Friday, December 30, 2011

Two Unsubtitled Hungarian Films on Youtube

Habfurdo(Foam Bath) and Dalias Idok(Heroic Times) are now on YouTube, though unfortunately without subtitles. This should delight Hungarian speakers and for non-speakers, it will wetten your appetite.

Click on Youtube for more parts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cartoon Faces

I'm going to describe a couple of cartoon faces for human and anthropomorphic characters.

Black Dot Face

Character has black dot pupirises. These change into other graphic shapes to represent shifted eyes, or they may appear within outlined eyes. The thin eyebrow lines may also indicate the eyes or the brow due to the lack of actual mass.

Early Mickey Mouse, like many Disney characters has an especially tricky one. He has dot eyes, outlined eyes, and a blackened hair-like brow that suggests eyes by creating negative space. When eyes are used, they may also include optional eyelids. Sometimes there's even an outline close to the brow on the upper part. This joker outline allows for the perceptions of the eyes to be widened without drawing the full eyes, taking up too much room on the face. Additional features may be added for effect, like eyelashes or defined lips.

This fades out as the eyes become set. The fleshy cartoon skin obsoletes the purpose of shifty graphic brows. Once the character's looks become set, they become more specific, concrete things rather than amalgamations of shifting parts. They become locked in more and more to specific shapes. Then we see solid forms with fluidity.

This clever face gets replaced by the noodlebean cartoon face. There's fully defined features, with some cartoon obsoletions. The eyes are set, the cartoon skin is loose in order to put it into the right shape. The brow(generalizing here) is exaggerated, a fleshy thing, and it has taken the place of eyebrows and graphic brows. Eyebrows are now exaggerated merely as eyebrows and eyes as eyes. The new forehead brow will still make advancements over graphicized eyes for emotional effect.

The only other formula I can think of is in anime. There's a generic set of facial features which transcend a lot of designs. I'll focus on one variant that seems especially popular at Ghibli.

The lipped mouth and nose are only fully shown in side views. They're otherwise graphicized, the mouth as a line and the nose only partially shown in line. A thick line on the top of the eye suggests the top of the eye cavity, and the pupirises/pupils-in-irises are vertically stretched into ovals. The graphicized features again allow for additions to be made while keeping the characters relatable by not showing certain less appealing, commonly shared traits. Features are sometimes drawn especially vaguely in further views.

These all take on the idea of adding facial details from a standard template that has less detail than a real person's face. Perhaps soon this will flip towards starting with all the normal features and then removing them for effect. This would be much easier to do with computer animation. In animation, there's always the possibility of getting rid of people in favor of transhumanoids who look different. Those poor suckers in live action might have to put up with the boredom of real people, but that's not true in animation. I'm rather perplexed as to why most animated films aren't set on other planets with creatures that have their own unique systems of communication or in the fourth dimension. When you sit down and think about it, they would be if animation explored its possibilities.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Banya (Bath) 1962

I discovered a raw torrent for a Soviet stop motion film from 1962. It's directed by Anatoliy Karanovich and Sergei Yutkevich. It's the sort of enveloping satire you've come to expect from the USSR, beauracrats, stagnancy and ignorance. Broad characters on a very social theme with nationalistic overtones. That's the description on I can't comment on it too much, not knowing the language. I'd downloaded the first part to see what the film was like.
There's the link. I wasn't able to rip the photo I wanted off the web. I'll have to do that tomorrow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

realism analysis

It seems that with visually realistic animation, there's two high points. There's the technical high point and the creative high point, which usually comes after the technical high point. Looking at anime, I'm beginning to realize that there's a certain point where realism began getting overrun. There hasn't been any progress in reality for reality's sake visuals after Jin Roh. I'm going to mention directors here, keeping in mind that they're not the only source of inspiration in a work.

Some filmmakers seem to have found their niche with a more realistic style, like Mamoru Oshii, Otomo, and Anatoly Petrov. Petrov started with all sorts of other styles but really found his niche in realism. Oshii was an even rarer case, because for all the films where he had enough creative input, he ended up being realist throughout.

Petrov did some short films in other styles, one in a Picasso-like style, one in a dry children's cartoon style, and one that has cartoony characters in front of realistic backgrounds. He just seemed to lose interest in styles like those and continued towards reality until he peaked with Hercules Visits Admetus and kept going after that with more artistic styles.

For nearly everyone else, however, reality's more of a stopping point. Tarasov, Miyazaki, and it seems even Kon with his ill fated death, seem to have reality more in mind as a stopping point. Kon seems influenced by Otomo, who, while on the surface is a grand realist, has some clear cartoony impulses which escape in his robot carnival segments and his segment of Memories. Tarasov starts out in simpler cartoony styles, spends a large portion of his career in realism with much of his cartoony impulses intact, then works on a very cartoony film, Underwater Berets where he's one of numerous directors.

Miyazaki is a very complex character with his long career in the industry. He starts out between stale proto-realism and cartoony characters, brings out the stale realism directorially in Nausicaa, and then refines that to some degree while putting cartoony traits over the rest of the characters. That's probably too general of a statement, as you can see that Miyazaki has a way of going back and forth in complex ways with a general forward progression. With Ponyo he goes towards an especially cartoony aesthetic where he abandons most of the more realistic characters.

Ohira's an interesting case. He's spent most of his career in the animation department, but from time to time he directs a work and he's a bombshell who'll try absolutely anything. He's directed what's arguably the most visually successful realistic work, Hakkenden 10, and he's also directed Wanwa the Doggy from Genius Party Beyond, which is the polar opposite but seems to spring from the same creative well.

When you look at the US, you see that there's a point where there has ceased to be any success. I've opted not to show many gut wrenchingly awful saturday morning cartoons which are positively disgusting in every way possible. Nobody's really surpassed the Disney realism in the mainstream. I didn't show Tangled because it seems like a 3D pastiche on hand drawn films. Paul Fierlinger's work is probably the biggest progression. Plympton's no realist, not by a long shot, but he does have an illustrative style and he's absorbed enough of human anatomy to be on the margins of it. If you see some animation he did for a Shay's Rebellion segment on the History Channel, you'll see how close he can get to an artistic, non-comedic style.

Here's the point which I think animators ought to be able to reach: Every animator ought to be able to animate a proto-realistic person. Starting with the idea of joint complexity, I think that every animator should be able to draw out people with a bone complexity that allows them to animate a character to the degree that the character can be somewhat analogous to the real thing with unique observations.

This doesn't mean that they'll learn every small bone in the ear necessarily, but I think that everybody ought to be able to create a character with the following traits in mind: specific form for each part of the body drawn(each finger is different and sides are not symmetrical), adequately full torso movement, hands with 4 distinct three level fingers and one two level thumb on each hand, eyes with four layers of complexity(depending on if it's visible), varying abstraction on complex features like hair and rows of teeth, and so on. I don't expect that many animators could manage full, active control over a realistic number of facial muscles at any point in time. There wouldn't be any sort of realistic pacing, because it's too complex to pull off all the subtle nuances, but so long as you give features enough usage that the viewer doesn't get the impression that character's incapable of certain things, and draw/animate the character well, it'll look fine. This is about the competence level that seems to have been reached in 101 Dalmatians, and one can notice that with an adjustment to the eyes, the adjustment is intuitive.

This criteria I think should hold for just about any animal. I don't mean that people and animals should all or even primarily be animated this particular way, but I think it's important to have a high but achievable standard to work towards. This particular standard is set at the point where you'll understand the basics of what you're drawing, but aren't too caught up in the details to explore other alternatives. From this point you can exploit the fundamental anatomy to make your own characters and don't have to get bogged down with all the small flawed details of real people and creatures.

Outside of characters, there's a number of basic standards to meet, standards that cannot necessarily be met all at once. One is the realism of continuous change, rivers where the water's always flowing, and never exactly the way it was the moment before, trees blowing in continually varying wind. Cinematography imposes its own standards, one standard being shading in place of outlined drawings, as an outline cannot adequately represent all sorts of forms within the context of a single still. Fully immersive environmental sounds haven't been used enough. I've found very few animated shorts that are fully carried by sound effects.

One thing that bugs me about animation is that the tendency is to simplify reality. I think more people ought to strive for precisely the opposite. There are many ways to go simpler than real things. There's only one way I know of to outcomplicate reality, and that is by observing forms and overdoing them to find where reality falls short. The former seems to be an exercise in abstraction and oversimplification, the latter a manner of attaching your imagery to something real in order to ensure that it's more complex than the real thing. It has to be a recognizable shape or it won't work.

Animation's long had the infamy of adopting artistic philosophies in whatever order's easiest. But I don't mind this. The truth is that animation is evolving as a format at a rate no faster than any previous artform and that many have become fed up with the inability to make quick progress in the course of their lifetime. If animation creators wish to expand their creativity the way sculptors did in the time of the Greeks, they'll have to wait a long time as well. Hercules Visits Admetus had a ways to go, yet. The only motion shots were straight paths.

From there you could branch into motion shown from any number of paths. Then you could progress towards casual motion of different speeds and end up eliminating the feeling of still paintings altogether. But this still wouldn't take care of the still photography feeling, there'd have to be a progression towards more subtle motions within the frame first.

I'd intended to type in a few more things, but like usual this post isn't being saved by Blogger.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Turn of the World of the Sweethearts of Peynet

A youtube user from Japan, Pecohara, uploaded the English dub to this Italian/French co-production directed by Cesare Perfetto.

Once you've seen it, if you have an IMDb account, please rate it.

This is the English dubbed version. I recommend this film more for the creativity than for the actual plot line which is basically a tour through various places in time, more worthy of a television special than a film. However, you get an interesting tour through dictatorial Greece which isn't the sort of thing you'd see on Wacky Races.

Enjoy the film. It doesn't seem to have any release, even with Italian or French amazon.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

realism 2

This post is going to be about 3 different realism traditions in different countries, focusing yet again on superficial visual character realism, primarily among people. These are arbitrarily chosen examples and you might personally disagree with calling them realistic. I'm embedding links to a variety of clips from The U.S., Japan and Russia. There's important works of this sort from elsewhere as well but I've decided to cover these. They're mostly focused on people, the biggest point of disagreement among most animation fans and industry workers. I tried to focus on styles as they progress from one another or fail to progress. That's not to say that every film is an improvement from all those that came before, that's far from true, but that every film breaks new ground with a different version. Sometimes there's only a handful of characters which look more realistic, surrounded by more cartoony ones.

Some of them are good, some are downright awful, and some have good and poor aspects. Please keep in mind that the order is done to the nearest year and considering the volume of videos, I probably got at least one wrong. There's other examples worth exploring from elsewhere, and I don't claim to have all the good examples for each country represented here. There are a few examples I omitted which will raise controversy, particularly 80's and 90's Disney films which I find to be quite stylistically regressive, perhaps a shaky stance considering that I allowed some poor anime television series as examples as they led to better things later.



(Benkei and Ushikawa)

For the next post, I'll be back on topic. There will be clips from a film that you might have heard of before. This will be the last 8 page eyeball burning post for a while. Hopefully it gives you a little perspective that you may not have had before. It's certainly made me think.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Comparison between Ballparks of Cartooning

My idea for comparing Russian and Japanese animation hasn't exactly worked out, and I've realized it's much too large of a subject for any adequate comparison to be made. I'm going to keep thinking on those themes and in this post, I'm going to compare two different ballparks of simpler styled cartoons, one general area that's more American, with notable sources elsewhere, in culture and one that's more Eastern European. The first is from around the middle of the 30's before it totally takes root and where the cartoony style hasn't quite been honed in and made more sophisticated. Both are very streamlined, and in some ways primitive and that's what makes them so interesting.

The uniquely Eastern European variants seem to emerge after functional cartoon designs were being thrown out right and left in the United States and it's incredibly amusing to see how these sorts of designs are both forward and backward looking. It's tough, as always, to generalize, as different features appear in different cartoons. I don't know how much the individual European styles were influenced by those from the US, especially as compared to other sources.

I'm going to show aesthetics which were prominent in hand drawn animation and their stylistic counterparts in stop motion.

First, I'll show the less familiar side of the equation. Russian animation's spins off of Western tradition, a trend which grows distinct around the early 60's. You'll notice that there's comparatively little emphasis on facial expression, aside from Maria Mirabella which was made in Romania in the 80's, which is common in Eastern European animation tradition though it's hardly an overwhelming trend. A complex mixture for sure. There's an emphasis on more solid color all the way throughout, which gives the characters a unified feeling in their environments. One thing you'll notice is the films take quite a number of queues from the more child-like sort of art styles you'd see in Constructivist Posters. Here are some examples, for those who aren't familiar with constructivism and those who are so familiar as to realize its variety:

I'm having trouble telling what's Constructivism influence and what's folk art influence as they both seem to converge like they were never apart to begin with. The examples are in order, Bolek and Lolek, Maria Mirabela, Great Troubles, Kolobok, and Dragonfly and Ant.

Here are some of the pear and sphere styles in the early 30's(late 30's for Pal), popular further West. There's generally an emphasis on more fully rendered backgrounds at this point in time, the early 30's, and the characters have yet to acquire more unique design traits. The best examples are probably in the Pluto cartoons, but I'll try to pick examples that won't bore you to death. Balloon Land, Cookie Carnival, King Neptune, Philips Broadcast, and The Grasshopper and the Ants. Balloon Land and The Grasshopper and the Ants are the more representative examples of the sort of style I'm trying to pin down. But I don't want to make things look simpler than they really were, so I'm showing numerous samples from around the same time period. There generally seems to be more influence from painters than other sorts of illustrators, but unlike in more Slavic areas, the influence seems to be more in backgrounds and is probably only superficially absorbed for the characters. It needs to be pointed out that earlier in the time, these earlier styles had their own versions in Europe, which you can tell by looking at Hans Fischerkoesen and Paul Grimault's work.

The relationship between characters and backgrounds is very different from later Slavic/Eastern European tendencies. Everything was drawn at first in cartoons like Felix the Cat. Then they seemed to start getting painted, maybe somewhere around the shift to color? When that happened, it started segregating background and foreground elements. I recall from a later Looney Tune with a dumb giant that the character was drawn both as a background and foreground element. The characters aren't given the subtler paint treatment outside of what I call the skin gap.

To this day, in the age of computer animation, it's still exists more or less and it's carried over into computer skin, a stock skin for every character. In one way or another it's still a predominant trend in hand drawn animation worldwide, technologically burnt in with computer animation and with the popularity of 3D printing in stop motion, it's spreading. It's the same old story of the two way gap between art and animation. You have to simplify your characters for animation or cut out their motion to focus on the art. With motion it leads to stupidly simple textures that make characters look alike and with art it's stock movements that belong in pre-film animation novelties like thaumatropes. That's a huge helping of generalization, however, and you can have the same character work better against one background than another, so I'll stop running my mouth.

And a song for the present state of hand drawn animation, here's my poor, twisted rendition of Frosty the Snowman:

Slushy the snowman, is melting on the whole.
He's engaged in a fight and is held uptight by the same robotic bull.
Never mind that he took out the snow under other folks in town.
He made his own auto back scratcher now it's pushing him around.

The bull he can't do anything without Slushy around.
And it drains his drink to stay afloat, I think, with a big loud slurping sound.
That poor old cruel Slushy, woe, oh what is he to do?
"You've gobbled too much snow for yourself but I've grown attached to you."

Even good old puppet man has glazed himself with your digital coat.
And old puppet needs your replacement parts, so now who's left to rock the boat?
Disregard that better Painter Snowman who's somewhat attached to me.
I try to leave her in the dark so that no one else can see. (I have to cut out the part about the cutouts)

I'm a market killer always laughing , try to keep my figure round.
And if the robotic bull tries to kill them too, a childish whining sound.
And the mean live action tenant here we have but cannot trust.
He tries to get under our skins while helping make the progress we don't want to make but must.

Political thump thump
Political thump thump
You've sprouted a water jet man SANDDE you say?
And Rhonda and Traditional Flash have enough water splash to keep you on your way?

You've gathered some snow to help me get up and go? Well then,
I'm old and I'm ill, going over the hill, be back in form some day!
-end song

That's probably the lamest song ever written, but it takes some silly lyrics to convey the absurd present state of animation media. Sing it to the tune of Frosty and put in some conscious deviations and you'll have a rough idea of how it goes. If I feel like embarrassing myself, I'll sing it.

The pictures aren't mine and I got them from searching on the net. I'd better get this thing posted or I'll keep procrastinating. I feel like I could have done it a little bit better and probably stretched the balloon a little too much to make the comparison fit. While I didn't get to that post I'd wanted to on Russian and Japanese animation, you'll find a bit to compare between the two in the next post.