- This is my idea of heaven. This week in politics can only get better tonight. The Democratic convention is full of intelligent, smart speakers who are performing at their height. I spend my days waiting for the nights. Those speeches are just too delicious. How can my politics NOT slip over into this Splog!
- The animated feature, Toys in the Attic, opens in theaters tomorrow, Sept. 7th.
I’ve received a number of emails from the producers of this animated feature. It was done in the czech Republic and has been adapted for English Speaking audiences. The voices inlude Joan Cusack, Cary Elwes and Forest Whitaker in the English language version. The film was directed by Jiří Bárta, who has done a number of other films which, like Toys in the Attic, are mixed media: 3D stop-motion mixes with 2D animation which mixes with pixillation and live action. It’s an attractive and exciting film which depends less on technology than on knowledge of the medium from filmmaking to animation.__________________Director, Jiří Bárta
The stop-motion puppets are not of the Laica variety. There is no heavy financing behind them that they can create millions of facial movements that are replaceable so that any emotion can animate into another one. The animation is not quite as slick and, consequently, looks more hands-on.It’s very effectve, just the same. I think of Ray Harryhausen’s work which strobes and is awfully clunky in many parts, but it’s still grabbing in its emotional simplicity.
The sets and costumes, the puppets and the mixed-in 2D animation all sing hand-made and very human. There’s an enormous attractiveness to this, and it’s all so creatively done. A character wals in front of a mirror; his reflection is a 2D version of himself. Trains pull in and out of stations and travel all across the attic. The smoke out of the train, the billowing steam from the engine. It’s all a linear 2D animation. Water floodsan area. The water is done using sheets of blue fabric moving forever forward animated as water even though it’s obviously made of cloth. Oh yes, 2D animated drops of water bounce around the cloth water. (It reminded me of Fellini’s Casanova (1976) when he went to the sea. The sea was made of large sheets of billowing black baggies. It’s obvious that it isn’t water, but somehow you bought the theatricality of it. Here, I bought the cloth running water, but I wonder if children will not be puzzled, or will their minds go with the flow of the director? I’d really like to know.)
The story is a simple one:Buttercup , a little doll with a penchant for housekeeping, is kidnapped. Lots of mechanical insects do the job for a living breathing statue/bust the color of a dark patina (a greenish-gray which includes his live action teeth). The bust seems to move in live-action (though it also appears to be animated in some odd way); maybe just part of it is live action, the rest pixillated. Buttercup’s friends, led by a wooden Don Quixote marionette (without strings), a teddy bear, and a mouse doll set out to save her.
The film is like a Svankmajer film for children. It’s more Eastern-European than the Quay Brothers and almost as surreal. Oddly, you sit there with your eyes glued to the screen as oddity after oddity moves forward. Desie the celebrity voices, I didn’t recognize one of them. They all wheeze and grunt and have accents. All their lines are partial sentences and short bursts. It’s quite original. I have to say that I never got emotionally invested in any of the characters. Sweet Buttercup is an old-time children’s doll who keeps house for others.
When she’s kidnapped, she’s thrown in a cell where she continues to sweep. Every once in a while, the captors pour ashes in on her from overhead. She’s covered with ashes and left in the pitch-black dark. Yet she continues to sweep. What else is there for her to do?
I probably felt more sympathy for the wooden Don Quixote. There seems to be a vulnerability in the old puppet event though the animation of the character isn’t overtly invested with any real character traits that I’d look for as an animator. It moves well but not with any
This film is certainly like nothing that would ever be made in Hollywood. William Joyce wants to do this but is too clean, airbrushed and slick; totally lacking in textured personality. The distributor calls Jiří Bárta a Czech Tim Burton, but I can’t agree. Burton works in a style that pops out in your mind – you’d recognize the style that everyone tries to steal. Bárta’s style is much more surreal; it’s a play on reality not a stylization of it.
This is one curious movie that I enjoyed, but I’m not sure it’s for everyone’s taste. I wasn’t kidding when I dropped the Svankmajer name. There’s no doubt that Bárta has seen his work.
If you’ve seen the film please let me know what you thought.
I’d be curious to read your review.