character, allowing them to enhance their distinct personalities.

I much prefer the 1993 version, in spite of its not being true to the book.  It’s a simple, fun, well paced, well scripted plot, with great music.  Still, it was fun to see Kelly in a fighting role rather than a dancing one.  Lots more gymnastics!

What does this have to do with animation, you ask?  Nothing. The only link I can create is that the 1948 movie influenced the shape of future Musketeers movies, and also some fodder for cartoons.  Fred Quimby must have loved the story, as Tom and Jerry acted out multiple versions in “Royal Cat Nap,” “The Two Mouseketeers,” and “Touche, Pussy Cat!”  Walt Disney used it frequently, of course, and even created the “Mouseketeers,” the hosts and stars of the Mickey Mouse Club.

I see there are plenty of Musketeers movies made both before and after 1948, and may have to check more of them out.  It could be the 1948 version was influenced by one before it!

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animating the invisible

Invisibility has always been a popular theme in stories.   A cap that causes invisibility appears in Greek mythology.  There’s the invisibility cloak that plays a surprisingly major role in the Harry Potter series.  There’s the Pooka that only shows himself to one person in the play, ‘Harvey.’  There’s “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells, which is more melancholy than exciting as a man struggles with a scientific error.   We also have Pete’s Dragon, and even the One Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, of which invisibility seemed to be more of a side effect.  Invisibility is a common super-hero trait.  Wonder Woman even has an Invisible Jet, although no one has ever explained to me whether it’s just the jet that’s invisible or if she turns invisible when she’s in it, too.  (If not, that makes for an interesting sight!)

Since we can’t actually turn invisible (although I’ve gotten pretty good at not being noticed) the invisibility theme is a great candidate for animation.  On stage, this was accomplished through clever acting, wires, wearing black on a black background, and other methods.  In film, there is a bit more leeway and room for film tricks, and with CGI it’s quite easy.

Or is it?  When you think about it, animation is a series of pictures slightly altered.  How do you ‘draw’ something you can’t see?  The easiest method would be to draw an outline of the character and animate that.  Often, the invisible character would make themselves seen by wearing clothes – hat, gloves, sunglasses, coat, the works.  All of that would come off when the character didn’t want to be seen, meaning that most of the nefarious plans they carried out were done in the nude, which is actually pretty amusing and awkward once you realize it.  After shedding all physical hints, the character was identified on screen by the way the objects surrounding them reacted.   A character could be seen in a rainstorm as the water outlined the body.  They could be located by their clumsiness, bumping into objects, eating things, walking through mud, powder, etc.

Tom and Jerry provide most of the classic examples of invisible animation.  Check out  The Invisible Mouse and Vanishing Duck .  (I was always disappointed that vanishing cream didn’t work that way.)

A fun movie about invisible characters is Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.  Not only does Elliot vanish and reappear at will, but it’s a great combination of live action and drawn characters.  The boy and the setting has to react to the animated dragon, and the animated dragon’s actions have to match the movements.  It’s a complex ’cause and effect’ chain that needs to be done carefully to make it believable.  I also enjoyed Pixar’s The Incredibles, as the film attempts to solve the problem of invisibility and clothing, and also addresses the difficulty of a teenage girl wanting to make herself seen.

So the next time you encounter an invisible character in a film, pay attention to the ways they let you know where the character is and what he or she is doing.  You’ll generally find they’re clumsy, awkward oafs.  I suppose it could  be partly due to the fact that it’s hard to move when you can’t see your OWN body.

animations in commercials

Apparently she’s been out for a while, but  I’ve only just noticed.  Mars, the makers of M&Ms, have been using anthropomorphic candies in their commercials, each one getting a different personality.  They finally gave one to Brown M&M.  She is, of course, the nerdy girl, with dull “clothing” and glasses.  I’m still debating about whether or not she’s nerdy or snobby, it’s a little hard to tell.  Maybe she’s trying to be hipster?  At first glance she screams nerdy, though, especially when you compare her to Green M&M, whose personality plays on the ‘green M&Ms are an aphrodisiac’ rumor.

Animated characters in commercials have been around for a very long time.  In fact, many cereals are sold using animated characters like the Trix Rabbit, Tony the Tiger, or Snap, Crackle, and Pop.   Characters like these were created just for the purpose of selling products.   The ads are appealing to children and usually have a simple, easy to remember jingle to keep it stuck in your head, a subliminal way to get you to buy products.

From time to time you do see animated stars from TV shows or movies appearing in a commercial, like Fred Flintstone selling Fruity Pebbles.  Do they still make those?  Or was the cereal created/named to give Fred something to sell?  It’s pretty common to see celebrities sell goods, so why not animated ones?

zoetropes – made of cake!?

My favorite cake blog (although I don’t see how one could NOT like a cake blog) posted some video and links of a most unexpected combination – food and animation!

A zoetrope is an old fashioned spinning wheel with a limited number of animated frames.  Spin it, and you get a repeating animated loop.  Frequently the animations are on the inside and you look into a mirror, but in cake form, it’s on the outside!  Fun for the eye, AND you get to eat it!

I’ll have to keep my eye out for more.

sound in animation

The earliest filmmakers had an immediate  problem to overcome – how do you convey a story with no sound?  Sound had been a vital part of all plays, operas, orchestrations and even dances.   Multiple methods were tried, resulting in many early silent films resembling animation in their attempts to exaggerate emotions and ideas to get their point across.  Live musicians were also often hired to play in the theater where the film was being played, and title cards were sometimes used to produce basic conversation.

Fortunately, the problem was soon solved and the use of sound and sound effects was fine tuned, resulting in the use of music and sound effects to convey emotion far more effectively than any visual could represent.  Some animators even took it to new levels, animating entire episodes around a single piece of music.  My favorite is Warner Brother’s use of “Hungarian Rhapsody,”  played on the piano by Bugs Bunny.  Walt Disney’s Fantasia is another excellent example of ‘illustrating’ music.   The  visuals actually help you to recognize and remember the music far better than audio alone.

While voices and narration in a film is needed, in animation, frequently music is the only vital sound.  One of my favorite animated examples of this is “The Snowman“, a child’s wintertime tale that is told without anyone speaking during the story, save an accompanying song in the middle.  The animation itself is quite unusual, more like a series of shifting images than full out frame  by frame drawings.  While I complained about this pausing effect in anime, it actually works here, because you feel you’re looking at a child’s picture book.  The action and music is dramatic and relatively dreamlike, and so you can float along with the simple storyline.  You never have any doubt or confusion about what’s going on.  Narration would have taken away from this movie, and the lack of it just adds to the dream quality.

Another story where actions speak louder than words can be found in Pixar’s Wall-E, which follows a little clean-up robot on a future abandoned Earth.  Though there is some talking in it, the story for the most part has the double burden of getting a silent robot to convey emotion, humanity and sense in its actions, and handles this quite well without any narration.

Animation has the ability to tell a narration free story that is more effective than the early silent live action films.  While the exaggeration needed to get some ideas across looks odd with people, it works well in animation.

One advantage of NOT using language in a film is its ability to reach a wider audience.  The Snowman could be viewed and understood just as easily in China as in the United States or France without any alterations to the film.  Many of the animated films submitted to international competitions are minimally vocal for exactly this reason.  Check out Mesai’s Alarm Clock for a fun example.  We’ve all had that battle, there’s no need for explanation, in any language!  Another is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which won an Oscar earlier this year.  No words, no need.  The music provides the appropriate emotion.

Mothers in Animation

While I realize I’ve pretty much just lost my entire readership with the end of class, I’m going to keep on until I run out of ideas or get distracted by something shinier.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner I thought this might be appropriate timing – Mothers in animation, or rather, the LACK of mothers in animation.

Many of the stories we know and love in animation are actually old fairy tales, where the mothers weren’t there in the first place.  Snow White and Cinderella NEED their evil stepmothers to get their story told.  Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel are taking away from their mothers deliberately.  The rest, well . . . who knows?  Ariel’s mother and Belle’s mother aren’t even mentioned.  We have no idea where they are or what happened to them.  Aladdin is a ‘street rat’ so we can assume she’s no longer living.  Jasmine’s mother?  Anonymous in a harem? Ran away?  Tiana and Mulan had their mothers, but they played a minor role.  And then there’s poor Bambi’s mother . . .

Yes, the mind pops immediately to Disney when thinking of animated movies, but rest assured,  there ARE mothers in animation.  Surprisingly often, the mother, if present, is generally an animal.  We certainly see an example of a mother’s love and determination in Perdita in 101 Dalmations.  Dumbo’s mother is helpless to assist her son, but still present.  The Aristocats kittens are fortunate to be with their mother.  the mouse widow, Mrs. Frisby in The Secret of Nimh, takes the lead as she tries to find a way to protect her children from the plow.  Other film makers slip mothers into their stories.  Fievel’s mother tries hard to keep her son out of trouble in An American Tail.  The mother in The Incredibles has a doubly difficult job to do, not only the work of a mother but of keeping her and her children’s super-powers hidden.

Mothers also feature prominently in animated TV shows, usually as the quintessential mother.  Marge Simpson, Wilma Flintstone, and Jane Jetson are just a few examples.  As most tv shows are about families, it only makes sense that the family be ‘whole’ in an animated show.  TV shows are more about day-to-day activities rather than life changing events that occur in movies.

Mothers pop up more frequently in Miyazaki’s works, too, but often they are the ones who need rescuing by the child.  In Spirited Away, Chihiro’s parents eat spirit food and are turned into pigs, setting the storyline as Chihiro struggles to figure out how to turn them back.  In My Neighbor Totoro, the mother is ill in the hospital, a background story as the children struggle to deal with both her absence and living in a new place.

One can argue that a Mother represents safety and protection, and in order for a person to grow and change and experience new things, they have to step away from that safety net and set out on their own, which make for the perfect movie storyline.   The storyline of Tangled actually addresses this issue as Rapunzel struggles to escape the tower and her ‘mother’s’ overprotective actions.  “Mother knows best,” the witch sings, “it’s a scary world out there.”  In An American Tail, we see that Fievel is still too young to survive on his own and needs to get back to the safety of his mother’s arms.  The Darling children actively run away from their mother to go to Neverland in Peter Pan, but soon return, acknowledging that they still need her for a few more years until they grow up.

So, yes, there are a lot of mothers missing from the lives of their children in popular Disney movies, but the animated mothers are out there, trying to keep their children safe, while their children are trying to protect them.  Now you know, if the mother’s missing, someone’s about to embark on an epic adventure.

Final Blog Specimen – Depicting Animals in Animation

For my final blog specimen, I am redoing Post #7 on anthropomorphism.  Posting this today because I keep playing with it rather than concentrating on studying for my science final exam.

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We’re all familiar with stories where animals are the main characters.  We know most of them from our childhood, but animals stories have always been around.  Using animals to tell stories and present morals is a great form of expression, allowing people to determine what is ‘animal’ instinct and what humans should do.  Aesop’s fables, supposedly from the sixth century BC, feature all kinds of animals that are placed in situations from which a human can learn an important lesson.

Anthropomorphism found a new and comfortable home in the world of animation in the twentieth century, where the animals could truly come to life in a way that no book or story could properly demonstrate.  On the screen, an animal could truly be human.  The question is, how human should an animal be in order to tell the story?  There are a variety of ways in animation in which an animal exhibiting human characteristics tells a story.

The first example is one we might find most familiar and comfortable.  The animated animal  looks and acts very similar to how we see them behave in the real world, although some human expressions and behaviors may sneak in to help the viewer relate to the story. In this case the audience is now privy to the thought processes and conversations between other animals, similar to the way we project our own mental processes onto our pets.  (“Kitty says, get off the Internet and feed me already!”)  Examples of this type of animal personification can be found in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, Bambi, and 101 Dalmations.  The story is about their problems and the ways they have to find solutions.  These problems and solutions may be different from how a human would solve the problem due to physical differences.  A closed door presents a far greater challenges to a dog than a person.  At times a story may apparently take place in the human world, but without human presence, like The Lion King.

Gadget uses human made objects to solve problems

The second type of animal anthropomorphism is a variation of the first.  These animals live on the outskirts of the human world, living in walls and alleyways, basically making their living off of human products.  However, they take on more characteristics, frequently wearing clothing and owning furniture.  They might have their own tiny house set up like a human house, complete with bedrooms and kitchens.  These characters have hands that can manipulate items like scissors or musical instruments, enabling them to solve problems in the same way a human would, though they might still have problems with full scale items.   They may or may not interact with humans in the story.  Examples of these types of films include Don Bluth’s An American Tail, and Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective and The Rescuers.

The next example is a bit vaguer.  The animal steps away from the human world, and may be considered in

a world of his own.  He or she exhibits characteristics of both an animal and a human.  An example of this is Warner’s Bugs Bunny.  He hops around like a rabbit and has a fondness for carrots, but also has excellent piano playing skills.  Other characters acknowledge that he is a rabbit, but do not seem surprised by his ‘human’ traits.

Another example of this type of anthropomorphism is Pixar’s Cars.  The main characters are vehicles rather than animals, but they hold down jobs and live in houses very similar to those in the human world.   There are no humans to be seen in this movie, the world is designed around them, with any obstacles they might normally encounter in a human world (like stairs) removed.

Finally we have characters who, even though they have animal bodies, have no clue that they’re animals, nor exhibit any animal characteristics.  Examples are Disney’s Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, and entire films like Disney’s Robin Hood, where every character is an animal, but acts like a human.   Donald, though a duck, does not realize he can fly, and perhaps he cannot, he merely looks like a duck.

Weirdly, even characters within the same film fall into different categories.  Pluto is totally a dog, to the extent that we don’t get to see or hear his thoughts or voice.  Goofy is also a dog, but he talks and wears clothes.  He doesn’t seem to be aware of his species.   I  have encountered many audience members who never realized Goofy was a dog.

Simba from The Lion King probably wouldn’t know what to make of King Richard from Disney’s Robin Hood. And vice versa

Films like these can get awkward when they combine anthropomorphic animals with non-anthropomorphic animals. Some stories provide an explanation, others assume you’ll soon figure it out or not notice.  In The Magician’s Nephew of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, dual animal types are addressed by claiming the animals who could talk and live like humans had been breathed on by Aslan (basically a gift of God).  So it was OK to, say, have a mouse that could talk to humans, but not the horse that pulled the sleigh.  Mickey Mouse riding in a horse-drawn sleigh, in which he talked and acted human, but the horses acted like normal horses, is not actually jarring unless you start to think about it.  Audiences are actually quick to accept the behavior of a character on screen regardless of its body type once they see how it acts.  On the other hand, some animators use changing personas for humor.  A cow who has behaved like a cow throughout a story, then suddenly looks at the audience and makes a comment, is sure to get a good laugh due to the unexpected behavior.

Tex Avery’s Wolf, in Swing Shift Cinderella

Finally, the species of a character in animation may serve to convey a message, or be a quick hint at how the animal may act.   If you see a fox, a wolf, or a snake on screen that exhibits human tendencies, you can also know that it will likely exhibit the characteristics we traditionally assign to these animals.  A  fox is crafty, a snake is deceptive, a wolf is hungry for baser desires.  The shape the animal is in these cases assists in telling the story without going into too much detail.

Using animals as main characters is a common and well accepted form of storytelling.  Animals can be presented in a variety of ways, from realistic to stylized humanoids.  Being an animal rather than a human can present unique problems for them to solve and unusual perspectives on human activity.  The animal type can also quickly define personality without taking up precious animating time.   It also presents unique and interesting challenges to the animators to get an animal form to adequately portray human emotions and expressions.  From Aesop to Pixar, animals will always play an important role in storytelling.

Blog Post #12 – Stealing Animation

The world of animation seems to have slightly different ideas about copyright and property than would be found in books and papers. Copying other animations and animated ideas was quite common, and expected.  I’d like to think that my feeling of OMG HOW COULD THEY is partly due to my college essay writing experiences and the various ‘plagiarize and die, got it?’ forms I’ve had to fill out at every school.

But animation in the early 20th century was brand new and no one really had a set formula for success.  They mainly knew what was previously popular, and figured copying it would increase their chance of success.  The topic pops up from time to time in Leonard Maltin’s book, “Of Mice and Magic, A History of American Animated Cartoons.”  Animation was fair game once it hit the theaters, where animators could see if certain things ‘clicked’ for an audience.  “We had no hesitation in adopting ideas from other people’s pictures.  if it worked for them, it would work for us,” said Chuck Jones (Maltin, 240).

One thing that really stands out in each chapter is that the Disney studios set the bar for high quality.  They hit the ground running, and kept up such a pace that everyone else lagged behind, no matter what they tried.  Disney studios were the Harvard of the animation world.  Any animator who learned and worked there could pretty much go and work wherever he wanted.  So, if a studio couldn’t attract enough Disney animators, they did the next best thing.   “Whenever a Disney cartoon was playing in a theater, we’d go in and pay just to see the cartoon and study it, see what we could steal in ideas and everything” Harry Love remembers (Maltin, 210-211).  No one saw a problem with this, and the audience probably didn’t know or didn’t care.  Animation techniques and plots were both ripe for the taking.   “You remember that scene in the Disney picture where Mickey Mouse did s0-and-so?” Jack Zander recalls Hugh Harman asking.  “I want EXACTLY the same thing”  (Maltin, 227).  Not just a similar idea, but a direct copy.
On the other hand, it’s hard to determine whether ideas and techniques were’ borrowed’ or animators simply moved from studio to studio without detailed tracking of each animator’s moves.  Animators were eager to work/study with the most innovative animators at the best studios, and many of them had their own special way of drawing that was recognizable.
Imagine an artist attempting this today!  I am a miniaturist, and belong to an online group of other miniaturists from around the world.  Disney memorabilia being so ingrained in our culture, naturally they wanted these things in one-inch scale to decorate their houses, and the topic popped up frequently in our discussions.  Sellers and manufacturers immediately warned “DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS!  Disney will come down on you HARD.”   If you wanted a pair of ubiquitous mouse ears to set in a dollhouse child’s bedroom or on a doll, you had best quietly make it yourself and not tell anyone.  If you were foolhardy enough to make enough to sell, you would certainly NOT call them by their right name on Etsy.  Disney is not shy about cease-and-desist orders!
Having seen the attitude of animators in the early days of animation, I can now begin to understand Disney’s actions.  They were so concerned that they lobbied hard for the Copyright Term Extension Act to try and prevent their still-in-use characters from entering the public domain.   The way the other studios proudly claimed to emulate Disney animations, I can’t say I blame them!

 

Blog post #11 – Smart Women in Animation

Girls with brains aren’t exactly common in the animation world, but they pop up now and again.  For this blog post I’d like to focus on a few.

Velma Dinkley

From the show Scooby Doo in all its various forms.  Velma is part of a mystery solving group that included a beatnik and a very large, cowardly Great Dane.  She is full of information regarding ciphers, ghosts, witchcraft, and other random, esoteric topics that enable her to solve some of the bizarre mysteries they come across.

Penny

Penny is the niece of Inspector Gadget, of the same show name.  She’s really the reason her uncle is successful.  She and her dog Brain run around behind his back, secretly helping him out with the use of her special computerized book.  I SO wanted that book when I was little and now I realize that I have it right here in my hands, right now.  Wow.  I win.

Gadget Hackwrench

Gadget is actually a mouse, part of a team of ‘Rescue Rangers’ along with Chip and Dale of Disney fame.  She tinkers.  A lot.  This girl can craft the most awesome mechanical objects from the most random things, like MacGuyver.  She’s rather oblivious to what’s going on in the rest of the world, but really, the rest of her team is so wacky it’s a wonder they manage to rescue ANYBODY.

Daria Morgendorffer

I always thought of Daria as more cynical than smart, but was assured by my husband that she was always tops in her classes.  AND cynical.  And then he said, ‘If you were an animated character, you’d be her.’  I wonder what he meant by that?

Jeanette Miller

Jeanette is a Chipette, created to more or less be a female counterpart to Simon Seville of Alvin and the Chipmunks.   She’s nerdy AND clumsy, but warm hearted.  She totally rocked the 80’s styles, though.

Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusk

The brainy one in the anime Cowboy Bebop.  Yes, she’s a girl.  She’s a genius at computers, hacking, and probably flying ships and building, too.  Her ‘genius’ makes her completely incomprehensible to other people, both in her speech and her actions, which fall right into bizarre.  She pretty much lives in her own little world.  She’s part of a team of bounty hunters that probably have bounties ON them out in space.

Do you see a theme above?  Notice the presence of glasses or goggles, the clothing styles, the general awkwardness.  Of all of these, Penny is probably the most well-adjusted of these girls, and SHE has an uncle that needs mechanical maintenance.  However, she’s totally asexual.  Nothing girly about her.  Edward, too, has had all femininity stripped from her character.  She could be a young boy, and is often confused for one in the show.  Apparently, in the animation world, if you’re a female character, you can be smart, or you can be beautiful, but not both.   Still, it’s nice for young girls to  be exposed to these animated girls that DO play with things other than dolls, and it’s show them it’s OK for them to be interested in computers, science, and books.  After all, it’s these girls who save the day/solve the mystery at the end of the show.  However, it makes you feel like you have to make a choice:  brains OR beauty.

The list for the rest of the entertainment world is actually much smaller.  (Please note I’m only listing what I know, so these are mainly the most obvious.)  Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series would have fallen into this list, likely right at the top. Other additions might include Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory, Abby Sciuto from NCIS, and Kaylee Frye from Firefly.  Of these, only Kaylee manages to get brains and beauty without being too weird, but that’s mainly because of Joss Whedon’s unusual yet admirable approach to female characters.

It’s a stereotype and an exaggeration, but effective in helping the audience get to know the character quickly.  Oh, she’s wearing glasses and mismatched socks, she MUST be smart.  I’m not sure whether to be annoyed at the presentation of such a character or relieved that there’s so many of them out there.

Random: Well I did ask what was next . . .

In a previous blog post I discussed reshaping actor’s bodies with CGI and wondering where they would go with it.  Turns out CGI took a direction I didn’t think of.

Have you heard about the dead rap artist Tupac ‘appearing’ on stage during the Coachella Festival?  People were calling it a hologram, but it was an old fashioned stage trick involving mirrors, a mylar screen, and some impressive CGI screen projections.  Check out the video below.  It’s technically safe-for-work, but there’s an awful lot of beeping going on.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/0_0mtpwkug/uiconf_id/6740162

 

As far as I can tell from the first article I posted, this is ALL CGI. If that’s the case, the detail is AMAZING. The shadows, the movement of the cloth as he struts about on stage, and his dancing are all fantastically realistic. It had the added bonus of being TOTALLY unexpected by the crowd, and causing quite the emotional and internet stir. I for one am hugely impressed. So much can be done with this technology!

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