Sunday, 26 February 2012

This new animatic is dragging me like a tow truck.

Hey guys, here's some more fun updates, several days overdue.

After working hard on my dissertation, I now find that there would be better things that I could do than make my final film. Honestly, it's come to that conclusion. I would rather not make a film this year! Really, I feel completely drained of any inspiration of the sort, now I'm under the impression that my film will stink regardless of what I do, and I've no idea how to get out of it. I haven't felt this depressed about a project since last year, and if I had this blog running back then, I would spill the details all out.

Somehow I try not to believe this will suffice, but it has in some cases and I sure hope it suffices on this project. But I constantly have this on my mind; if I can't make this film, it's all over as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps this part of the brain needs some convincing:
Maybe I'm being too negative, and that I'll eventually be out of this mess. Who knows?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dissertation Days

I bet every single university student dreads having to write one of these, but it has to be done.  How else can a degree be academic?

I wanted to write something that has burned a fuelling fire inside of me since I was about 9 years old. My parents knew I had an interest in animation, but were concerned that all it did was make me behave more childish. They thought I was too old to be enjoying animation, and that I had to move onto more age-appropriate things. Problem is, to me anyway, nothing else is more engaging than animation, for there are no limits as to what the medium can do. I'm sure this is a common scenario with most folks.

It took a while for my parents to realise, but once they knew that I wanted to be a part of this medium, they accepted it and soon became very supportive. I remember one Christmas when my father took the time to casually go to a bookstore and find "Animation Art", a massive coffee-table book aimed at newcomers to the medium. It was the best Christmas present ever. Not only did the book concentrate on Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and the like, it also mentions several international studios, producers and directors. This fascinated me to no end. I wanted to find copies of these films and watch them. This was the pre-YouTube era, and before the site became popular and before illegal distribution was advanced enough for these things to be remotely watchable, Videos and DVDs were the only way of seeing them. Sometimes you had to travel far and wide for physical copies. At the time I had no knowledge of animation festivals and there were certainly fewer of them; none of which I could go to because I was not home-schooled. Another thing I can thank my father for is reminding me to record "Animation Nation", a BBC Four programme that aired for three weeks in Spring 2005. It opened my eyes to homegrown British animation, something dearly underappreciated because it only exists outside the mainstream vein.

Researching this dissertation, it becomes clear that emulators are all-too-common in this day and age. A film is ballsy enough to criticise and poke fun of conventions, becomes a hit, and everything and anyone follows its formula until it can no longer stand. That was Shrek, the modern Snow White, causing a change in how people think of animation. Disney is nowhere to be found, except with Pixar's prowess. Anybody can do computer animation these days. But where has the creativity gone?

Fuelling the fire was a conversation with the mother of a five-year-old boy. She had told me her son had looked at a couple of movie posters, and could not tell the difference between Hop and Rio. He had asked her, "Are they the same movie?" I replied to his mum, "No, they are not the same movie. But looking at them, they might as well be the same movie." I thought this kid was pretty smart for his age. Once you get past the fact that one movie is about a rabbit, the other about a macaw, you notice similarities. Look at how the rabbit and the toucan share the same smirk. Notice the usage of blue, the odd-coloured titles, the bright colours destined to attract the attention of any unsuspecting child. All part and parcel of carefully-controlled marketing. Soon my thesis evolves from a criticism of the age ghetto to a criticism of the whole Hollywood industry: the churner of capitalist crap.

Gee, does this look familiar?!?

Nearly every single mainstream animation out there is just as safe, unoriginal and derivative as the next blockbuster Hollywood movie. There's almost no distinction between them, an old adage of "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." They are shameless cash-grabs with little in artistic merit. Sure, the visuals may look nice, and they may be screened in eye-popping 3D, but there's nothing in the content to drive you forward, making these pretty pictures soulless. I'm not the only person here criticising this dull splurge of kiddie fodder. I'm just glad that there are kids like the five-year-old mentioned who aren't fooled by its commercialism. The only exceptions of last year were independent films such as Chico & Rita, A Cat in Paris, Idiots and Angels and the Hollywood-backed Rango, which looks set to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year.

Speaking of which, I saw Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked three weeks ago. The nicest thing I can say about it is it didn't prompt me to pull a chunk of hair out...

Currently I'm waiting for feedback. If all goes well, I'll grab a decent mark. If not, well...I'll feel a little betrayed after positive feedback on my first draft, but I would like to be optimistic for a change and believe it will be alright. Here's hoping!