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Zappa meets claymation in the wonderful VHS rarity ‘The Amazing Mr. Bickford’
04.10.2015
09:02 am

Topics:
Animation
Music

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Many Frank Zappa fans will be familiar with the strange and delightful work of animator Bruce Bickford—his are the claymation sequences in Baby Snakes that you fast-forward through the concert footage to see. Zappa was Bickford’s best-known patron for most of the ‘70s, and his work is featured in the “City of Tiny Lights” and The Dub Room Special videos, but the motherlode of Bickford/Zappa work came in the form of a one-hour VHS compilation released in 1987 called The Amazing Mr. Bickford, which bafflingly has never been released on DVD or Blu-Ray. Bickford’s dizzying stream-of-dementia, anything-can-happen-next, constantly mutating stop-motion animations are scored by Zappa’s orchestral work, culled mostly from Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger, though “Mo ‘n Herb’s Vacation” from London Symphony Orchestra is present, as well.

Here’s a bit of background from a wonderful piece on Bickford that ran in The Quietus:

Bickford was a Vietnam veteran whose love for animation sprung out his crude home movies. His earliest experiments involved toy cars, but a need to populate these rough little films led to the creation of tiny clay figures. Soon enough he was letting his imagination spill out with strange, ever-morphing stream of consciousness tales that seemed to revolve around demons and animal heads, hamburgers and pizzas, treacherous landscapes and excessive violence – “danger and weirdness”, in Bickford’s own words. Audiences were given an early taste when The Old Grey Whistle Test aired a portion of ‘City Of Tiny Lights’ with animated accompaniment in 1979. Baby Snakes made its debut during the Christmas of that year, containing more examples and a peak of behind-the-scenes amidst the concert footage.

One of the Baby Snakes snippets involves a castle that “would make a great disco” but leads to the creation of monsters. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense, though maybe that’s missing the point. The immediacy is what matters, and the fact that these films have the potential to go absolutely anywhere from one moment to the next. They are also clearly the product of a single mind (and single-mindedness), despite Zappa nabbing director credits on The Amazing Mr. Bickford compilation and the ‘City of Tiny Lights’ promo. In a way, Bickford is an outsider artist doing his own thing at his own pace, and was simply fortunate enough to have Zappa serve as a momentary sugar daddy.

Such are the working methods and approach to narrative that very little final product has actually been released. The Amazing Mr. Bickford and Baby Snakes made use of snippets with little or no attempt to explain or understand; they unfold beneath Zappa instrumentals and just exist, nothing more. Bickford returned to his Seattle basement in 1980 and has carried on obsessing ever since. MTV commissioned some idents and a half-hour film, Prometheus’ Garden, was completed in 1987, but otherwise he toils away with seemingly little end in sight.

‘The Amazing Mr. Bickford’ and more, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
This is your brain on ‘shrooms: Why magic mushrooms make you trip
03.25.2015
07:12 am

Topics:
Animation
Drugs

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Speaking (writing?) as a longtime, er, aficionado of the fabulous fungi and the veteran psychonaut of many a wild psychedelic experience (I’ve had some doozies) I enjoyed watching this short animatation that explains the how and the why of tripping on psilocybin mushrooms.

There’s only really one way to do mushrooms properly, if you ask me, and that’s what Terence McKenna called a “heroic dose”—five grams of dried cubensis taken in the dark with no music (and the doors locked and the phone turned off). When you come out the other end, you’ll be… uh… reborn.

Or something like that. It’s probably the single most direct route to a spiritual experience available to human beings, like tapping into the engine room of the universe and meeting God (or gods!). Quantum physics will start to make a lot of sense afterwards, trust me on that one…

Imagine being the first person who discovered them, right?
 

 
via Raw Story

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Finally: The Peanuts gang takes on AC/DC, Led Zep, Journey, Floyd, and the Who
03.19.2015
10:45 am

Topics:
Animation
Music

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Everyone’s already seen YouTube videos in which Snoopy, Pigpen, and the rest bop and gyrate to the dulcet tones of Bad Brains’ “Pay to Cum.” In fact, lots of folks have repurposed that dancing footage from A Charlie Brown Christmas to make it seem like the Peanuts gang is into Pharrell or whatever.

But it took YouTube user Garren Lazar/Super G to see the possibilities in the rest of the animated Peanuts oeuvre. He has made a whopping 34 videos (!) using Peanuts characters to animate videos for songs by a variety of classic hard rock acts, as seen below. These videos are remarkably good—I especially like the use of Schroeder’s impressionistic “Pathétique” sequence, which was just waiting to be used for something like this. The Peanuts version of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”—24 minutes long, mind you—is especially mind-blowing.
 

 
I’ve embedded a few of my favorites here, but there’s plenty more on Garren Lazar’s YouTube page.
 
Led Zeppelin, “In the Light”:

 
More “classic rock” fun with the Peanuts gang after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Lenny Bruce animated by ‘Sesame Street’ legend
03.12.2015
05:44 am

Topics:
Animation

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Animator Jeff Hale was best known for creating beautiful, classic shorts for Sesame Street—perhaps most famously, those infectious counting pinball segments that continue to run today, still making an indelible impression on so many young minds. His death in February at the age of 92 has also sparked interest in some of his lesser known work, particularly the 1971 cult classic short, “Thank You Mask Man,” featuring voice work from no other than Lenny Bruce.

The decidedly not-for-kids cartoon came about through one of Hale’s studio partners John Magnuson, who was a close friend of Bruce. Lifting some recorded audio from a 1962-ish vintage bit about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hale tells a story of altruism and accolades—a perfectly cynical Lenny Bruce take on heroes and their motivations. “Thank You Mask Man” tanked. The scheduled debut at the San Francisco International Film Festival was cancelled without explanation, and Magnuson believed the Academy Awards blackballed it. Regardless, the cartoon gained a following on late night 80s TV program, Night Flight, and now stands out as one of the more daring moments in animation history.
 

 
Via Cartoon Brew

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Eye-popping Bad Brains and Ramones’ cartoons that will rock your world
03.09.2015
12:38 pm

Topics:
Animation
Art
Music
Punk

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British animator Neil Williams (aka Stelos485) has created two of the coolest punk-related cartoons ever. The animation for the Bad Brains’ “Pay To Cum” is very much like the song and band itself: stripped-down, kinetic and as frenetic as a frog on a hotplate.

Williams’ animation for The Ramones’ “Chainsaw” is an ingenious mix of Saturday morning cartoon visuals, Tobe Hooper’s slice and dice horror films and beach party fright flicks. It’s perfectly in the spirit of The Ramones’ own obsessions and I wish there was one of these cartoons for every Ramones’ song ever recorded.

More of Neil Williams’ work can be viewed on YouTube channel.  It is definitely worth a visit. Check out his Beatles’ stuff and an animated version of the notorious Orson Welles’ frozen pea radio ad. 
 


 
The Ramones animation after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh talks of being legally blind & getting glasses, set to beautiful animation
03.05.2015
03:08 pm

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Animation
Art
Music

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Midwesterners are quick to claim DEVO as native sons (as well we should—shout out to Akron, Ohio!), but this lovely little animation—a collab between Google Play and The California Sunday Magazine—illustrates their Hollywood migration in Mark Mothersbaugh’s own voice. But not before the prolific composer/artist/frontman/fashion designer (etc, etc, etc.) explains how he saw the world—fuzzy—until someone had the bright idea to test his vision when he was in the second grade.

I will say I feel like a complete dick after watching it. I had always subconsciously assumed Mark Mothersbaugh’s glasses were a bit of a nerd affectation/fashion choice (nothing wrong with fashion, and to be fair, they were certainly fashion for a couple of of DEVO fans I’ve met). Don’t get me wrong, I figured he needed specs, but I suspected the heavy frames of said specs were chosen more for their ostentatiously geeky aesthetic than mere functionality. Turns out there’s a lot of glass in those glasses, because he is legally blind and needs them to see damn near anything.

It also turns out that I am a cynical jerk. Sorry Mark!

Unsurprisingly, Mothersbaugh’s got his own line of eyewear. Is there anything this guy doesn’t dabble in???
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Dumbland,’ David Lynch’s remarkable animated series, lives up to its name
02.24.2015
10:24 am

Topics:
Animation
Movies

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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.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
King Diamond as the voice of He-Man in a tale of homosexual betrayal in the men’s room of Eternia
02.23.2015
08:09 am

Topics:
Animation

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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.” 

Man at Arms as the vengeful cuckold.
 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
This ASCII animation of Led Zeppelin playing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is surprisingly fantastic
02.12.2015
12:36 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:


 
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.

If anyone finds any of Sodeoka’s other ASCII videos online, please let us know!
 

   

 
via Rummage Through the Crevices

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Gilligan’s Planet,’ the last gasp of the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ franchise
02.05.2015
07:28 am

Topics:
Animation
Television

Tags:


 
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?”

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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