Friday, February 16, 2007

Down the Rabbit Hole...

First of all, I'd like to apologize for my lack of updates yesterday. While I realize that for the class, we only need to have a four-per-week average, I like to hold myself up to higher standards. For you see, this blog is not just for the is for all. Yesterday, however, I was just doing one thing after another, going from place to place, and all of a sudden..."Midnight? The day, she's over?"

I had nightmares of people checking The Lobotomist's Dream and withering away at the lack of new content. However, I'm sure the actual response was more akin to, "Thank God, ol' rubbergums finally shut up for once" (I'm assuming you all use the term rubbergums).

Actually, I had a pretty fun experience yesterday, amidst a lot of Resident Assistant work. A little while back (February 12th, to be exact), I was gallivanting across the Intertubes when I stumbled on this little page. I find interest in the oddest things, and I ended up listening to that sound clip over and over for what had to be 2 hours. No foolin'. I was writing the notes on my Valentine's day cards at the time, and when I got to my card (that is, the card I was giving myself [that is, the card that seals my fate as a loser]), I decided to write the line down. I later regretted thanked myself not putting that down on everyone's card. Nothing says "I love you" like telling someone you killed their brother.

Anyhoo, this got my appetite whetted. I hadn't seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? since I was young, and I doubt I fully appreciated it then. In fact, the last time I've even seen a clip of it was when my Dad and I were in Universal Studios, Florida, doing an exercise in voice-overs. That was the summer of aught-two, which seems like such a long time ago. So, I decided to put it on my Netflix queue.

A little aside about Netflix: I love Netflix. Since the beginning of Spetember, I have gotten 157 movies from Netflix. In case you're interested, there are 169 days betwixt September 1st and February 16th. That's an average of .92 movies a day, and that average is only increasing, seeing as I get a whopping 8 movies at a time. Not to say they're all movies, mind you. One reason my collection is so bulky is because I get a lot of TV series. So far, I've gotten the following:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Batman: The Animated Series
Fullmetal Alchemist
Arrested Development
Mystery Science Theater 3000

And more are on the way!

"Andrew, how do you have time to watch all these movies while keeping up with your schoolwork?"

Well, um...I'm very vigilant?

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the movie! So, I just received Who Framed Roger Rabbit? from Netflix, and I decided to watch it as my dinner entertainment last night. I was expecting to have few laughs. After listening to the greatest sound in history, the movie started. I must say, I was expecting myself to enjoy it, but not to the extent that I did. Seriously, I thought it was great. I was always a fan of the old Tex Avery-style of cartoons, and it only took a little nudge to remind me why. It also goes to show that film noir, a genre in which I like to say "all the men are jerks and all the women are prostitutes," doesn't necessarily have to take itself seriously all the time.

What really surprised me was the rating. I would not say for a second that the film is a kid's film. I guess kids could enjoy it (although a few scenes could conceivably give them nightmares). But so much of the film's bulk would go over their heads. If anything, I would say it's a humor-loving adult's film. Violence, innuendo, jokes about living in the 1940s...and yet, the movie got a PG rating, which surprised me. Then I realized something: it was the 80s. Movie ratings made no sense in the 80s.

(Which brings me to a small aside: with all these political activists who say that movies are sending bad messages to kids, look at the 80s. Back then, a PG movie would show a man getting bit in half by a shark and someone else cussing up a storm. I'd say our current system is actually pretty strict when you compare it to a few decades ago.)

So, yeah, after the movie was finished, I watched the extras, and found it amazing that every single piece of animation was hand-painted. No computers. All paint. That floored me.

I'll make something completely clear: I am not a fan of CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) cartoons. While I admit that I like many of the Pixar movies, I am not a fan of the format in general. First of all, it limits what animators are able to do. Yes, limits. Despite giving animators the nigh-unlimited resources of a computer, CGI constrains what can be achieved.


Let's look at cartoons during the second golden age of Disney. Look at the style of characters in The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Most of the humans look - surprise! - like humans! However, this doesn't tend to work well in CGI movies. Hence, the animators tend to either gravitate towards humans that look like cupie dolls (or ugly clay figurines), or towards movies that focus on animals. And because of that, we have Madagascar, Over the Hedge, The Wild, Open Season, and a boatload of other worthless drivel that all blend together after a while. Seriously, click on the links to see their posters. They're all the same! How stupid do they think kids are? (Or maybe the question should be, how stupid are kids these days?)

Second, is it just me, or does having 3-D characters count as an excuse for not having textures. If you look at a movie like The Incredibles, everything looks...smooth. Everyone's face, all the scenery, it's all so smooth. Compare it with the carefully-painted backgrounds of the classic-style animations. Why does the third dimension carry such a hefty price?

Finally, while CGI may have been painfully expensive and difficult back in the day, it is now relatively cheap and simple. That's why everyone's using it. Instead of painting frame after frame after frame, all the current animator has to do is make a skin for the character, and the rest can be used using a computer "skeleton."

As I've mentioned before, I'm not the biggest anime fan. However, I do have a certain respect for it, if only for the fact that it is the last great haven of traditional animation in modern culture, especially in theater. In the five Academy Awards since the Best Animated Feature category was added (13 years late, I might add), only one traditional medium picture has won. (Incidentally, the selection of movies for that category every year suck!) That movie was Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away (a very good movie, by the way). He was nominated once again last year, and even though I didn't see the movie, I was rooting for it, simply out of principle.

Now, when you look at Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (see, I haven't forgotten what my topic was), you can see that it looks more real, more lifelike than both CGI movies, and subsequent live-action/animated mixed, such as the green screen-aided Space Jam and its ilk. That is a triumph in animation, methinks. And it is yet another reason why I pine for the good ol' days.

Wow, this post was all over the place. A sort of penance for my absence yesterday. Anyhoo, in conclusion, if you've never seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, do so. And if you have, do so again.