Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

27 JULY, 2010

Mad Men on Wheels: Vintage Car Ads

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Babes, bumpers and Bentleys, or what Don Draper would’ve looked like on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

After last weekend’s Mad Men season premiere, we felt a certain pang of nostalgia for an era we never actually lived in. Today, we’re celebrating this nostalgia with an intersection of two of the era’s greatest cultural landmarks — cars and advertising — with five fantastic collections of enough vintage car ads to make Don Draper’s portfolio look paltry.

AMERICAN CAR BROCHURES

Unassumingly and almost dryly titled, American Car Brochures offers an impressively vast archive of vintage car brochures and original factory documentation, equal parts eye candy, tech time machine and economic reality check. (Care for a “gay, young-looking” Aero Willys at $1,499, circa in 1943?)

Culled by Norwegian IT consultant Hans Tore Tangerud, the collection is catalogued by brand name and dates as far back as the early 1900’s.

SOVIET CAR ADVERTISING

While Don Draper was busy selling Cadillacs to the American classes, his Soviet counterpart — someone, we imagine, named Doncho Drapkov perhaps — was busy selling Ladas and Nivas on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

The always-excellent English Russia has a fantastic roundup of vintage Soviet car ads from the 1960’s-1980’s.

50’S VOLVO BOOKLET

It may be just a single piece of collateral, but this Volvo booklet from the 1950’s is a pinnacle of old-school art direction and storytelling. Aiming to introduce a foreign car into the American market, the book follows the journey of American couple Philip and (of course…) Janis Benson on their trip to “Volvoland” in (of course…) Sweden.

BRITISH CAR BROCHURES

Once you get past the crummy site design and awkward navigation, British Car Brochures is a treasure trove. Since he was a child, Romanian car enthusiast Hermann Egges has been collecting vintage car ads, brochures and articles. Now, his massive collection of over 1,250 brochures and 2,800 ads is available online for all to ogle, ranging from rare retro gems (1940’s Bentley, anyone?) to recent-vintage aesthetic atrocities (90’s Land Rover ads, we’re looking at you).

For more of the British vintage car advertising world, we recommend Heon Stevenson’s excellent illustrated anthology British Car Advertising of the 1960s.

PLAN 59

A museum and gift shop of mid-century illustration, Plan 59 has a formidable collection of vintage car ads from the 1930’s through 1950’s.

For a closer look at the fascinating history of car advertising, look no further than Classic Cars of the 20th Century: 100 Years of Automotive Ads, 1900-1999, which explores the lush visual language of automotive ads, decade by decade, in more than 500 advertisements from the collection of Taschen editor Jim Heimann.

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24 JUNE, 2010

5 Seminal Vintage Russian Animation Short Films

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What dancing ballerinas and hungry kings have to do with the dawn of the digital age.

While Walt Disney was building an animation empire in America, a thriving school of animation mastery was unfolding on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Russian art directors, illustrators, animators and video producers were experimenting with techniques often decades ahead of their time and creating beautifully crafted, visually stunning short films despite the technological limitations of the era. Many of these masterpieces are now available in Masters Of Russian Animation — a remarkable collcection of animated shorts from the 1960s through 1980s in four volumes.

Today, we look at five of these gems, with many thanks to reader Sebastian Waack (@edutechnews) for bringing some of them to our attention.

HEDGEHOG IN THE FOG (1975)

Based on a Russian folk tale, Hedgehog in the Fog, a 1975 gem by master-animator Yuri Norstein, utilized techniques like cutout-animation and stop-motion three decades before they reached creative buzzword status.

Thinking about how these effects were achieved — brilliantly — in the age of manual, analog studio production does give one pause in the face of all the digital tools we take for granted today.

Found on Volume 2.

STORY OF A CRIME (1962)

Director Fyodor Khitruk’s Story of a Crime is part Hanna-Barbera, part Hitchcock, part something else entirely. Using techniques like cutout collages and photo-illustration hybrids long before they had entered the mainstream animation arsenal, the film won the Jury Prize at the prestigious 1980 film festival in Lille, France.

You can catch part 2 here. Found on Volume 1.

THE SINGING TEACHER (1968)

From director Anatoly Petrov comes The Singing Teacher, an eerie, haunting, stunningly illustrated gem from 1968.

Found on Volume 1.

THE KING’S SANDWICH (1985)

Based on the famous A. A. Milne poem The King’s Breakfast, director Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s The King’s Sandwich features intricate line illustration and remarkably expressive characters from the dawn of computer animation.

Found on Volume 3.

BALLERINA ON A BOAT (1969)

With its minimalist lines and intricate play of perspectives, director Lev Atamanov’s Ballerina on a Boat is a lovely exercise in storytelling through grace and simplicity.

Found on Volume 2.

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18 FEBRUARY, 2010

HBO City: Artisanal Animation Magic Circa 1983

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Craftsmanship lessons from the 80’s, or why 100 lightbulbs are putting Tim Burton to shame.

With all the stop-motion, time-lapse, paper-cutout, tilt-shift, CGI animation floating around these days, it’s easy to fall into the all-too-common trap of modern arrogance, assuming we’ve practically invented these art forms and none of this has ever been done before, let alone well. We, of course, are here to wiggle a disapproving finger and prove otherwise.

In 1983, HBO made a short but impressive opening sequence that really embodied just what makes HBO “premium” — brilliantly conceived and produced with enough meticulous craftsmanship to make Wes Anderson feel inadequate and send Tim Burton’s set designers running to mama.

Now, a short documentary goes behind the scenes of the elaborate production process.

If there’s something missing, you know something’s missing, but you don’t know what it is. So you put in as much detail in it, so the eye picks up every little thing.

Six craftsmen worked for over three months to create close to 100 unique buildings for the 30-foot-long HBO City, each handcrafted with painstaking precision to produce one of the best-constructed model cities ever built — with working lightbulbs in all buildings, headlights on the cars and buses, and hundreds of unique trees covered in handmade foliage.

Even when the model was finally completed, bringing it to life as an opening sequence was equally elaborate — it was photographed with a bleeding-edge computerized camera, filming for 14 hours something designed to last 20 seconds on the screen.

We didn’t want just a line. We wanted to communicate to the viewer that when they were turning on HBO, they were tuning into an entertainment center.

This sort of patient, labor-intensive, artisanal entertainment craftsmanship is quite rare these days. (Though the fantastic Moray McLaren We Got Time animation does spring to mind.) And while the digital revolution may have opened the doors to incredible CGI whimsy, we have to wonder whether it has also, ironically, reduced our capacity for such meticulousness. Could the digitally-induced shrinkage of our attention spans be eating away at our attention to detail — and at our tolerance for the effort require to attend to it?

Because in this world of ubiquitous Flashturbation, there’s still something to be said for the art and craft of old-fashioned, hands-on, painstaking creative tinkering.

via Movieline

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04 AUGUST, 2009

Animation Spotlight: The Falcon

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Retrostalgia goes avian, or what old cameras have to do with humanitarianism.

We love steampunk. We love stop-motion. And we love vintage cameras. Thereby, we absolutely adore The Falcon — a delightful steampunk stop-motion animation composed entirely of macro-photographed hardware pieces from disassembled vintage and antique cameras, for that indulgent analog/digital experience.

The story stars Professor Weston (ISO 50), Silly Patty (+2/-2 EV) and ‘Howell’ the Owl (f/256), as they journey throughout the Focal Kingdom searching for dinner, with cameos by Falcon Minette, Argus AF & C3, Mercury II, Yashica TL, assorted Weston Light Meters, and various Polaroid Land Cameras. (Read the full story synopsis here.)

The film comes from The Shamptonian Institute, a wonderful humanitarian / culture collective that engages in anything from disaster relief advocacy to vinyl recordings preservation.

We encourage you to explore their fascinating library of media artifacts, including vintage ads and retro Eastern European postage stamps.