Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

23 NOVEMBER, 2011

Charade: Lessons in Creative Vision from a 1984 College Student

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What Goethe has to do with pioneering animation.

In the summer of 1984, Sheridan College student Jon Minnis set out to complete an ambitious project, armed with only PANTONE markers and paper. (Cue in this morning’s PANTONE history of the 20th century.) After four months of writing and polishing a clever script, he spent another three meticulously storyboarding and animating it into an elegant, minimalist 4-minute film titled Charade, which Minnis voiced himself.

The gem went on to win the 1985 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and remains a heartening example of dreaming up a project and bringing it single-handedly to life. Or, as Goethe almost put it:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin It! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Charade is available on the altogether excellent 1994 collection World’s Greatest Animation, featuring Academy Award winners and nominees from the years 1978-1991.

via Animation Graduate Films; thanks for the quote, Liz

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16 NOVEMBER, 2011

Superwoman Was Already Here: Montessori’s Philosophy, Animated

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A visual manifesto for keeping the fire in kids’ eyes burning.

Superwoman Was Already Here! is an animated adaptation of the Montessori philosophy of education by Maria Montessori superfan Daniel C. Petter-Lipstein (who lists Harvard College and Columbia Law School as his alma maters). Though I wish he hadn’t used a company called 321 Fast Draw, who use all-caps, exclamation points, and the word “ZING” in their sales pitch and who effectively ripped off Andrew Park’s brilliant and memorable style of RSA animation — and poorly, at that — I’m still intrigued by a sketchnote-animated synthesis of the Montessori philosophy. (Though it certainly doesn’t help that the most famous RSA animation is actually the adaptation of Sir Ken Robinson’s now-legendary TED talk on changing educational paradigms, adding to the similarity of style a similarity of message.) Be your own judge:

Kids don’t stop asking questions because they lose interest. It’s the other way around — they lose interest because they stop asking questions.”

This, in turn, inspired another animation, alas also from 321 Fast Draw, by Petter-Lipstein’s “fellow Montessori caped crusader” Trevor Eissler, based on Eissler’s popular book Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education:

For more on the Montessori school of thought, see Maria Montessori’s own recently digitized handbook and her seminal 1949 book The Absorbent Mind. For a broader look at the past and future of learning, don’t miss these 7 must-read books on education.

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15 NOVEMBER, 2011

Meat the Future: An Animated Case for In-Vitro Meat

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Petri dish to plate, or how to feed the world of 7 billion without starving the planet.

To anyone who’s read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma or seen Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc., the wretched state of the meat industry and its noxious impact on the environment is no news. Meat the Future proposes an intriguing alternative to the traditional meat industry that neither requires you to become a granola-crunching vegetarian nor holds the foolish expectation that meat companies will suddenly take responsibility. And while that alternative might not seem appetizing at first, this beautiful and compelling animated short might just make you see the issue with new eyes.

In theory, a single cell from one animal can be used to feed the entire global population, without stressing the environment.”

The film ends with an emphasis on the need for publicly funded science, something we’ve made a case for before.

The project is the brainchild of Afshin Moeini, Christian Poppius and Kim Brundin from Sweden’s Beckmans College of Design.

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15 NOVEMBER, 2011

Celestial Navigations: 5 Conceptual Vintage Science Films by Al Jarnow

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Education meets entertainment in experimental animation, or what Big Bird has to do with the dawn of computing.

Last week, Jason Kottke reminded me of how much I love the vintage short films of painter, educator, museum designer, and software developer Al Jarnow. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, Jarnow created short segments for PBS’s 3-2-1 Contact series, Sesame Street, and various other children’s television programs, using stop-motion, timelapse, cell animation, and other experimental at the time techniques to bring everyday objects to life and illustrate scientific concepts by blending education and entertainment. (Sound familiar?) The films are now collected in Celestial Navigations: Short Films of Al Jarnow — an absolute gem restored from the original 16mm prints, featuring remastered sound, a 30-minute documentary about Jarnow’s work, and a beautiful 60-page book.

For a taste, here are five of my favorite Jarnow films:

COSMIC CLOCK

Cosmic Clock compresses a billion years of time into two delightfully vintage animated minutes.

FACE FILM

Face Film explores human behavior through the computational operations of a typewriter, using a large canvas to tease our inability to recognize an image using incomplete data.

ARCHITECTURE

Architecture was one of Jarnow’s most elaborate and labor-intensive shoots — which makes this photo of the set getting destroyed upon completion all the more mischievously delightful.

TONDO

In Tondo, Jarnow places rectangles on grids made of meticulously measured horizon lines, then moves the camera or leaves each rectangle still for a near-impossible to achieve 3D effect. In fact, this technique is rarely used in animation precisely due to its tedious and time-consuming nature — doing away with the familiar shortcuts of cell animation, Jarnow had to come up with an entirely new kind of shortcut to fill out the 24 frames per second of traditionally projected films … in 1973.

CUBITS

In 1978, Jarnow created one of his most ambitious and groundbreaking films. Far from a mere mesmerizing meditation on the craft of animation itself, Cubits was also essentially a paper model of a computer — the cube sheet on which the film is based consists of a horizontal cubic rotation and a diagonal pan for diagonal rotation, combining these primary moves into complex rotations to explore the relationship between animation procedure and logical numerical operations.

A time-capsule of incredible visual and conceptual innovation, Celestial Navigations is the kind of cultural treasure that makes you sigh with appreciation.

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