Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

16 SEPTEMBER, 2011

New York and the Dawn of Cartoons: 7 Animation Pioneers

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What lovable dinosaurs have to do with chalkboard, Cab Calloway and the hypocrisies of Hollywood.

While California may have its Pixar and Dreamworks, much of the talent that gave animation its start hailed from New York. Today, we turn to the seminal work of five such pioneering animators who did New York proud, a follow-up to our recent omnibus of five early animation pioneers.

J. STUART BLACKTON

J. Stuart Blackton may be best-known for his 1900 masterpiece, The Enchanted Drawing, which earned him the credit of having pioneered animation in America. But his 1906 gem Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, while less well-known, is equally important and era-defining as the earliest surviving American animated film in the strict sense of single-exposures of drawings simulating movement — in this case, using chalkboard sketches and cut-outs.

MAX FLEISCHER

Max Fleischer, a pioneer of animated cartoons, brought us the iconic Betty Boop, Koko the Clown and Popeye characters. In 1932, Betty Boop appeared in “Minnie the Moocher,” a jazz classic by the legendary Cab Calloway.

WINSOR MCCAY

In 1911, Winsor McCay created the landmark film Little Nemo, which is often debated as the first “true” animation. Three years later, his Gertie the Dinosaur claimed its place in history as the first cartoon to feature a character with a well-definted, lovable personality.

OTTO MESSMER

Otto Messmer is best-known as the creator of the Felix the Cat cartoons and comic strips, produced by Pat Sullivan studio. In this 1923 episode, Felix goes to Hollywood, where he encounters celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin and Will Hays. Underpinning the cartoon are Messmer’s subtle stabs at Hollywood’s corrupt morals and many hypocrisies.

WALTER LANTZ

Most of us know animator, director, producer and cartoonist Walter Lantz as the creator of Woody Woodpecker. In 1926, some 15 years before Woody, Lantz produced Tail of the Monkey, blending live-action film with cartoon animation.

EARL HURD

Besides inventing the process of cel animation in the early 1910s, Earl Hurd created the once influential and now sadly nearly-forgotten Bobby Bumps animated shorts. Sample them with this treat from 1916: Bobby Bumps and the Stork.

PAUL TERRY

Between 1915 and 1955, Paul Terry produced some 1,300 cartoons, many under his popular Terrytoons studio. Among them was the 1923 gem A Cat’s Life — which, some might say, got a head start on the viral cat videos meme by some 80 years.

For more on the marvel and promise of the dawn of animation, see the excellent Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons.

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15 SEPTEMBER, 2011

1951 Black-and-White Animation on How Different Drugs Work

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From poppies to paupers, or what Cold War politics have to do with the social psychology of addiction.

Last month, we were entertained by a 1970s “documentary” that explained the dangers of drugs in LEGO. Today, we turn to Drug Addiction, produced by Encyclopedia Britannica’s film division in 1951. Though most of it follows the classic “slippery-slope” narrative of Cold-War-era anti-drug propaganda, it also features this stunning two-minute black-and-white animation on how heroin, opium, marijuana and cocaine are derived and how they work.

Watch or download the full film, courtesy of the Internet Archive:

via The Atlantic

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14 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Pump Up The Volume: A History of House Music

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From John Travolta to Eurotrash, or what Chicago’s basements have to do with Moscow’s nightlife.

Few movements in music have gained as much critical mass as house music. Pump Up The Volume: A History of House Music is a fantastic 2001 documentary about one of the biggest music groundswells in history, which began in basements and ended up at the forefront of pop culture. Available on YouTube in 13 parts and gathered in this playlist for your viewing pleasure, the film traces house music from its early days as New York disco to its engulfing takeover of Europe’s dance scene through fascinating interviews with the people who propelled the movement and rare footage of the clubs where it came of age.

From the very beginning, it was really the gay and black people that kept dance music alive. Disco, dance music, was really danceable R&B music that we were dancing to, and it wasn’t until Saturday Night Fever came along that it exploded and every goomba in the suburbs started dancing.” ~ Mel Cheren, West End Records

A long-out-of-print but excellent companion book can be found with some poking around Amazon.

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08 SEPTEMBER, 2011

This Must Be The Place: Poetic Short Films Explore ‘Home’

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What 19th-century farming has to do with solar panels and the creative losses of digital photography.

From filmmakers Ben Wu and David Usui of Lost & Found Films comes This Must Be The Place — an inspired ongoing series of short films exploring the idea of home and what our private sanctuaries mean to us. The latest film in the series, Coffer, takes us to the small kingdom of an upstate New York farmer named John Coffer. Tucked between his quiet rural routines is a profound creative and philosophical lens on contemporary culture, articulated with remarkable humility and authenticity.

I got a bug to do wet plate photography in ’76. In this day and age of digital, it’s so easy to just shoot thousands of pictures a day. Each individual picture becomes rather insignificant. Whereas, with the tintype, it’s very intentional and you’re not gonna make very many in a day. They become valued objects, not just an image. Each image is absolutely unique, like a painting.”

I have created a hybrid situation where there are certain things I continue to do in the old, 19th-century way — somethings may be the way it was done before Christ, as far as I know — but then there are cutting-edge, high-tech things that I have here and do. I have a wind generator, solar panels, a laptop computer. You can blend these old, timeless things with the latest technology to do the things that need to be done in life. I think there’s going to be more people looking back for models from the past, and use it to blend in with new ideas and technology today.”

(This sentiment is reminiscent of Molly Landreth’s tender vintage portraits.)

Coffer follows last year’s excellent Byun — the story of an eccentric Korean artist and collector-of-everything living in Brooklyn, who takes a hands-on approach to the concept of combinatorial creativity:

You can create a lot of stories by putting all these objects together.”

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