Animation Artifacts 24 Oct 2006 07:33 am

Imagination Machines

– Yesterday, I noticed on-line a toy that I had as a kid. It was a praxinoscope that was designed to play on your phonograph. You placed a record on the turntable (called a hi-fi back then) and over the spindle went this mirrored object. As the childrens record played, you watched the animation play out in the mirrors.

Of course, I made my own animations, too. They didn’t work as fluently, but they gave an indication of what was possible.

Somehow, back then, all our toys seemed more designed to develop and exploit our imaginations.

As a matter of fact, that goes for movies too. These days everything is told to us, nothing is designed to use our imaginations. Take a look at Flags Of Our Fathers. Every simple idea in that film is driven home a dozen times. The message at the end of the film is told us by a VoiceOver narrator. There’s nothing left for us to think about. Animated films are the same; any substance is on the surface.

Where are the terror of Snow White, or the desperation in Pinocchio, or the tears of Dumbo in modern animation?

Open Season, Over The Hedge, Cars, The Ant Bully, Monster House, Hoodwinked. Do any of them leave anything to the imagination for the children in any of us? (The only animated film I remember from this year that left anything for me to expand on was A Scanner Darkly with the veil of invisibility the characters wore.) The last 2D film that gave me something more was The Iron Giant. That’s a long time.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not just an animation thing. It’s a sign of our times where every move by a child is plotted out in some video game. Everything is black and white. There’s the Axis of Evil, the Good Guys, and the French. There don’t seem to be any shades of gray anymore.

4 Responses to “Imagination Machines”

  1. on 24 Oct 2006 at 10:45 am 1.Jerry Beck said …

    I grew upon those RED RAVEN records too and have several in my collection. Mike, any idea who animated them? I’ve never really looked into it, but I always had a suspicion they were drawn but a Paramount animator out of New York City. The art has that clean professional Famous Studios feel. Orestes Calpini? John Walworth? Joe Oriolo? The artwork is just bland enough not to leave any identifying personal trait for a specific artist. And yet clearly a top notch animator got the assignment. The “Red Raven” design on the record label has that Heckle & Jeckle/Buzzy Crow feel. Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. on 24 Oct 2006 at 12:08 pm 2.Benjamin De Schrijver said …

    Well, there are still some films that do leave things to the imagination. To mention 3 I saw in the last month or so: The Fountain, Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth. 3 fantastic films that offer multiple levels of entertainment, and for all of them, I noticed some folks on imdb didn’t like them cause they weren’t told why this or that happened… But if I’m not mistaking, they’re not released in the US just yet.

    But if you’re just talking children’s entertainment, you’re absolutely right.

  3. on 24 Oct 2006 at 12:10 pm 3.Michael said …

    You’re right that they haven’t been released yet. I think Children of Men is scheduled to open soon.
    Little Children is also an interesting film that requires people to think.

  4. on 25 Oct 2006 at 1:09 pm 4.Nadia said …

    My grandfather had a bunch of them…..Simon Brehm is one name I remembered….here is a website like i found
    The one I remember is the one pictured on this site with the boat.

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