Sunday, June 20, 2010

Finally, Something I Like!


I saw this over on Cartoon Brew yesterday and was so impressed with it that I felt compelled to comment on it here. It's just a short promo for the Palm Springs International Short Fest, yet somehow it has excited me more than any animated feature has in recent years. It was created by a studio called MAKE in Minneapolis, and the director/lead animator was Andrew Chesworth. Interestingly, all of the comments over at Cartoon Brew have been enthusiastically positive in their praise of the film - which is an unusual situation at The Brew, where there is generally mixed feelings on most animated clips posted. Anyway, watch it first, then I'll discuss it:



Here's why I like it so much. First of all, it's a spoof of that oh so familiar scene in 40's film noir where the damsel in distress shows up at the office of the hardboiled private detective begging him to take the case. Strangely, film noir has never been done in a full animated feature, the closest thing being the animation/live action hybrid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so I think it's a genre that would be ripe for an animated feature. And like this short, I'd want to see that feature animated in glorious, traditional, hand-drawn animation, not CG! Take a look at the overall style of this short - it's so unabashedly a cartoon. The characters are all highly caricatured and stylized: the hero in bold angular outlines and blocky shapes, the femme fatale all in sexy curves. The animated movement is equally cartoony in it's timing. Also, look at how distinct all of the character designs are and how they communicate immediately to the viewer what those characters are all about. The hero is reminiscent of tough guy actors with chiseled features like George C. Scott or Richard Conte. He's not one of those pretty boy metrosexuals that have been dominating animated features for the last 20 years. Neither is the girl generic in any way. Her features are exaggerated to show her sexiness and her deceptive personality - look at that imposing jawline that shows her to be a tough cookie. I also love the highly designed curly hair, as it shows what drawn animation can do so much better than CG, which is a slave to literal form. I hope that my Sheridan students are taking note, as this short film is a great example of what I'm always stressing to see in your Character Design assignments.

As far as I'm concerned, this short is a breath of fresh air, so different from the stagnation of semi-realistic character design that we've been seeing in so many hand-drawn features of the last 15 to 20 years. Interestingly, John Kricfalusi has been taking a stab at the generic male leads that are all looking too similar, culminating in the latest attempt in the upcoming Tangled, with the hero, Flynn Rider. I happen to agree with much of what John says in this regard, as I'm getting damn tired of what I've come to call the "Rock Star" look of all male leads in the latter-day films of Disney, Dreamworks, and a few other studios. Disney artists should check out some classic Hollywood films of the past and start studying real men like Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, etc. etc, so as to get away from this current trend of designing longhaired metrosexuals. This short film with the film noir detective hopefully will inspire some more satisfying heroes in future animated features. My sincere congratulations to Andrew Chesworth and his talented crew for creating a small gem of animated brilliance!

16 comments:

Niki said...

Now, aren't I glad to have a youtube account! I missed this one actually, although I'm one of the Brew's many curmudgeons. But now you've given me something I can share with all my idiot Metro-fan friends.

RooniMan said...

That little clip was very refreshing.

Chris' Caricature Blog said...

Your so right. I saw your previous post on the Princess and the Frog and even Disney has gone downhill - no one makes great animation features in the traditional form anymore. I'm glad I grew when I did - I looked at Saturday Morning cartoon and they are so bad it's just a shame how downhill animation has gone.

Lester DiLorenzo said...

This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing!

Jonathan Coit said...

I am in love with this awesome short. Makes me want to do my 4th year film all over again.

Bill Peschel said...

Very nice; thanks for sharing.

I was about to point out that "Sin City" was a film noir animated film, until I realized that it wasn't. Good thing I didn't say that; it would have been real embarrassing.

Roberto Severino said...

I definitely agree with your assessment of that commercial. It makes me wonder why we can't ever have a feature length animated film that even looks close to something like this? Most of the animated films I can think of made during the past twenty years rely very heavily on stock and recycled character designs and timing, and frankly, I've had enough of that stuff.

However, I have nothing against CG or how prevalent it is in animation today, but there are a lot of limitations right now still with CG animation. I bet there are a lot of talented, funny cartoonists who can make something good and amazing with CG technology. So far, I haven't seen much of that, but if they were to ever do, I bet it would change the whole course of animation forever. It's like how the traditionally animated stuff looked really primitive in the early 1900s, and then over a few decades of experimentation, animation allowed studios like Disney, Fleischer, and Warner Bros. to really grow and change the craft. Never has there been so much experimentation in our medium, and I'm hoping that someone will do the same with CG.

Sadly, I'm just a dreamer. I'm still astounded at how much more pencil and paper can do than CG, so you have a point there. By the way, if you have the chance, check out Toy Story 3. It's probably the one of the few decent bits of animation I've seen all year, besides Adventure Time, this commercial, and a few other cool stuff that Cartoon Brew posted. Very great conclusion to a really good trilogy, even though some bits seemed recycled, like Lotso the Bear's characterization (taken from Stinky Pete).

Roberto Severino said...

By the way, I think the executives at all of these studios are afraid to have some innovative CGI animation come out of the pipeline. That's part of the reason why we've been seeing the same metrosexual Shemp influenced guy design over and over again, in so many different films. Our medium has been taken over by mean, grubby, greedy, cartoon hating, kid hating executives just how it was in the 1980s. Sad.

Thad said...

Yes, the short is really good and I too would like to see a whole film noir done in this style (I would also like to see a true horror film in the same animation style). Unfortunately, like almost everything else in the last half-century, the greatest animated films have been less than a minute long. Sad, ain't it?

kurtwil said...

The clip is great, Peter: A nice blending of traditional animation, modern computer compositing and FX.

What's really ironic is the computer software today's so often used to make utter crap. It can really help traditional artists do amazing stuff, provided the tools are properly used in support of, not as cheats of, the art. Those folks combined art and technology very well - hopefully there will be more good stuff from them!

Eric Noble said...

Wonderful commercial. I would love to do stuff like that. I love how unabashedly cartoony and expressive it is. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Brubaker said...

Check out "Juiced and Jazzed" whenever you get a chance. That was also produced by MAKE, directed by Justin Weber. Really great.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Now that is pure film-noir worthy of Robert Mitchum or Richard Widmark.

Really, what ever happened to real men in films ? I can only think of a few working today like Daniel Craig, Gerard Butler, and Hugh Jackman. Your also right about a lack of real men in animation as well Pete. Even the "pretty boys" of yester-year like Paul Newman or Marlon Brandon had some masculinity to them. What can I say ? The Greg Pecks and Gary Coopers are out in live action and animation, today it's teenage super heroes and sissy vampires.

Martin Juneau said...

I just seen it and it's a real refreshment that the animation really need. This 1940's Film Noir synopsis always thrilled me as a kid even if i rarely have the occasion to watch them.

And i start to agree with your statement with modern boys. Because i seen this everywhere. By the 20-25 years, they spend again their times to play videogames, cares to sports and listen hip-hop than be concentrating to make the world more forward. Depressing!

Don't worry Pete! My own characters aren't the same generic personalities you seen in many today's stuffs. Yes, perhaps they have 1 or 2 traits, but i still find a way to make them more original and like real peoples. Not just caricatures!

Thanks for sharing that! It makes my day of the National Day!

Belle Dee said...

This is so wonderful! I want so much more.

BUH Studio said...

Ahh now that is something special.
3D animation just can't compare to the life that classic hand drawn animation can bring to a character.