Posts Tagged ‘Animation’
“Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition”*…
Artist Bill Domonkos:
I view my work as a collision and recombination of ideas. My process unfolds gradually and spontaneously—using found materials such as archive film footage, photographs, and the internet. I experiment by combining, altering, editing and reassembling using digital technology, special effects and animation to create a new kind of experience. I am interested in the absurd, as well as moments of sublime beauty—to renew and transform materials, experiences and ideas. The extraordinary thing about cinema is its ability to suggest the ineffable—something that cannot or should not be expressed in words, only hinted at through sounds and images. It is this elusive, dreamlike quality that informs my work.
* Max Ernst
As we amuse ourselves with animation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the first leap second was added to a day. The modern definition of a “second” was settled in 1874 by European scientists working from Muslim scholars’ improvement on Ptolemy’s Second Century calculations. But in the early 1960’s astronomers realized that the rotation of the earth is irregular– fundamentally, it is slowing. Coordinated Universal Time (CUT), calculated with an atomic clock, was systematically slowed each year, for a decade, to compensate…. But that meant that CUT and UTC (the time standard used by broadcasters, transportation providers, and other commercial and military users, a standard still fixed on the original definition of the “second”) were diverging. To true them up, the leap second was added to the UTC. Since 1972, a total of 25 seconds have been added– that’s to say, the Earth has slowed down 25 seconds compared to atomic time since then. (But this does not mean that days are 25 seconds longer nowadays: only the days on which the leap seconds are inserted have 86,401 instead of the usual 86,400 seconds.)
The Lost World, released in 1925, was a silent film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel of the same name. Public Domain Review elaborates:
Directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien (an invaluable warm up for his work on the original King Kong directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack). In 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. The astounded audience watched footage of a Triceratops family, an attack by an Allosaurus and some Stegosaurus footage. Doyle refused to discuss the film’s origins. On the next day, the New York Times ran a front page article about it, saying “(Conan Doyle’s) monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces”.
It is a film of many firsts: first film to be shown to airline passengers, in April 1925 on a London-Paris flight by the company Imperial Airways; first feature length film made in the United States, possibly the world, to feature model animation as the primary special effect, or stop motion animation in general; first dinosaur-oriented film hit, and it led to other dinosaur movies, from King Kong to the Jurassic Park trilogy.
* paleontologist Robert T. Bakker
As we lavish love on lizards, we might send dusty birthday greetings to paleontologist Barnum Brown; he was born on this date in 1873 in Carbondale, Kansas. Brown (who was named after the famous showman) discovered the first documented remains of Tyrannosaurus rex during a 66-year career in which he became the most famous fossil hunter in the world.
Though most of his work was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History (where most of his finds reside), some was underwritten by the Sinclair Oil Company– which adopted an image of the Apatosaurus (then known as Brontosaurus) in its logo.
Ability to draw easily and well on the blackboard is a power which every teacher of children covets. Such drawing is a language which never fails to hold attention and awaken delighted interest.
From Blackboard Sketching (1908), a book by Massachusetts based artist and teacher Frederik Whitney (1858-1949) on the lost art of blackboard drawing.
Via the fabulous Public Domain Review, which is currently also featuring such glorious arcana as what is probably the first animated film, produced by Emil Cohl, considered the “father of animation” also in 1908 (readers may recall Cohl’s influence, as seen in “Meet the Beetles“)…
And also a series of animated GIFs like the one below excerpted by Okkult Motion Pictures from Max Fleischer’s Bubbles, part of his “Out of the Inkwell” series, which also includes The Tantalizing Fly.
Many more treasures at Public Domain Review.
As we pay retrospective respect, we might improvise some birthday greetings for Thelonious Sphere Monk; he was born on this date in 1917. A jazz pianist and composer, Monk contributed an incisively-improvisational style and a number of beloved compositions to the jazz canon (e.g., “Round Midnight,” Straight, No Chaser”). Indeed, Monk is the second-most recorded jazz composer (after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70). Monk is one of five jazz musicians (so far) to have been featured on the cover of Time (after Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and Duke Ellington, and before Wynton Marsalis).
“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”
In 1912, Ladislas Starevich, serving then as Director of the Museum of Natural History in Lithuania, set out to film the combat of stag beetles, but the nocturnal insects kept shutting down when the lights went on. His solution, inspired by the work of Émile “Father of the Animated Cartoon” Cohl, was to use dead beetles…
Starevich went on to develop theatrical narratives and story arcs for his “actors,” creating the likes of the dreamy-but-eerie film you can watch here:
Read the full story at the ever-educational Dangerous Minds.
As we recall that Starevich had lots of actors from which to choose, we might send carefully-sculpted birthday greetings to Joseph Constantine Carpue; he was born on this date in 1764. A surgeon and anatomist, Carpue performed the first rhinoplasty in England, adapting a technique developed centuries earlier in India. In 1814, after practicing on several cadavers, Carpue operated at the Duke of York’s Hospital, Chelsea, on a British military officer who had lost his nose to the toxic effects of mercury treatments for his liver, though his nasal bones were intact, and on another whose nose and cheek were mutilated by a sword. These two successful operations are considered the birth of modern plastic surgery. (In fact, in the late 16th century, a Venetian surgeon had used arm/shoulder skin– as opposed to the forehead skin used by the ancient Indians and Carpue– but his procedure was never adopted.)
From Brazilian designers 18bis, a very different application of the animation technique– stop motion cut-outs– made famous by South Park: a beautiful dance inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “The Me Bird,”, set to original music.
[TotH to Wall to Watch]
As we contemplate the cornucopia that is construction paper, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that Jack Paar said “good night” and signed off of The Tonight Show for the final time. The late night format had been pioneered by Steve Allen, who inaugurated the slot for NBC locally in New in York in 1952, then as a network offer in 1954. It was structured as a traditional variety show (though it ran 105 minutes), and was quickly tag-team hosted by Allen and Ernie Kovacs, who alternated nights. Carried on very few affiliates, it failed to satisfy the network, which switched to a news format in that time slot in January of 1957. The news was even less popular, so in July of the network tacked back, and named Jack Paar the sole host of Tonight.
Paar established the format and tropes that we currently associate with late night shows: the opening monologue, the regular cast of sketch and skit players, the catchphrase (“I kid you not”), the musical guests, and most centrally, the interviews with celebrities– of all walks, but largely entertainers. The toll of doing 105 minutes five nights a week was sufficiently wearing that Paar convinced the network to reduce the length to 90 minutes, and later, to produce only four shows a week (starting the trend of “Best of” Fridays that survived him). The show was a tremendous hit, steadily building carriage and audience; it was Paar who turned The Tonight Show into an entertainment juggernaut. But he salted his guest list with intellectuals (Paar helped William F. Buckley become a celebrity), politicians (Sen. John F. Kennedy initiated the practice of the “Presidential candidate appearance” on Paar’s show; see photo below), even world leaders. Indeed, Paar was the center of a firestorm of criticism for interviewing Fidel Castro in 1959.
Exhausted by demands of the show, Paar left to do a prime time series. His hand-picked successor, who’d been a frequent substitute host during Paar’s vacations, was Johnny Carson.
Readers will recall recent reassurance that food past its expiration date is probably still good. Turns out that there’s more to the story: some canned food actually improves with aging. Harold McGee of Lucky Peach reports, via Slate…
European connoisseurship in canned goods goes back about a hundred years. It was well established by 1924, when James H. Collins compiled The Story of Canned Foods. Collins noted that while the American industry—which started in the 1820s and took off during the Civil War—focused on mechanization and making locally and seasonally abundant seafood and vegetables more widely available, the European industry continued to rely on handwork and produced luxury goods for the well-off, who would age their canned sardines for several years like wine. Today, Rödel and Connetable, both more than 150 years old, are among the sardine makers that mark select cans with the fishing year and note that the contents “are already very good, but like grand cru wines, improve with age” for up to 10 years.
But the appreciation of can-aged foods wasn’t unknown in the United States. Collins recounts an informal taste test conducted by a New York grocer who rounded up old cans from a number of warehouses, put on a luncheon in which he served their contents side by side with those from new cans, and asked his guests to choose which version they preferred. Among the test foods were fourteen-year-old pea soup and beef stew, and twelve-year-old corned beef and pigs’ feet. The guests preferred the old cans “by an overwhelming majority”…
The trouble with aging canned goods is that it takes years to get results. However, we can take a hint from manufacturers, who often accelerate shelf-life tests by storing foods at high temperatures. A general rule of thumb is that the rate of chemical reactions approximately doubles with each 20-degree rise in temperature. Store foods at 40 degrees above normal—around 100 degrees—and you can get an idea of a year’s change in just three months.
But it’s possible to go further. At 120 degrees, you get a year’s worth of change in six weeks; at 140 degrees, three weeks; at 180 degrees, five days.
Of course temperatures that high are cooking temperatures, and their heat energy drives reactions that would never occur in normal storage. But if we’re interested in the evolution of canned foods, which have already been extremely cooked, then why not treat them to a little additional simmering and see what happens? (It’s safest to stay a little below the boil, to avoid building up steam pressure in the can.)
I’ve found that braising cans change the flavors and textures within, but unpredictably so. It doesn’t seem to do much for sardines, but tuna in water loses its beefiness and becomes more pleasantly fishy and also a little bitter, while tuna in oil somehow gets more meaty and less fishy. Like its aged version, can-braised Spam takes on a softness that’s especially nice when you fry the surface to a crunchy crust.
I don’t recommend cooking foods in the can as a routine thing. Cans have various linings that may gradually release unwanted chemicals into foods, and this process will also accelerate at high temperatures. But it’s a way to explore how canned foods are capable of developing…
Read the tale in its tasty totality at “Age Your Canned Goods- Why I now think of best-by dates as maybe-getting-interesting-by dates.”
As we turn up the heat, we might send soft and fluffy birthday greetings to “Poppin’ Fresh,” the Pillsbury Doughboy; he premiered on this date in 1965. Created a couple of years earlier by Leo Burnett copywriter Rudy Perz, PF was first rendered by Martin Nodell. Inspired by the opening credits for The Dinah Shore Show, they created him not as a traditionally-animated mascot, but as a stop-motion character. The three-dimensional Doughboy clay doll cost $16,000 to create. He had 15 different heads (each with different mouth positions to allow the animation of speech) and 5 bodies to give him different looks and positions. The stop motion method required 24 still shots to create a single second of animation.
But it was worth the effort: within 3 years, 87% of Americans recognized him by name.
Poppin’ Fresh was voiced by Paul Frees (the voice of Boris in Rocky and Bullwinkle) until Frees’ death in 1986, when Jeff Bergmen took over (Bergman also stepped in to replace Mel Blanc in Warner Bros. cartoons); he’s currently voiced– in what is now a computer-generated version– by JoBe Cerney.
The Mothers of Invention emerged in 1964. Frank Zappa had joined an R&B band, The Soul Giants, and had taken control, insisting that they play original music (mostly his) and change their name… a move that established them at the heart of the underground music scene in the late 60s.
But by 1969, the original line-up fell apart. So in 1970, Zappa recast the Mothers: drummer Aynsley Dunbar, jazz keyboardist George Duke, Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons (bass, rhythm guitar), and three members of The Turtles: bass player Jim Pons, and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who, due to persistent Turtles-related legal and contractual problems, took the stage names “The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie”, or “Flo & Eddie.”
To celebrate the relaunch, Zappa conceived a film, 200 Motels– loosely described, “The Mothers of Invention go berserk in the small town of Centerville.” The first theatrical feature (mostly) shot on video then transferred to film, it was released in 1971, and featured the band along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel, and Keith Moon…
And it featured a remarkable piece of animation, the seven-minute segment “Dental Hygiene Dilemma.” Animated by Charles Swenson (who went on to do the animated feature Dirty Duck the following year, then [among other wonderful works] Rugrats), it has Donovan, the Devil… a kind of morality play that captures the fading of the flower-powered 60s into the crank-ed up 70s.
[TotH to John Shirley for the lead to DHD]
As we remember to floss, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that Ron Thelin (member of the Diggers and contributor to The Oracle) and his brother Jay opened the first “head shop”– The Psychedelic Shop– near the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco.