Commentary &Daily post 24 Jan 2007 08:48 am

Rotoscoped Stooges

- In the film, The Three Stooges in Orbit, released in 1962, a machine is invented which enables the Stooges to film themselves, but on film they come out as animated cartoons in psychedelic flashing colors.

As a kid watching this in its initial run, I couldn’t wait to see what the animation would look like and how the inventive producers would pull this idea off.
The Stooges dressed like chickens, filmed themselves and it ended up being rotoscoped images of the Stooges in chicken outfits. What a disappointment! However, at that film showing in the Bronx, the Stooges made a LIVE guest appearance. The disappointment of the movie didn’t quite wear off even when up close I saw how tiny and old these three guys were. I did, after all, see the Stooges in person.

But ROTOSCOPED! Why! I never got over my irritation of the climax of that film. No one else really cared.

My comment on this site a couple of days ago indicates the irritation I’ve recently been carrying inside.
Dodos, Kentridge & Quays: This made me wonder if hand-drawn animation is going to go a similar way. Will they be able to find the bones a hundred years from now? Evidence seen in the past five years or so seems to give me little reason to doubt that it would be gone. MoCap will get better and the guise of animation will be front and center for the obvious future. There’s a good chance tomorrow will show us two of three nominees for Oscar’s Best Animated Feature will be Motion Capture. The animator as we knew it is virtually dead.
All that’s left is Art.

I guess that irritation is starting to spill over. Yesterday’s Feature Animation Oscar nominations had become obvious to me on Monday, and I said what I did because I meant it. I’m not deliberately trying to be provacative, but I am trying to encapsule how I view “Animation” that I grew up knowing and loving. It’s almost completely gone. Every once in a while you get a glimmer of it, and a sign that it can even still grow.

Joanna Quinn’s film, Dreams and Desires: Family Ties did that. It took a basic human ritual, a wedding, and combined it with all the trappings to make a hilarious animated piece that really comments on the human condition. All done with incredibly bold camera moves, juicy, lively animation and enormous wit. It’s not a good film, it’s a great film.

I was so certain that there could be no doubt that this would not only be nominated but win the Oscar. But this year the majority of the Academy members let me down. They also let down Animation. Once again, the medium looks dead to me. With these arbiters of taste in control, there’s small hope that the commercial medium can move on.

Individuals are all we can hope for. Fortunately there’s a Brad Bird or two out there to keep the tiny spark glowing, but I’m not sure how long that can last. The Crunch Bird is going to win again this year, and what can you say? Oh well. More rotoscoped Stooges.


Obviously, the Oscar nominations got Mark Mayerson as angry. He writes a good piece about Motion Capture on his site.

Keith Lango has too consecutive posts: he talks about my Dodo comment and the Oscar nominations.

Burying my head in the past, I love the photo of the Disney animation camera (courtesy of David Lesjak) on the 2719 Hyperion site today. David’s site, Toons At War, is also a good one.


Fortunately New Yorkers can see Joanna Quinn’s Dreams and Desires at The Animation Show. This compilation of animated shorts (which also includes: Run Wracke’s Rabbit, Bill Plympton’s Guide Dog and Don Hertzfeldt’s Everything is OK) will be screened Jan. 25th, Thursday at 8pm and Jan. 26th, Friday at 6:30 & 9pm. The ticket Price is $12.50 at the Roseland Ballroom 239 W 52nd St.

6 Responses to “Rotoscoped Stooges”

  1. on 24 Jan 2007 at 11:14 am 1.David N said …

    I don’t have much to add to your perceptive (and provocative) posts on mo-cap and the redefining of “animation” other than my enthusiastic “Amen , brother !”

    It is a shame that Joanna Quinn’s “Dreams and Desires” was overlooked for the Academy Award nomination.

    Perhaps I’m being naively optimistic , but I’m taking John Lasetter at his word , that he loves hand-drawn animation and wants to see it survive. He seems to be taking steps at Disney feature animation to see that it does survive and indeed flourish . Now I am fully aware that I have lived a Disney-centric life in animation and not every thing in the animation universe revolves around Disney (nor should it), but still… I think the active support of hand-drawn animation by someone of JL’s stature could lead to a revitalization of hand-drawn animation in this country , not only at Disney .

    I’m wondering if there needs to be more of a concentrated effort by organizations like ASIFA to take an aggressive lead in defining how “animation” is perceived and written about by the press and to draw a line (hah!) at mo-cap and machinima, etc. being included as animation .

    Puppetry and Animation have lived side-by-side and no one confuses them , though both have certain things in common (especially when we get into stop-motion puppet animation). Why should “virtual puppetry” be included as animation if actual puppetry is not ?

    I have no answers , just thinking out loud…

  2. on 24 Jan 2007 at 11:27 am 2.David N said …

    My remark above about ASIFA (or some similar organization) taking the lead in defining animation and trying to affect how animation and animators are perceived by the press and the public was inspired by Mark Mayerson’s post “Animators As Fashion Victims” from 12/17/06

    particularly this part :

    “Animators have got to work harder to set the terms of the debate. Attacking motion capture is not the way to go as audiences already accept it. Nobody is going to stay away from a movie because animators tell them to. Families with children are looking for a place to go on the weekend, and anything that’s suitable content will attract their attention, regardless of how it was made.

    What animators have to do is become a lot more vocal about what they contribute to entertaining audiences.

    In the ’90′s, animators were in demand and they hired agents and lawyers, making them resemble real, live actors in terms of how they did business. What they failed to do was hire publicists.”

  3. on 24 Jan 2007 at 12:45 pm 3.Michael said …

    Your “thinking out loud” is appreciated. I don’t put full faith in John Lasseter, only in myself. Keeping 2D – good 2D – animation alive is up to me and people who want to do it an watch it. People like Joanna Quinn and Don Hertfeldt will continue making their films. All of my comments have to do only with studios.

    It’s pathetic that the only 2D animation the Oscars could find this year was The Little Match Girl. But then it was a big-studio affair. They have to protect their own.

  4. on 25 Jan 2007 at 3:29 am 4.john t said …

    Can I just chime in with my shared disgust for this year’s animated short nominees?

    Joanna’s “Dreams and Desires” and Hertzfeldt’s “Everything will be OK” are total masterpieces. What happened??

    Did Price-waterhouse screw up? Did the studios just vote for their own stuff and then up-vote the weakest films for them to compete with?

    I have lost so much faith in the Academy for skipping Hertzfeldt and Quinn in favor of such garbage as “Maestro” and “Matchstick Girl”. I’m sorry but these 5 nominees are just extraordinarily weak. >:/

  5. on 25 Jan 2007 at 11:15 am 5.Jerry Beck said …

    To clarify the last paragraph of your last comment, Michael, THE DANISH POET is also a 2D animated film – though THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL is the only film to feature full character animation.

    And not to defend the Academy, but they’ve rarely “protected their own” in the animated shorts category in almost 50 years(!) – at least since Moonbird broke the lock in 1959. It’s an interesting sign of the times that three major studio CG shorts made the cut. 1961 was the last time this happened (out of five nominees, four were studio shorts – Warner Bros. had three, Beep Prepared, Nelly’s Folly, Pied Piper Of Guadelupe and Disney has Aquamania -and they lost to Zagreb’s ERSATZ.

  6. on 25 Jan 2007 at 11:48 am 6.Michael said …

    My error, of course. Thanks for the correction. I quite like The Danish Poet; it might be my favorite on this list.

    (Don’t forget Winnie the Pooh beating out Windy Day.)

    It really is everything to be nominated, and my point is that there were two brilliant films overlooked for five lesser ones.

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