In 2002 David Lynch unveiled on his website eight short animated movies, each one an episode of a series called Dumbland. Featuring a blistering cowpunk score and a stark animated style that is vaguely reminiscent of Dr. Katz on mescaline, Dumbland may represent Lynch at his most unvarnished, revolving around a mouth-breathing troglodyte named Randy. It was released on DVD in 2006 and also appears on Lynch’s jaw-dropping multi-disc release The Lime Green Set from 2008.
Lynch said of it: “Dumbland is a crude, stupid, violent and absurd series. If it is funny, it is funny because we see the absurdity of it all.” It’s true, everything about this tossed-off show is violent and absurd; perhaps it is the detritus that lodges in one’s brain if one has been busy dreaming up crazed, animalistic characters like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, and Bobby Peru in Wild at Heart.
This is everything. King Diamond stars as the voice of He-Man in a tale of homosexual betrayal in the disco men’s room of Eternia. This batshit cartoon from Nancy Pagan Animation features the music of Mercyful Fate’s “Gypsy.”
More than a decade ago, New York-based artist and musician Yoshi Sodeoka did these remarkable experiments where he would take videos of well-known hard rock videos and render each frame as ASCII art—then he’d create an 8-bit or midi version of the music and you’d have a whole new thing, the same video as seen by Neo in The Matrix or as seen by the Jeff Bridges character in the original Tron.
The series was called, appropriately enough, “ASCII ROCK.” The lineup of videos Sodeoka transformed is mouth-watering: Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law,” Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” AC/DC’s “TNT,” and so on. I say “mouth-watering” because when I went to play them on his website, my browser was not up to the task, sadly. It was that much harder to find YouTube videos of them, files I could embed here, and I failed at that as well. Ten years is a long time in the land of the Internet, it seems.
Jimmy Page and ASCII Jimmy Page
However, I was able to find Sodeoka’s version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” online, and we’ve provided it for your pleasure below. Here’s the original video, for comparison.
When I comes to trash TV, I don’t play around. If I’m going to watch some shit entertainment, I want it to make me feel like I’ve been drowned, poisoned, and lobotomized. I want my IQ to decrease by one-half to three-quarters; I want spinal fluid to leak from my nose; I want to exhibit three or more symptoms of severe head trauma. To a person of my tolerance, an episode of The Brady Bunch is the TV equivalent of a wine cooler. I can only regard its partisans as effete, middle-class mama’s boys slumming in the lower reaches of the VHF dial, “experimenting” with brain damage. No, give me “the hard stuff”—give me Gilligan’s Island and its many authorized sequels and spinoffs.
Producer Sherwood Schwartz was not one to let go of a good thing. Following the initial three-season run of Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz sold Dusty’s Trail, a new series with Bob Denver that was just Gilligan’s Island in the Old West; a Saturday morning cartoon produced by Filmation called The New Adventures of Gilligan; and three TV movies that reunited the original Gilligan’s Island cast, minus Tina Louise, who hated the show. After all this, Schwartz knew the idea still had some life in it. You can almost feel the excitement of the original pitch as Schwartz outlines the idea for the second animated series, Gilligan’s Planet, in his revealing book, Inside Gilligan’s Island: From Creation to Syndication:
In 1982, I developed another animated series called Gilligan’s Planet, based largely on [Filmation founder] Lou Scheimer’s idea. In this series, the Professor on Gilligan’s Island manages to reconstruct a spacecraft that had been aborted by N.A.S.A. and had landed on their island. All the Castaways crowd into it, expecting to contact N.A.S.A. and return to civilization. Unfortunately, the spacecraft goes back into space and lands on an uninhabited tiny planet far removed from Earth. The Castaways are still cast away, but instead of an island somewhere in the Pacific, they are cast away on a little planet somewhere in space.
Bob Denver devoted two sentences to the animated Gilligan shows in his memoir, Gilligan, Maynard & Me. I quote them in full from my own tear-stained copy. You can almost feel the excitement in the voiceover studio as Denver reminisces:
In the 1970s, I did the voice on two animated series: The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan’s Planet. All the old cast—except Tina Louise—did their character’s voices as well.
You’ll notice a few things about life on Gilligan’s Planet. There’s a laugh track. There are colorful forests of giant Stropharia cubensis fungus everywhere. And, as you’ve already guessed because you remember Glomer from the Punky Brewster cartoon and the Great Gazoo from The Flintstones, Gilligan has a mischievous alien buddy, a space lizard named Bumper.
Though “Gilligan in space” might seem like the last possible iteration of the Gilligan’s Island premise, Schwartz, writing in 1994, left the door open to further exploitation of the franchise:
Is there a possibility of another animated series? Like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under “Gilligan’s Island”?
As Mr. Howell would say, “Heavens to Jules Verne, why not?”
It’s all about timing: if Vince Collins had made his trippy animation Malice in Wonderland in the sixties or seventies then it would have probably been a success, especially with freaks and acidheads. That it was made in the 1980s, when your friendly neighborhood independent cinemas were closing and a new puritanism had sneaked into political discourse perhaps explain why Collins’ short animation was booed off the screen by audiences for offensively “exploiting women.”
Malice in Wonderland (1982) is an imaginative and richly Freudian retelling of Lewis Carroll’s famous tale in which Alice repeatedly disappears up (or down) various orifices.
At the time Collins was a struggling animator who had relocated from Fort Lauderdale to California to make short animations. He was best known for his award-winning animation Euphoria, which many had thought was about (or had been inspired by) LSD but was mainly the animator experimenting with visuals. Though Collins has admitted he made his psychedelic drug films in the 1970s and his blue movies in the 1980s. Malice in Wonderland is Collins’ blue movie.
More people have watched this startling animation on the Internet than all the people who saw it on its first release. Where it was once booed, now people are more likely to ask, “Dude, what the fuck is that shit?”
Malice in Wonderland may still be controversial and disturbing to some, but I think it’s a spellbinding tour de force from an unfettered imagination—though maybe not best watched when you’re actually taking LSD.
“Revolt in the Fifth Dimension” is a 1967 episode of the old Spider-Man cartoon which was directed by a then 25-year-old Ralph Bakshi. It was in part fashioned from reused animation cells from an episode of a Canadian cartoon called Rocket Robin Hood that Bakshi had recently produced. Spider-Man was simply substituted for Rocket Robin Hood on the animation backgrounds. This el cheapo production method ended up yielding an episode of Spider-Man where the plot was more Doctor Strange than the kind of stuff everyone’s friendly neighborhood webslinger usually got up to.
A dying scientist from the destroyed planet Goth in the deceased galaxy of Kamosah must land his crippled spaceship on Earth and, before expiring, entrusts Spiderman [sic] with a tiny but encyclopedic library of information, including the secrets of a dimension of living thought, whose one-eyed, skeletal ruler, Infinata, wants this information destroyed.
For reasons no longer specifically recalled, this was the only episode of the Spider-Man cartoon series that ABC either chose not to air in the first place, or when they repeated the series, although it lived on in syndication for years afterward. Reports are conflicting.
The possible reason they didn’t transmit (or rerun) this memorable episode might be how acid-tinged and druggy it is—not that the overt death theme and flying sperm wouldn’t have been enough!
A crack team of second year Character Animators and CG Artists at The Animation Workshop/VIA UC in Viborg, Denmark, were given the task of producing 30-second trailers inspired by classic movies. The animators produced a selection of beautifully executed work which included trailers for Francis Ford Coppola’s last great movie Apocalypse Now, Wim Wenders’ cult hit Paris Texas, everyone’s holiday season favorite Casablanca and the rock ‘n’ roll musical Grease—which has been made into an interesting hybrid using elements from Tron and Blade Runner.
Previous trailers made by the workshop include Alien and The Big Lebowski (which has hints of Kung Fu Panda in it)—all of these and others can be viewed here.
The Animation Workshop is considered to be “one of the most dedicated animation institutions in the world,” and you can have god look at their back catalog here.
Bonus trailer for ‘Alien’ and ‘The Big Lebowski,’ after the jump…
As astonishing awfulness goes, pet memorial videos from petphotofun.com have a TON of poor-taste bases covered, all crammed in to an uncomfortable interstice between bathos, death, and cute animal pics. Pet Photo Fun specializes in animating pet photos, so your adorable furry companion appears to be speaking or singing. They’ll do this with customized messages, so for example you can send your best pal a birthday e-card featuring his or her favorite quadruped companion singing a birthday tribute.
Prepare yourself for a gainer into a bottomless well of impossible mawkishness.
Ain’t that somethin’? The digital pitch-shifting applied to the “animal” voice just ramps the discomfort factor up through the roof. So take that level of delirious, treacly maudlinism and apply it to a creepily animated photo of a deceased pet delivering its lifetime human companion a message from beyond the grave. For $30, the pet will sing Pet Photo Fun’s purpose-composed and heavy-handed original song “Think of Me and Smile.” For $60, the song will be delivered with an additional personalized message.
I realize that as tacky and ghoulish as this all is, there are folks out there who’d be genuinely moved to receive one, and I wouldn’t dream of invalidating their grief, but all things being equal, when her time comes, I’d be perfectly happy with my dog’s picture just in a frame.
I can vividly remember growing up and watching those Rankin/Bass holiday specials every year. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. The New Year’s one I recall best, because I had, shall we say, “prominent” ears as a child, so I felt the Baby New Year’s pain when everyone cried “Those EARS!!” It was still a great program. And who can forget the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus?
In Silver Screen Fiend, his forthcoming follow-up to his 2011 memoir Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, comedian and actor Patton Oswalt discusses in great detail his twentysomething years as an addict of cinema, and part of the tale involves his stint as a writer on MADtv in the mid-1990s. Oswalt excoriates himself for being a terrible employee of Rupert Murdoch, pitching abstruse sketch ideas and then not bothering to try to execute them properly and sneering at anyone in his orbit who didn’t happen to be swooning over Sam Peckinpah that very minute. He’s very hard on himself, but I suspect he threw in more useful writing ideas and was easier to get along with than he remembers—there’s a reason he stayed there for roughly two years, after all, and a reason The King of Queens wanted him as a featured player even though his acting chops were still being honed.
In any case, one of his cinephile pitches was to do a version of Francis Ford Coppola’s fractured 1979 masterpiece Apocalypse Now in the form of a Rankin/Bass Christmas special. It turns out they did it, but only after Oswalt was no longer on staff. Here’s a brief excerpt from Silver Screen Fiend on the subject in which he spreads the credit around as widely as possible:
There I was … at MADtv, struggling to explain to a network suit what Apocalypse Now was, and how it could be funny if done through the prism of a Rankin Bass special.*
* They eventually shot my idea—a year after I left the show. Well, I really didn’t leave. They didn’t have me back. And with good fucking reason. I was a judgmental, sour asshole of a writer. Quick with a criticism and never with a fix. A comedy and film snob who rolled his eyes half the time and turned in typo-filled scripts. But they shot it. And put my name in the credits. Misspelled. Revenge? They were entitled. The sketch was called “A Pack of Gifts Now,” and it was lovingly animated by a stop-motion genius named Corky Quakenbush. An elf [actually a reindeer—Editor] is sent by toy makers to the North Pole to terminate “the Kringle” and his cultlike operation of toy makers “with extreme prejudice.” And, ironically enough, one of the producers I clashed with, Fax Bahr—who codirected the documentary Hearts of Darkness, about the making of … Apocalypse Now—shepherded the sketch through, with all of my visual jokes and references intact, and plenty of his own, which made the sketch even better. Even got a mention in TV Guide. Thanks, Fax. Sorry I was such a dick. Part of being in your twenties is not knowing an ally when you see one.
Not too surprisingly, given Oswalt’s status as a passionate consumer of comic books, movies, and TV shows, the details of the sketch, also executed to perfection, are what make it work—the use of eggnog as a substitute for scotch, the substitution of “Saskatchewan” for “Saigon” and “the Kringle” for “the colonel.”
If you have even the most passing knowledge of the life and work of William S. Burroughs, nothing should seem more out of the ordinary than finding the author of surreal heroin tomes nodding pensively at the beginning of this 1993 Francis Ford Coppola-produced short film directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel. I couldn’t help but chuckle watching Burroughs appear in a cozy, holiday-themed room complete with a roaring fireplace, tinsel and an amply lit Christmas tree. The film’s opening sequence reeks of an inappropriate wholesomeness, and the former bug powder purveyor looks as innocent as a kind old granddad ready to tell a bunch of rug rats to grab some hot cocoa and gather around for a tale of Christmas cheer. What, exactly, is going on here?
Then, Burroughs pulls a copy of his 1989 collection of short stories, Interzone off of a bookshelf and opens it to the piece called “The Junky’s Christmas.” As the black and white film cuts away to claymation, Burroughs begins to narrate the sad story of Danny, a heroin addicted hustler who finds himself being let out of New York City jail cell on Christmas morning with no cash and no immediate source for his much needed fix. Now we’re in familiar Burroughs territory.
Well, sort of. If you’ve read it, you know the story, but now try to imagine the bleak, back-alley Christmas narrative read by Burroughs while classic holiday tunes and beats from the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy mingle with his monotone. If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you entirely, but suffice it to say that Danny the fiending anti-hero shares a holiday gift with an ailing fellow tenant in a shitty rented room after spending the day being kicked around New York City looking to score. Helping the guy out proves to be an act of kindness for which Danny is supernaturally rewarded.
Burroughs’ story itself is gritty, odd, sad, touching and revelatory in its way. But we’re talking about the short film as a whole here, and the ending, I think, is meant to add something. We cut back to the holiday scene from the beginning, the claymation goes away, Burroughs closes the book and walks into a previously unseen dining room filled with smiling partygoers surrounding a classic holiday dinner spread. In the closing sequence that follows, Burroughs joins the other Christmas revelers in raising a toast. He also helps carve the turkey. The whole thing comes off as kind of silly, but the juxtaposition is perhaps meant a reminder to think about how lucky some of us are. Or, on second thought, maybe it’s just supposed to add a layer of weirdness. Either way, check it out below.
Notably, James Grauerholz, bibliographer and literary executor of Burroughs’ estate, is listed in the credits as one of the Christmas guests.