Monday, January 29, 2007

History of Japanese Animation:part 2

The movie-law for having guaranteed fixed demand had disappeared to somewhere, and it seemed that the lack of goods and the series-inflation vanished the place of animation manufacture. Surely, animation was hardly made in 1945 and 1946. However arrival of the freedom by abolition of regulation by defeat overcame lack of goods.
First, Kenzo Masaoka. He completed "SAKURA(HARU NO GENSOU)The cherry tree (Spring fantasy)"(46) using Weber's "Invitation to a dance" (arranged by Berlioz) which Stokowski conducted gorgeously. In this work, the spring sight was lyrically drawn with MAIKO in Kyoto, the shower of falling cherry blossom, and the butterflies which are flying. On a screen, a quiet atmosphere flowed and the noisy social situation was not felt. Moreover, arrival of freedom was not cried for loud. Although it was a negative form, Masaoka's principle-of-art-for-art's-sake-spirit was shown like "KUMO TO TUURIPPU."
Continuously, "SUTENEKO TORACHAN(Tora, deserted cat)" (47) was made. Since a mother cat loves only helped TORA, a real child cat will be jealous and will run away from home. Then, TORA goes out for search of the child cat. Although the story was common, the technical side was fine. In the this work, Masaoka are used operetta-form and drawn the view rotated 180 degrees.
Seo made "OUSAMA NO SIPPO(King's tail)" (49). This project started from January 1948, and although discontinuation was inserted in the middle of works, it was completed in October 1949. In spite of screening time is 33 minutes (it is 46 minutes at the beginning), it was a big project to use 100,000 drawings. This work adapted the Anderson's "naked king", and was bantering the king of a fox without a tail. Public release was stopped by the reason that this film was regarded as leftist work in the occupied Japan.
In addition to these, Educational Film Division of Toho obtained Fumio Hayasaka's music(Hayasaka is composer of Kurosawa's "Rashomon" and "Seven Samurai"), and was maked "MUKU NO KI NO HANASI(The Tale of the tree of MUKU)" (47;Directed by Shouji Maruyama) to describe the change of the surrounding four seasons of one tree of MUKU(Aphananthe aspera) of the "Silly Symphony" style. And Iwao Ashida released "BAGUDADDO HIME(Baghdad princess)" had drawn by full animation all 8reeles in 1948.
NIPPON DOUGA EIGA (next NICHIDOU) which had Yasuji Yabushita released "POPPOYA-SAN, NONKINA KIKANNSHI(Easy Locomotive Engineer", and the "DOUBUTU DAI YAKYUUSEN(Animals' Big Baseball)", and acquired reputation in 1949. However, a postwar upsurge would stop coincided with stop of release of "King's Tail".
There was no way Japanese monochrome works opposed to the American color works released one after another. (It was what happened also at prewar days.) Furthermore, reform of a taxation system pressed the management of animation companies. Then, they shifted to making animation for education and advertisement. New hard way began.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

History of Japanese Animation:part one.2
The movie-law will be enacted in 1940 and the new situation will arise. It is because the article of a compulsive show of a cultural film was in this law. An animated cartoon is made into a kind of a cultural film, and comes to be suddenly brought into the limelight.It is the return for theaters.
But if it line-up Seo's "AHIRU RIKUSENTAI(Army of Ducks)"(35)Ginjirou Sato's "MAABOU NO TAIRIKU SENNBTAI(Spy Army in China of Boy Maabou"(42,directed by Yoji Tiba),Sanae Yamamo's "SUPAI GEKIMETU(Destruction of spy)"(42) and Ryotaro Kuwata's "TOUKYUU NIKUDANNSEN(Battle by Baseball)" (43), it is clear in why there was any purpose of the cultural film. Although animeted cartoon is one of the art, because it was thought inferior, it could not but become such a direct expression. However, even if it takes it into consideration, it is not the talk praised not much.
But the theorem that the result of a work will become good if many the money and time in making animation was the same also in this case. The animation of our country which has acquired the economical base for the first time since birth showed fast progress in respect of technology. The result was Seo's two feature length works.
I will return to Kenzo Masaoka. In spite of under such environmental situation ,his footprint which followed the original way becomes the big comfort of our heart. With together of after-recording and pre-recording are used by "BENKEI TAI USHIWAKA (39)", invigorating animation is developed. And the works which are completely unrelated to the jingoism feeling of a world are made from "KANNGARUU NO TANNJOUBI (Birthday of kangaroo)" (40) and "KARITA BOUSHI (borrowed hat)"(41) by the fairy tale of a Michiko Yokoyama original. But since "FUKUCHAN NO KISHUU (FUKUCHAN's surprise attack)" (42) is made, a rebellious spirit did not make it do so, but it can be said that it made his way where a principle-of-art-for-art's-sake-attitude is original follow.If it becomes under the condition which should be satisfied more, it will be touch that anything will be made. It did not necessarily refuse by having not only taken an advantage.
If said, the work which Masaoka, a nonpolitical person, made was "KUMO TO CHURIPPU.(Spider and tulip)" (December, 42 completion) It will be necessary to stop this to memory. Since those who had stated not only the field of animation but that it aspires and is high to this time have also made the work of organization praise after all.
The girl of ladybug is passing the time leisurely, singing with "ladybug is child of sun" in the field where a solar light shines. Spider of the randy-man style which was wearing the straw hat and rolled the muffler appears there, and smartness and sweet voice are applied to arms and it applies invitation to ladybug. However, it is refused. It still presses for spider obstinately. Although ladybug runs in into a tulip, spider will make a tulip bundled hair with thread. It only waits for time to pass.
Clouds arise and quiet field serve as a rainstorm at midnight. Although Spider tends to become desperate and it is going to support the body, it will fail to be shaken into a pond at last.
In the morning, the tulip which kept bearing a storm.And ladybug comes out out of a tulip, and she glorifies peaceful time.
Conspicuous contrast with the glaringly vivid depiction at the time of a storm, and the depiction filled with the quiet image before and behind a storm. Technology of the animation of the brilliant ability which made it possible. Furthermore, the gorgeous sound by 80 persons' orchestra by pre-recording.(After-recording is common in Japan. It is also present.j Although this work is released in April 1943 when the inside of Japan was dyed a wartime-look, there is no smell of war in this animation. As Masaoka, although Michiko Yokoyama's original would only be built in the style of a "Silly Symphony", it is the work which "peace" dared be added in writing and had appropriate qualification.
While ruin of Japan was approaching, SEO was making "God soldier of sea and Momotaro", and, simultaneously with "Spider and Tulip", "UENOSORA HAKASE(Doctor UENOSORA)"(44) was further made by Hajime Maeda and Kei Asano. It is said that speedy deployment and the simple design of "UENNOSORA HAKASE" were what takes limited animation in advance. Surely the animation community of our country marked the one time.
History of Japanese Animation:part one.1

Yasushi Murata who is a friend from the time of the child of Yamamoto will join the Yokohama Cinema in 1923. This company was supplying Charles Pathe's films in Japan, and Murata was engaged in work of title writing here. PATHE is also the distribution contractor of the Bray's films, and Murata memorizes interest in animation through this work. Then, he calls at Yamamoto, studies the method of making animation, and invents his original method at last by the paper-cutting method which was the mainstream of animation manufacture of our country at the time (The method of manufacturing animation has been a secret for every animator at the time. Therefore, I wrote "invents his original method". Yamamoto did not teach the place of an important point, even if it taught foundations.)

First, it makes "JIRAFU NO KUBI HA NAZE NAGAI(Why is long of neck of giraffe)" (26) as an experiment, "TAKO NO HONE(Bone of Octopus)" (27) is announced continuously, and work of making animation will be done.

Murata announced most many works in pre the World War II days, he made about 50 animations before 1936. It was as advanced as the technology of the paper-cutting animation trained in this time had not been imagined from present.

However, the problems are contents. For example, "SARUMASAMUNE"(30). This tale is that HIKYAKU(a carrier of Edo period) helps a monkey, gets a noted sword from a monkey as gratitude, and escapes from a crisis using the noted sword. Teaching-side are pushed out by the front of the film and it is hard to tell a compliment that it is interesting. It is because it was regulated by the state of the thinking of the Japanese of pre-war days which imagination cannot attach from present us.

If Murata was a paper-cutting group's representation, a cell group's representation was Kenzo Masaoka. Although he graduated from the art school in 1917, and it learned under Seiki Kuroda(famous painter) after that and being aspired after the way of pictures, it will go into the Makino movie in 1925, and the way of a movie will be followed.He becomes independent at the time of abolition of the educational film part of Nikkatsu which was working as a technical chief, and will manufacture "NANSENSU MONOGATARI:SARUGASHIMA(Nonsence Story:Island of Apes)"(30)("NANSEN" mean wrecked ship) by the tie-up with Nikkatsu in 1930. The story that the baby whom only one person survived by wreked ship was brought up into apes was made using paper-cutting technique. Although it was not a work with exceptional novelty, speedy story deployment which is symbolized by the attractive title was superb.

It continues, "NANSENSU MONGARARI DAI2 HEN:KAIZOKUSENN(UMI NO BOUKEN)(Nonsence Story part 2:A Pirate ship (Marine adventure))" (31) is made, and "TIKARA TO ONNA NO YONONAKA(The world of power and woman)" was made in 1932, using a cell extensively. This film was also the first full-scale all talkie animation in Japan. Since the print of this film is not existing, I want to withhold evaluation. However, it deserves attention that it was the nonsense story animation new as that time which can be guessed from a title.

Just before starting manufacture of "The world of power and a woman", the one youth has jumped into Masaoka's place. He was Mitsuyo Seo. He was making the first two feature length animated cartoons in Japan, "MOMOTARO NO UMIWASHI(Sea Wark of Momotaro"(43) and "MOMOTARO UMI NO SINPEI(God soldier of sea, Momotaro)"(45) (although it was opened to the public just before defeat of the Second World War and had become the work of a phantom for subsequent confusion, evaluation with a masterpiece was obtained). His way until to make two feature length works is telling very symbolically the locus which the animation (rather the whole of art than a animation field) which continues until defeat of the World War II.

After working under Masaoka for a while, independently Seo made "OSARU SANKITI, BOUKUUSENN NO MAKI(Sankiti of Ape-Air defense game)" (34). However, nontheatrical works will be made from this time because the American colored works which began to be released in our country.(The same case is repeated also in the postwar period). Therefore, advertising movie of Morinaga(Confectionery Company)"OYAMA NO TAISHOU"(General in Mountain)(35) and WAKAMOTO's (the neon sign of this company appears in "Blade Runner")"NINOMARU HATANOSUKE"(38) will be made. It can be said that in the latter HATANOSUKE as Popeye and WAKAMOTO as spinach was very intelligible, so had a little doctrinarian to enter, and pushed deployment and drawing of an invigorating tale. Even if it sees now, it is one attractive piece.
History of Japanese Animation:part one
In Europe, Emile Reynaud and others were making animation as a result of research of the "movie" before inventing a movie. The same trials as its were performed also in our country. For example, they are KAGEE, NOZOKIE, SOUMATOU and UTSUSHIE, etc. Especially UTSUSHI was widely loved by peoples Edo in the city as a feature of the variety halls. The effect of motion and picture of UTSUSHIE, it was comparable to the experiment of Reynaud's. UTSUSHIE was also a non-movie as the Reynaud's was a non-movie. Birth of the true animation in our country had to wait for the appearance of the so-called "DEKOBOUSIINGACHOU" series which compiled the works of J.R.Bray, Raul Barre and others.
It is influenced by the animations of the foreign countries released one after another, a cartoonist Outen Shimokawa would begin making animation in 1917. By the method of drawing on a blackboard with chalk at first, after this method went wrong, the blank paper which printed the background was used. The film done using the method of smearing away the place where a background overlaps a person with white paints was "IMOKAWA MUKUZOU:GENKANBAN NO MAKI(Doorkeeper)" (17). It is said that this is the first animation in our country.
In a same year, a cartoonist Jun-iti Kouuchi has released "HANAHEKONAI MEITOU NO MAKI(The Fine Sword)"(17) and also Seitarou Kitayama(titler of the major movie campany NIKKATSU) has released "SARUKANI GASSENN(Battle of Apes and Crabs)"(17). It seems that Kouuchi's film obtained the best evaluation in three, and it is said that Kitayama was contained in work from the previous year. So, probably, it should consider as the pioneer of the animation of our country with three persons of SHIMOKAWA and KOUUCHI and KITAYAMA.
Simokawa and Kouuchi will stop manufacture of animation only by making several works after the first trial.(However, Kouuchi returns by political-animation "NINKI NO SHOUTEN NI TATERU GOTO SHINPEI(Shinpei Goto who stands to popular focus)" (24)).(Goto was mayor of Tokyo.)
Though a title is written, Kitayama continues work of animation energetically, becomes independent of Nikkatsu and will found the KITAYAMA EIGA SEISAKUJO(Kitayama Movie Factory) which is the first animation studio in Japan in 1921.
In this studio, films for teaching materials, such as "KIATU TO MIZUAGEPONNPU(Atomospheric pressure and suction pump) "(21) ,"SHOKUBUTU SEIRI;SEISHOKU NO MAKI(Plant Physiology:Story of Reproduction)"(22), are also made with the amusement works(For example, "USAGI TO KAME(Rabbit and Tortoise)"(24)). The type of the animation maker of our country which parallel manufacture of an amusement work and an educational work is formed here.
People who should follow pioneers, such as Sanae (Zenjirou) Yamamoto and Hakuzan Kimura, have joined this studio. It is from these men's works that we can see. However, the work of this time of these peoples were not clear though regrettable compared with what were made in the United States at the same time.
For exsample, Kimurs's "Shiobara Tasuke"(25). With the work which removed the human-nature story-side from the familiar talk of ENCHOU(the greatest RAKUGO writer and performer. RAKUGO is Japanese comical talking live show by one person)and pushed out the teachings target extensively, it cannot be said as an interesting work. Also the motion of animation was the grade which moves barely. If charm is found out forcibly, it would just call it the background by drawing of the simple taste in which a certain kind of nostalgia is given.
Or Sanae Yamamoto's "NIPPON-ITI NO MOMOTAROU(Momotarou is the No.1 of Japan)" (28). This also only transposed the old tale to animation faithfully, and it does not attract the interest except saying that the picture-book of KOUDANNSHA (The biggest Japanese publisher) moved. Probably, up to this time, the "fact" that making animation was performed also in our country will be important.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The 21st century

A major change has took place in 1999 both in mainland China and Taiwan when the Internet has open major opportunities for animators, artists all over the country to work together in animation. In China, the first change is the emergence of Flash animation and Flash artists. FlashEmpire (閃客帝國) become the first Macromedia Flash community in China to formulate a weekly ranking system (爬行榜) with functionalities such as receiving score, votes, and comments from each viewers. It become so popular that by the beginning of the year 2000 it had 10,000 visitors visit the site daily with more than 5,000 individual works published. However, most of the works are amateurish. Among the amateurs, Bai Ding's No View Below 18 (少兒不宜), intending to show audience a picture of a nude woman but ending up showing a picture of a dog, become the typical work of this period. A real trend of change started in August, 2000 when Lao Jiang (老蔣) published the world's longest and first full vector graphic animated MTV in Flash using the pop star Cui Jian's A New March in The 25,000 Li (新長征路上的搖滾). This work received more than 10 million hits up to date. Since its release, animated MTV in China took a new direction. Many successful artists started to produced MTV in flash.

By 2001, Xiao Xiao (小小) Kung Fu stick figures (小小作品系列) not only become the most popular animated shorts in China, but overseas as well. His total work received more than 50 million hits up to date, making his the most known flash artist in China and in the world. By year 2002, flash artists in China is moving toward a more artistic direction. The work of Buhua's (卜樺) Cat (貓) used painting like style and mentioned about a story of a baby cat and his mother's suffering. In addition, labix's (蠟筆X) works have become one of the best fairy tale styles flash history. By 2003, new studios such as B&T, Snailcn, and Sinodoor formed and has become the first private, non-state owned animation companies in mainland China. Moreover, several novels based on animation and comics way of story-telling have been proposed to be transformed into animation. These works included Guo Jing Ming (郭敬明)'s Phantom Castle (幻城) and Xuan Yu (玄雨)'s Legend of a Small Soldier (小兵傳奇).

At the same time in Taiwan, Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) established themselves as an online disney world for all Chinese speaking audiences. By 2001, Time magazine Asia edition listed A-kuei as one of the top 100 new fugures in Asia. In Hong Kong, sponsored one of the most popular online work series called the Romance of San Guo (大話三國). This work is still the most widely read online animated series in China. The work is known for its parody of the traditional historical story of the period of Three Kingdoms.

In Hong Kong, the first 3D company, GDC entertainment established in Shen Zhen. Their very first 80 minute 3D rendered movie Through the Moebius Strip have already undergone the review is scheduled to release into North American theaters in 2005.

In April 24th, 2006, theflatworld, formerly known as suansworks, launched which translates high quality Chinese animations from mainland China to Native English speaking regions. The website is currently hosting several hundreds of flash animations and artists' profiles. This is the first cross cultural web site attempt to capture foreign market with domestic productions, though the success of the site is yet to be determined.
The 1990s

By the 1990s, Chinese animation faced major decline by the onset of Western and Japanese animation industry. Saint Seiya is published in China under Hainan Photography and Arts Publication (海南攝影美術出版社). Doraemon and Transformers entered the market by broadcasting on the CCTV central television channel. The commercialization and innovation of Japanese and American animation pushed the traditional Chinese animation out of the market. Complaints have been heard throughout the '90s about the problems facing Chinese animation. Therefore, the '90s is an increasing time of change. By the mid '90s, numerous artists have adopted into American and Japanese styles. In 1994, the mainland published its first bi-weekly comics magazine called King of Hua Shu (画书大王). Numerous artists started to publish their works on the magazine. Including Chen Xiang's (陳翔) Xiao Shan's Diary (小山日記), a story about a crazy scientist, bearing some resemblance to Dr.Slump. The publication of King of Hua Shu is forced to shut down by the government due to its copyright violation of using some Japanese manga in some of its pages. Nevertheless, it is a first journal and first attempt to change the direction of Chinese animation. Following King of Hua Shu, several weekly, monthly, and bi-weekly animation journal started to appear in China. Shao Nian Weekly (少年周刊) is one of the most popular. At the same time in Taiwan, new comic artists emerged including Zhu De Yong (朱德庸). He published satirical style cartoon about secular life in a humorous, self de-facing manner and won numerous awards and gained popularity. Some artists such as You Su Lan (游素蘭) from Taiwan has become one of the few foreign manga artists established in Japan.
The 1980s

The 1980s is a time of change in China after the turmoil, several animation series were produced though international recognitions are not received. Among these works, the Hulu Brothers (葫蘆兄弟) and Marshall the Black Cat (黑貓警長) have become popular among children. At the same time, the rapid commercialization of Japanese animation industry have started to find its way into the Chinese market.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Chinese Animation

The 1970s

While the mainland animation suffered major setbacks, Hong Kong and Taiwan's animation industry started to boom. Famous Hong Kong comic and animation artists includes Ma Rong Cheng (馬榮誠). Taiwanese animator and artist Cai Zhi Zhong (蔡志忠) also started to gain fame.
Chinese Animation

The 1960s

During the 1960s, Chinese animation style culminated to the peak of its own styles, mixing with elements of traditional art characteristics. Where Is Mama , Buffalo Boy and the Flute, The Journey to the West have all won international fame. However, Chinese animation started its rapid decline due to Cultural Revolution and fell quickly behind its peer Japan.
The founding of ShangHai Arts and Film Production Company

After 1949, the founding of ShangHai Arts and Film Production Company (上海美術電影製片廠) sponsored by the central government helped China to enter its animation golden era during the '50s and '60s. In 1956 the company's first colored animation Why is the Crow Black-Coated (乌鸦为什么是黑的) won the first international award. Increasing Chinese style mixing with traditional Chinese opera schemes and figures helped the company to launch new animation films such as Magical Pen (神笔) and The Proud General (骄傲的将军). As a result, the animated movie Magical Pen won five series awards internationally for its unique style of representation.
Chinese Animation

Early history

In around 180 C.E., an unknown Chinese inventor created an early animation device that later became known as the zoetrope.

The animated cartoon industry began in France in 1888, invented by Emile Reynaud. Chinese animation started in the 1920s. Inspired by French, German, American (particularly Disney) and Russian productions, WanSi Brothers (万氏兄弟) produced the first Chinese silent animation Choas in the Studio (大闹画室) in 1926. WanSi Brothers highly acclaimed the animation development in Russia, United States, and Germany. He believed that Chinese animation should be instructive, logical and thought-provoking besides being entertaining to its audience. As a result, Chinese animation emerged as the only dominant animation style in the Far East throughout the 1930's and 1940's. At the same time, comic development also gained momentum. The most famous work of the period is Zhang Le Ping's (張樂平) San Mao's Travel Diary (三毛流浪記). The story depicted an orphan boy named Sam Mao who drifts from place to place and suffers various hardships. Being always optimistic in the face of hardships, he eventually got his fortunes and blessings. The main character had been compared frequently with AQ (阿Q), the fictional character from Lu Xun (魯迅), one of the greatest literary figure in the 1930s. Eventually, San Mao have been put into animation at much later time. In Hong Kong, the story of Lao Fu Zi (老夫子), a comical character bear some similarity with old Confucian scholar who could not fit the modern life, has become popular and has been animated in Hong Kong in the '80s.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wallace & Gromit Claymation and other Aardman Productions

The British clay-animation studio Aardman Animations was most famous for the Wallace and Gromit series of shorts [Wallace was a befuddled, cheese-addicted Englishman inventor, with a silent, wily companion dog named Gromit]. Before becoming recognized, Aardman produced by a series of popular television ads featuring singing California Raisins (named A.C., Red, Stretch and Bebop).

Aardman's writer-director Nick Park was responsible for these hits: Creature Comforts (1989) which examined how zoo animals felt about being placed in confined locations; the thirty-minute Wallace and Gromit - The Wrong Trousers (1993) with a frantic toy-train finale - the 1993 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film.

And then along with DreamWorks, Aardman produced their first feature film - the remarkable prison-break parody Chicken Run (2000) about an imprisoned group of egg-laying chickens plotting an escape. Mel Gibson starred as a cocky Yankee rooster. Its denial of a Best Picture nomination led to the creation of the Best Animated Feature category - first available for eligible films in the year 2001. The horror spoof Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) was the first feature-length film starring the pair, and the first stop-motion/'claymation' film to win the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.

The animated comedy Flushed Away (2006), was co-produced by Aardman Feature Films and DreamWorks Animation - it was Aardman Films' first completely CGI film about an aristocratic rat named Roddy (voice of Hugh Jackman) whose life was ruined by a low-brow ruffian rat named Sid (voice of Shane Richie). The film was originally to be stop-motion claymation, but due to the abundance of water effects, the entire film was transformed into CGI -- however, the characters still resembled Aardman's trademark plasticene characters.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Present State of Animated Films

Disney released its first in-house computer-animated film, Chicken Little (2005), with a partial 3-D release, about a beleaguered young Chicken Little (voice by Zach Braff) who was humiliated by his claim that the sky was falling, and subjected to scorn by most of the town. The young cluck was estranged from his embarrassed single father Buck Cluck (voice of Gary Marshall) but vindicated when the "sky" actually falls, in a parody of a War of the Worlds-style invasion.

One of the few big-budget cel-animated films being released in the crowd of CGI films was the adaptation of Margret and H.A. Rey's classic children's book series titled Curious George (2006), starring the inquisitive monkey named George and Will Ferrell as the kind Man in the Yellow Hat who transported the orphaned George from Africa to America for a series of misadventures. George Miller (known for Babe (1995)) directed Happy Feet (2006) - the first true CGI-animated song-and-dance musical and a strong contender for the Best Animated Feature Oscar of the year. It told about a group of Antarctic Emperor Penguins (created by CGI) who prided themselves on each having a "heartsong" to attract a mate. One young and unique penguin, named Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) - the son of Elvis-like Memphis (voice of Hugh Jackman) and breathy Norma Jean (voice of Nicole Kidman), was considered an outsider because he couldn't sing but his real talent was tap-dancing.

Sequels were inevitable for the most successful animations, so DreamWorks' Shrek 2 (2004) appeared, with its original character-voices including Mike Myers (as Shrek), Cameron Diaz (as Fiona), and Eddie Murphy. The fairy tale couple returned from their honeymoon to find the bride's family in the land of Far, Far Away - Shrek's in-laws King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews), who are unhappy with her decision to marry an ogre. Additional characters included talk-show host Larry King as the voice of Fiona's Ugly Stepsister, Rupert Everett as foppish Prince Charming, Antonio Banderas as Zorro-style assassin Puss-in-Boots, and Jennifer Saunders as a plotting fairy godmother. [The planned third installment was titled Shrek the Third (2007), which intended to bring back the entire cast from the second film, as well as add additional stars.]

Dreamworks/PDI would revisit the insect world, with Bee Movie (2007), about a bee named Barry B. Benson (voice of comedian Jerry Seinfeld) who had a forbidden friendship with a New York City florist named Vanessa (voice of Renée Zellweger), with an all-star cast including Alan Arkin, Kathy Bates, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Larry King, William H. Macy, and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

With original storylines drying up, syndicated comic strip characters, such as the lazy, wise-cracking orange feline named Garfield (voice of Bill Murray), became an animated star in the live action/CGI hybrid film Garfield: The Movie (2004). The wacky and fast-paced, primitively-animated film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), with its main character -- a yellow man-made sea sponge with legs and a red tie -- was a spin-off from the long-running Nickelodeon TV cartoon show. Another effort from the DreamWorks animation team (and released by Paramount), PG-rated Over the Hedge (2006), was a loose adaptation of a popular newspaper comic strip of the same name. It told the story of a group of wildlife forest animals, led by a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling) and mischievous raccoon RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis), who felt the effects of encroaching human beings. It became the second highest grossing animated film of 2006, and was a serious contender for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, with the possibility of a sequel.
The longest-running, prime-time television cartoon series was The Simpsons - it premiered in December 1989 on the FOX channel. The iconic, culturally-significant animated show was created by Life in Hell cartoonist Matt Groening. An offshoot was their first feature length film, The Simpsons Movie (2007), starring the yellow-skinned, irreverent and misfit family featuring oafish father and nuclear plant manager Homer (voice of Dan Castellaneta), worrywart gravel-voiced, blue-haired mother Marge (voice of Julie Kavner), 10-year-old mischievous, troublemaker son Bart (voice of Nancy Cartwright), 8-year-old ecologically-minded, overachieving vegetarian Buddhist sister Lisa (voice of Yeardley Smith), and pacifier-sucking toddler Maggie. [Groening was also responsible for Futurama that first aired in 1999 - a highly popular but less successful series set in the next millenium, starring "Generation-X" slacker Phillip J. Fry (voice of Billy West) - a NY pizza delivery boy who was cryogenically frozen by accident for 1,000 years.]
Summary: Disney's Animated Collaborations with Pixar
In early 2006, the Walt Disney Co. bought longtime partner Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for $7.4 billion in stock, after a twelve year relationship in which Disney co-financed and distributed Pixar’s animated films and split the profits (their previous deal expired in June 2006 after Pixar's delivery of Cars (2006)). The 8th Pixar film - the first film after the purchase - was titled Ratatouille (2007) by writer/co-director Brad Bird. It was a fable about a rat named Rémy (voice of Patton Oswalt) who lived in a Paris bistro-restaurant and had aspirations to be a chef.

A significant development may have been signaled when Walt Disney Studios, after releasing the great-looking, feature-length theatrical film animation Brother Bear (2003) in November (also a nominee for Best Animated Feature Film), announced that this would be their last 2-D animated film for the foreseeable future, since it was switching to the 3-D, full-CGI style originally popularized by Pixar. [However, Disney's last release in the traditional 2-D animation style was Home on the Range (2004).] Would traditionally-animated, old school cel-animated films (like this one) be destined to become non-existent and outdated relics of the last century?
Animations at the Start of the New Century

Walt Disney Pictures was very busy in the year 2000, releasing the computer-animated Dinosaur (2000) about prehistoric life, and the hand-drawn animated comedy-adventure The Emperor's New Groove (2000). DreamWorks also released its second feature-length animated film The Road to El Dorado (2000) (loosely based on The Man Who Would Be King (1975)), and Fox produced the visually-striking science fiction epic Titan A.E. (2000) combining classic animation and CGI (before closing down its traditional animation division).
The second collaboration of DreamWorks and PDI was for the immensely successful (the box-office champ of 2001 and the first Best Animated Feature Film Oscar winner) and colorful fairy-tale farce Shrek (2001), a computer-animated film that added elements to CGI such as fire, liquids, digital humans, and clothing, and featured a green, swamp-living, misfit ogre (with voice of Mike Myers). The most talked-about (but commercially unsuccessful) computer-animated film of the early 21st century, however, was Sony's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), a photo-realistic (hyperReal), science-fiction tale by director Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the interactive, role-playing, futuristic video game) that advertised itself as "Fantasy Becomes Reality." It simulated human actors with CG and was the first computer-generated feature film based entirely on original designs - no real locations, people, vehicles, or props were used.

Kaena: The Prophecy (2004), the first full-length 3D-generated animated film from France, with voices of Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris, and Anjelica Huston, told a sci-fi fantasy tale about a free-spirited teenaged girl who must solve the mystery of a dying 100-mile tall tree. Writer/director Kerry Conran's feature film debut, the retro-futuristic sci-fi adventure film set in the late-1930s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) was the first live-action studio release in which every scene was at least partly computer-generated - supplemented with human actors (including Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow). The entire special-effects laden movie was shot against blue/green screens with human actors in front.
Similar in sheer creative inventiveness was the ground-breaking Waking Life (2001), an impressionistic and stylized R-rated film from director Richard Linklater - it was first digitally shot as a live-action film before 30 artists graphically 'painted' the characters via computer (with a process called "interpolated rotoscoping") to create the illusion of a cartoon in motion.
[Similarly, Sin City (2005) and Linklater's own A Scanner Darkly (2005) digitally rotoscoped live action.] Also, Paramount's Nickelodeon films introduced a totally-original computer-animated feature starring a whiz kid who saves his alien-kidnapped parents, titled Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001). And Warner Bros.' poorly-received summer release, Osmosis Jones (2001), with part live-action and part-animation, was about a white blood cell cop (voice of Chris Rock) who hunted down lethal germs in a zoo-worker's (Bill Murray) body.

Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), its first cartoon produced in 70 mm since The Black Cauldron (1985), blended CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation, and was based on the Jules Verne action epic, but it faced stiff competition from other animated features. Disney's hand-drawn, big-budget, sci-fi animation Treasure Planet (2002), an outer-space version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, flopped. Another Disney hand-drawn effort, Lilo & Stitch (2002), about a lonely Hawaiian girl and her blue extra-terrestrial friend, was the studio's sole box-office hit in recent memory.

The widely-anticipated Monsters, Inc. (2001), Disney's fourth computer-animated comedy with Pixar, featured a one-eyed, lime-colored ball named Mike Wazowski (with voice of Billy Crystal), and his scare-factory buddy James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voice of John Goodman).

20th Century Fox's animation-adventure Ice Age (2002) starred creatures that are trying to reunite a human baby with its parents. The computer-generated characters include Manny - a woolly mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Sid - a talkative sloth (voice of John Leguizamo), Diego - a saber-toothed tiger (voice of Denis Leary), along with Scrat - a prehistoric squirrel that desperately tries to stash an acorn. [It was followed by a sequel Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (2006).] The second film from the same team was Robots (2005), a slapstick, science-fiction animated film about clunky, nuts-and-bolts androids featuring Robin Williams (his first voice in an animated feature since 1992) as the voice of Fender.

Due to pressures brought to bear on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the reknowned organization finally acknowledged that full-length cartoons (animations!) deserve their own Oscar awards category, Best Animated Feature Film, beginning with films eligible in the year 2001. According to the Academy's rules, an 'animated film' must be at least 70 minutes in length, have a significant amount of major animated characters, and be at least 75% animated.
The wildly-successful Finding Nemo (2003) - the highest-grossing computer-animated film ever (to date), Pixar's and Disney's fifth collaboration, won the Best Animated Film Oscar! The undisputed box-office champ of the year, it was the tale of Marlin - a widowed clown fish's (voice by Albert Brooks) search in the Pacific Ocean, with a dopey and forgetful blue tang fish named Dory (voice by Ellen DeGeneres), for missing son Nemo with a withered fin. [It faced stiff competition from the wildly inventive and surreal French animated film The Triplets of Belleville (2003).] DreamWorks' version of Finding Nemo with an underwater gangster theme, the studio's first CGI-animated film, was the successful Shark Tale (2004), with voices provided by Will Smith, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie.

Director/screenwriter Brad Bird's ingenious Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature, the action-adventure The Incredibles (2004), Disney's and Pixar's sixth collaboration, was Pixar's first PG-rated film and the longest CG animated film to date (at 115 minutes). It told the tale of paunchy Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr (voice of Craig T. Nelson), an ex-do-good Superhero suffering a mid-life crisis and living under-cover in suburbia, with his restless wife Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) - former rubber-limbed masked vigilante Elastigirl. Their children included long-haired daughter Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) - capable of being invisible, son Dash (voice of Spencer Fox) - who could travel at supersonic speed, and baby Jack-Jack. The entire family was lured back into super-herodom against the evil Syndrome (voice of Jason Lee). With its four Oscar nominations (including Best Animated Feature Film), it was the most-nominated animated film since Aladdin (1992) (with five nominations). Another Pixar CGI marvel, the adventure comedy Cars (2006), directed by John Lasseter, told an anthropomorphic story about a stock-car (Lightning McQueen, voice of Owen Wilson) on a journey to the races - including nostalgia for Route 66 in a forgotten town called Radiator Springs.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Emergence of Pixar

Pixar Animation Studios, originally a division of Lucasfilm (and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)), was purchased by Apple Computer's Steve Jobs and made an independent company in 1986. [ILM had created the startling, first completely CGI-animated character - the 'stained-glass knight' in Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), bringing the film a Best Visual Effects nomination.]

Pixar Studios (and director John Lasseter) and Disney (with their first collaboration), in a 1991 deal worth $26 million, created the first completely computer-generated animated feature film - the landmark Toy Story (1995) - Pixar's feature debut. The visuals were entirely generated from computers, creating a wonderfully-realistic 3-D world with lighting, shading, and textures, that included real toys in supporting roles (Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky Dog, the plastic toy soldiers, Mr. Potato Head, etc.). The story itself dealt with the anxiety experienced by a toy (cowboy Woody) upon the arrival of a rival plaything (spacetoy Buzz Lightyear)-- mirroring the tension felt by a child when a younger sibling is born. The tale also referenced the historical change in genre emphasis in the 50s when westerns were supplanted by science-fiction films.

DreamWorks and Pacific Data Images (PDI) released the second computer-animated feature film in history - the adult-oriented Antz (1998), with Woody Allen's voice for a misfit, individualist worker ant named Z. At about the same time, A Bug's Life (1998), a children's-oriented, computer animated tale based upon Aesop's fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, was released by Pixar and Disney (their second teaming).

Disney also released in 1995 the hand-drawn animation Pocahontas (1995), the studio's 33rd feature-length animated movie and the first to be based on actual events and people. The surprise hit of 1995, however, was Best Picture-nominated Babe (1995), the charming and highly entertaining story of the title character - a talking barnyard pig with a talent for sheep herding. Disney released two hand-drawn animations in the next two years, the dark and ambitious Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) based upon the Victor Hugo novel, and Hercules (1997) about the mythological strong man, and Fox released the disappointing Anastasia (1997).

The year 1998 also showcased other animated films, including the low-budget Rugrats Movie (1998) (based upon the characters on Nickelodeon's TV series), Disney's hand-drawn animated Chinese folk tale Mulan (1998) (Disney's 36th feature-length animated film), and DreamWorks' epic - the animated musical feature The Prince of Egypt (1998) about the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt.

Pixar's sequel to its successful 1995 computer-animated hit was released in 1999 with Disney (their third collaboration) - Toy Story 2 (1999), again with Woody the Cowboy and Buzz Lightyear. So were Disney's Tarzan (1999), the first full-length, hand-drawn animated feature about Edgar Rice Burrough's King of the Jungle, and two hand-drawn animations from Warner Bros: the critically-acclaimed animated adventure Iron Giant (1999) by director Brad Bird, about a fifty-foot robot befriended by a nine year-old boy, and the animated musical The King and I (1999). Sony Pictures brought to life E.B. White's classic children's story Stuart Little (1999) featuring a clothes-wearing and talking white mouse (voice of Michael J. Fox) - it was a hugely successful film, with a combination of computer animated characters and live action.
A Boom in CGI Animation in the 90s

Cutting edge, computer-graphics imaging (CGI) has recently taken over the cinematic industry. A dazzling collection of state-of-the art computer animation footage in "The Mind's Eye" video series (from Miramar Productions) highlighted, documented, and showcased the vast array of computer artistry, CGI and visual magic in the early to mid-90s from various sources, with accompanying original music.

The main videos in the showcase series included:

  • The Mind's Eye (1991)
  • Beyond the Mind's Eye (1992), including special effects clips from The Lawnmower Man (1992)
  • The Gate to the Mind's Eye (1994)
  • Odyssey into the Mind's Eye (1996)

Warner Bros' adult-oriented, dark animated adventure Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) - aka Batman: The Animated Movie, with an opening CGI sequence, was based on the '90s Saturday morning animated television series, and was the successor to the original comic-book hero and the two Tim Burton feature-film versions: Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). [Mark Hamill provided the humorous voice of the Joker.] Burton has become better known for his two ghoulishly clever stop-motion animation films with puppetry - The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Corpse Bride (2005) (with Johnny Depp as 19th century shy bridegroom Victor Van Dort who inadvertently marries a 'corpse bride' voiced by Helena Bonham Carter), as well as for his James and the Giant Peach (1996).

Japanimation or Anime

Excellent examples of feature length, science-fiction Japanese anime or "Japanimation" were directed by auteur animator and founder of the famed Ghibli Studios Hayao Miyazaki -- known as the "Japanese Walt Disney." His humanistic-oriented animations -- painstakingly detailed traditional cel animation during an era of CGI films -- were generally filled with magical and/or mythical settings, rich and fantastic characters (usually a young heroine), imaginative and visual renderings, fairy-tale motifs and plots with moral lessons, tales of the struggle between the strong and the weak, and environmental concerns. His films were actually bought for American distribution by Disney Studio, and include the following:
  • Miyazaki's second feature, the post-nuclear war tale Warriors of the Wind (1984) (aka Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind), based on the comic book (manga) Miyazaki had created years earlier, about the struggle of a peace-seeking warrior princess to keep two opposing kingdoms from destroying the planet
  • later works included Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Porco Rosso (1992) (translated as The Crimson Pig), and Whisper of the Heart (1995)
  • the powerful and poignant Grave of the Fireflies (1988), a tearjerking tale based on Akiyuki Nosaka's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name about two orphaned Japanese children during the waning days of World War II: a teen-aged boy and his 4 year-old sister, and their slow and graphic deaths by starvation; it was the only Ghibli film not personally directed by Miyazaki - instead, it was written and directed by Isao Takahata for Studio Ghibli; animation historian Ernest Rister felt it was comparable to Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), and film critic Roger Ebert considered it one of the greatest (anti-) war films ever made
  • his $20 million animated adventure-fantasy epic Princess Mononoke (1997) opened in Japan and quickly became the highest grossing Japanese film in Japanese history to that time; it was a story set in the 14th century of a mythic battle between forest gods (led by the Wolf God named Moro) and humans who were destroying the Earth
  • the magical animated adventure Spirited Away (2002), one of the director's most revered and honored films, was the Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature Film, and the second highest grossing Japanese film ever made; with its tale of a young 10 year-old girl (shojo) finding a mysterious spirit world amusement park where she must save her parents (who were transformed into pigs) by changing them back into humans
  • The Cat Returns (2002), and Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Others have created equally-inventive and beautiful animations, including:

  • director Yoshiaki Kawajiri's dark, excessively-violent and adult-oriented Wicked City (1987)
  • director Katsuhiro Otomo's cult favorite epic Akira (1989), based on the science-fiction comic book (manga) series - a post-apocalyptic tale set in Neo-Tokyo
  • director Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday (1991) and Pom Poko (1994)
  • anime auteur Mamoru Oshii's cyber-punk, apocalyptic animated thriller, Ghost in the Shell (1995) - one of the most expensive anime films ever made, and the first made specifically for the international market

Satoshi Kon's Millenium Actress (2001) and the Pokemon series of children's films (beginning in 1999) are also notable examples of anime.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Era of Disney Animation

Disney Studios soon returned to the quality of its heyday of animation from the 30s and 40s with advanced, more mature animations in the late 80s and 90s, including the tale of the headstrong young mermaid Ariel in The Little Mermaid (1989). The popular and highly successful film earned $84 million at the box-office and insured the revival of animated films.

An updated version of Beauty and the Beast (1991) with a strong heroine, Belle and a Beast (a mix of buffalo, lion, and gorilla), was nominated for a well-deserved Best Picture Academy Award (the first nomination for Best Picture ever received for a full-length animated feature), and the theme song "Beauty and the Beast" won the Best Original Song Oscar. Aladdin (1992), a film that moved beyond the traditional fairy tale, used computer-generated imagery, and was designed for a more adult audience - it marked a significant change in Disney's output. It received a phenomenal five Oscar nominations (and won two for Best Original Song, "A Whole New World," and Best Score). At the time of its release, it was criticized for its negative, 'Americanized' representation of Arabs and non-western cultures. The film featured improvisational comic Robin Williams as the vocal for Aladdin's blue Genie.

The complex, advanced The Lion King (1994) was the first Disney film based upon an original story, rather than upon a well-known children's narrative, although its story-line was derived from elements of Shakespeare's Hamlet, classical mythology, and African folk tales. And it was also Disney's first film to totally disregard human characters. The wildebeest stampede scene integrated 3-D computer animation with traditional animation techniques. After setting a box-office record (of over $312 million at the box-office), The Lion King spurred a boom in animation production and merchandising, and other animation production studios besides Disney entered the picture.

[Some Disney critics firmly believe that The Lion King was blatantly derived from Kimba the White Lion. Kimba was originally known as Jungle Emperor (Jungle Taitei) when it was serialized as a comic from 1950 to 1954, and it later became Japan's first color animated TV series in 1965. Fifty-two episodes were released in 1966 in English under the title Kimba The White Lion from Tezuka Productions. Disney supporters claimed that the similarities were only coincidences.]
Another exceptional film (a coordinated effort released by Disney (Touchstone), produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin, live-action directed by Robert Zemeckis, and animated by Richard Williams) was the Oscar-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), a remarkable blend of animated imagery and live-action human characters. It was filmed as a tribute to the entire pantheon of cartoon characters from Disney, Warner Bros., and MGM, and other studios in the 1940s. Its animation was revolutionary in a number of ways: (1) it used light and shadows in new ways to produce remarkably realistic, 3-D effects; (2) it extensively panned and moved the camera to reduce a static look; and (3) it had the car'toon' characters interact flawlessly with real-world objects and flesh-and-blood people as much as possible.

Warner Bros.' Space Jam (1996) also featured Looney Tunes characters within a live-action film with basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Other films that used the same techniques to mix live-action and animation were: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) and Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).
Disney's Animation Renaissance in the 80s

In the 60s through the 80s, Disney released a second-tier of animated feature films, including 101 Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967) - the last film that Walt personally worked on before his death, The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977) (with Disney's first official animated sequel The Rescuers Down Under (1990)), The Fox and the Hound (1981) - the first major effort by the "new generation" of Disney artists, The Black Cauldron (1985), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), and Oliver & Company (1988).

Although not a classic animated film, Disney's TRON (1982), the studio's first PG-rated film and the first feature film to imaginatively attempt to represent a computer-generated 'cyberspace' world, was the first live action film with over 20 minutes of computer animation. It was also the first film to popularize the idea of a computer or network in which one could experience virtual reality, and the first film to use the term 'hack' (the root of 'hacker' or 'hacking'), and to refer to the cyberuniverse as the 'matrix'. [Landmark composer Wendy (nee Walter) Carlos (who had collaborated earlier with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980) - among others) provided a unique synthesized/orchestral score to accompany the pioneering, on-screen animation.] It was disqualified for a Best Visual Effects award because the old-fashioned Academy believed that it "cheated" by using a computer. (In fact, the film used a laborious, frame-by-frame process to produce its computer animation.) The concept of using computers to craft environments, rather than drawing them by hand, was considered inauthentic - until Cameron's computer-animated The Abyss (1989) won the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

[The fictional cyberpunk book (the first of the cyberpunk literary genre) credited with coining the word 'cyberspace' (referring to the Internet) was William Gibson's Neuromancer in 1984. The book also referred to cyberspace as the Matrix. One of Gibson's short stories was later turned into the film Johnny Mnemonic (1995) with Keanu Reeves.]
Don Bluth

In the late 70s, a Disney-trained animator named Don Bluth, who was an animator for Disney's Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977), Pete's Dragon (1977) and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) broke away and formed Don Bluth Productions with a group of disgruntled animators. His first notable non-Disney work was the animation sequence of Xanadu (1980). His first independent feature-length animation was The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982), and his first big hit was the Spielberg-co-produced animation An American Tail (1986), starring coincidentally, a Russian mouse character named Fievel. The followup film, also Spielberg co-produced (without Bluth), was An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991), with James Stewart (in his last film before his death in 1997) as the voice of sheriff Wylie Burp. Other notable Bluth films included The Land Before Time (1988), All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), Rock-A-Doodle (1992), The Pebble and the Penguin (1995), Anastasia (1997), and Titan A.E. (2000). [In 1983, Bluth was also noted for the development of the first laserdisc animated video-arcade games with Cinematronics, including Dragon's Liar and Space Ace. These titles fused the state of the art in arcade game technology and traditional cell animation.]
Early Claymation and Gumby

Claymation is a type of animation that uses hand-crafted, sculpted plasticine or clay. This form of stop-motion animation was first associated with director Art Clokey's clay-hero character named Gumby for children's TV - a slant-headed bendable figure. (Clokey filmed the animated motion study Gumbasia at USC in the early 1950s. Gumby shorts were inaugurated in the mid-1950s - and the character first debuted on The Howdy Doody Show in 1956.)

Early on, the technique of claymation was mostly associated with the directorial work of Will Vinton - his work was evidenced in the first full-length feature film showcasing claymation titled The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985) (aka Comet Quest), a biography of the US humorist derived from Twain's own Huckleberry Finn sequel Tom Sawyer Abroad. James Whitmore provided the voice of the title character on a transcontinental, riverboat balloon journey to find Haley's Comet. Twain's classic tales were featured in various segments, such as "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and "The Mysterious Stranger".

Rock-Oriented Animation Favorites

Other pioneering animations in the early 80s relied heavily on rock music, adult themes of sex and violence, and capitalized on the post- Star Wars (1977) sci-fi fantasy boom. They have since become cult favorites for midnight movie fans:

  • Gerald Potterton's uneven, multi-part anthology film Heavy Metal (1981) - based on the 70s fantasy, cyberpunk comic book of the same name, was heavy on adult-oriented content; it was produced by Ivan Reitman (who would soon become famous for directing Ghostbusters (1984)), and one of the stories was contributed by Dan O'Bannon - the screenwriter for Alien (1979); a midnight screening favorite, it featured hallucinatory images and a heavy rock soundtrack by performers Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Nazareth, Cheap Trick, Devo, and Grand Funk Railroad [Note: a computer-generated and cel animated sequel that went direct-to-cable TV, Heavy Metal 2000 (2000), featured a tough, buxom heroine named FAKK 2 (who was based upon the B-movie queen Julie Strain), frequent glimpses of cartoon nudity, and a heavy metal soundtrack by Pantera, Monster Magnet, MDFMK, Insane Clown Posse, Billy Idol, Bauhaus and others]
  • Clive Smith's post-apocalyptic animated musical fantasy Rock & Rule (1983) - told about an aging R&R singer named Mok (voice of Don Francks) who searches for eternal life; other voices included singer Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, and Deborah Harry of Blondie; [Smith's company Nelvana had earlier produced a 27-minute short The Devil and Daniel Mouse (1978)]
  • Gerald Scarfe's animation in the anti-authoritarian, anti-war Pink Floyd the Wall (1982) presented deeply adult content (on the subjects of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and violence) and psychosexual Freudian imagery