Sunday, October 18, 2009

DISNEY ANIMATION HISTORY: The WAREHOUSE YEARS part II

When the Disney animation artists were banished from the studio lot to a warehouse in an industrial park they didn’t sit around wringing their hands. They started work on THE LITTLE MERMAID and on a short to accompany it: THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, starring Mickey Mouse.

THIS POST HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR COPYRIGHT REASONS. 11/7/15
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

NOBEL PRIZE FOR ART

There's no Nobel prize for art but there should be. Its role in life is no less vital than chemistry, physics, economics, medicine, literature and peace. What would all those Nobel prize winners do if they couldn’t unwind with a bit of animation or a visit to the Louvre, the Met, the Prado or MOMA?

You can’t concentrate hard all the time or your thoughts go stale, you lose objectivity and confusion takes over. All brains need a rest now and then. That’s where art comes in. Art is the silent partner to the Great Minds of the world. When Great Minds (and not so great ones) get tired and fuzzy, art steps in to sweep out the cobwebs, mop up the worries, overwhelm with beauty, amuse, encourage and even inspire.

Many think music soothes and inspires more than art does. Maybe, but, how do you know? You can hear music being played but you can’t hear somebody seeing. And with the plethora of visual media around, who knows what a passing glance can do?  
      
How many Nobel Prize winners have been inspired by the art of the Lascaux caves,  Giotto,  Uccello, Bernini, Turner, Bacon, Hockney, even by Gertie the Dinosaur,  the LION KING or Buzz Lightyear? We’ll never know. Nobel Prize winners don’t credit art and artists in their acknowledgments of support, but surely art was there, inspiring away in the background, in glimpses, peeps, flickers and stares. Art helps all of us through life, with a little beauty here, a cartoon there, an unexpected color or point of view to distract and please us and sometimes make us smile.  

Art is not just an investment for future capital gains, it’s an investment in pleasure, beauty and grace. Art is sustenance for the soul, a Nobel prize for the eyes.



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ART, PAINTING, NOBELPRIZE

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WHERE'RE YOU FROM?

“Where are you from?” the total stranger at the elevator asks me. Inwardly, I groan and roll my eyes. This friendly stranger is, of course, oblivious of the awkwardness of this question for  someone like me. It’s a very important question, part of our instant evaluation of another human being. Right after gender and age. People want to know if you’re one of them or an intruder. And if the latter, what kind of intruder, dangerous or not. It’s a primitive, tribal rite and perfectly logical, except that very few people can provide a one-word or even a one-phrase answer these days and why tell your life story to someone you don't know?

The wording of the question is vague and practically impossible to answer anyway. Do you mean "where were you born?" (usually the case) or what city did you live in last? Define "from".

If I try to dodge the question, he’ll insist, if I refuse to answer he’ll become irritated. If I do answer and he doesn't know what category to put me in, usually the case, he’ll become hostile. If he categorises me incorrectly, I'll become hostile. 

He hasn't considered that many of us are not born and bred in the same place anymore. We’re peripatetic, we’re no longer colored by, infused with the qualities of, our birthplace. Some of us have never even seen it, having left as infants. Nor are we necessarily creatures of the place we were educated, nor do we live in one place very long anymore. We move around the world for jobs, adventure, vacation. We have a wider frame of reference and are influenced by far more than our birthplace. So, you're probably not going to understand many of us any better by knowing where we were born. In fact, it may confuse the issue even more. 

Time after time, I see people bending over backwards to accommodate this indiscretion, politely explaining, “I was born in X, but we moved to Y and I went to school in Z, then we moved to A before coming here.” And voilà, she’s told her life story to a total stranger. Do you want strangers running around with your personal data?  

It’s commonly thought to be a perfectly acceptable icebreaker, even polite to ask this question. But how can it be polite to force a stranger to tell you their life story or to lie to you? Give this some thought please folks, it really is awkward to put us on the spot like this. Answering the question “Whereyoufrom?” is a bore and can lead to insults, jeers, even attacks and sabotage for giving what the asker considers a "wrong" answer, it can even endanger your life if your country is unpopular or happens to be at war with the askers'. Asking "Whereyoufrom?" can cause all kinds of trouble. 
And if you have an accent you're considered fair game as far as indiscreet questions are concerned. “You have an accent (as if we didn't know), so where you from? Where were you born?  Where does your family live? What does your father do? What do you do? How old are you? How much did your shoes cost? Do you pick your nose?"

Why don't I just lie, you may ask. Sometimes I do, as we shall see, but one lie leads to others and then it gets complicated. Besides, some of us are lousy liars, even to strangers.
Many people subconsciously feel there’s something louche about a foreigner and they're suspicious. They don’t realise that we’re all foreigners and we all have accents, it’s just a matter of displacement: leave the country and, boom, you’re a foreigner. With an accent. The first time I got a passport, I was shocked to realise that I was one of those “foreigners”, those weird untrustworthy people. But I’m not like that, I thought. Exactly. Neither is anybody else. Being a foreigner is like being a "refugee" for Jesse Jackson during Katrina. "But they're not refugees," he protested, thinking it was a shameful thing, "They're Americans!" Yes, but they're also taking refuge, so they're refugees. Nothing wrong with that. Or with being foreign.

If, like me, you didn’t grow up in your birthplace and it had no influence on your life or character, nor did the second place you lived, but the third defined and marked you profoundly but that’s not where you live right now, how do you answer that constant question? If you say any one of the places, the asker starts jumping to the wrong conclusions, generally making incorrect assumptions and they will apply all the clichés they've ever heard about that place to you for the rest of your relationship. If you explain, you’ve told your life story. If you lie, you may be interrogated and obliged to lie some more and feel even more uncomfortable. 

While I do understand the usefulness of having a national label, some of us don't have just one. Where we're born has nothing to do with who we are. None of us chooses where we're born so why would it define us?

"Zanzibar," I lie to the total stranger as we get into the elevator and I know I'm in for a grilling about a place I've never seen. 

So, please folks, don’t ask people where they’re from. 
Let them tell you. 
In due course. 
At the appropriate time.
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

URBAN LEGENDS ABOUT ANIMATION

1. Animation is fun
2. Animation is easy
3. Animation is sloppy drawing
4. There is no thought involved in animating
5. Animators are less talented than fine artists
6. Animators laugh, joke and whistle while they work
7. Bluebirds and small animals bring us our pencils
• FUN: why would 18-hour days spent animating to extremely high standards and draconian deadlines be fun?

• EASY: how is drawing a character in hundreds of positions so it looks lifelike, easy?

• SLOPPY DRAWING: Both fine artists and animators study human and animal anatomy, perspective, sculpture, art history. Plus, for animators, the intricate rules of art in motion.

• NO THOUGHT: Think how much thought goes into thinking about how to make something move, then drawing it so it moves the way you thought. A pencil line doesn’t move, it all comes to life in the mind.

• LESS TALENTED: See SLOPPY DRAWING

• WHISTLING AT WORK: There is a hushed silence in a professional animation studio because animators do a lot of thinking, plus most animation is funny and comedy is hard.  It requires deadly serious thought.  And thinking requires quiet.

• NO BLUEBIRDS or fuzzy bunnies, the occasional boa, though.
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