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Woody Woodpecker: Bird of the absurd

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There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times, That Noisy Woodpecker Had an Animated Secret, about Shamus Culhane, a pioneer of modern animation, who slipped homages to avant-garde artists into several Woody Woodpecker cartoons in the 1940s.

Sixteen years ago Tom Klein was staring at a Woody Woodpecker cartoon, The Loose Nut, when he started seeing things. Specifically, Mr. Klein watched that maniacal red-topped bird smash a steamroller through the door of a shed. The screen then exploded into images that looked less like the stuff of a Walter Lantz cartoon than like something Willem de Kooning might have hung on a wall.

“What was that?” Mr. Klein, now an animation professor at Loyola Marymount University, recalled thinking. Only later, after years of scholarly detective work, did he decide that he had been looking at genuine art that was cleverly concealed by an ambitious and slightly frustrated animation director named Shamus Culhane.”

Culhane was an admirer of experimental film makers, Eisenstein in particular, as well as abstract painters and managed to work some of his artistic obsessions into his commercial work.

High art meets popular art inThe Loose Nut when Woody “is blown into an abstract configuration…a convergence of animation and Soviet montage.”
 

 
In lowbrow mode, Culhane enjoyed pranking Universal Studios and Walt Lantz by throwing not-so-subtle sexual imagery into his cartoons. In The Greatest Man In Siam, Culhane’s libido goes nuts in a veritable onslaught of genitalia. You don’t need to be Freud to notice the erect phalluses and vaginal doorways. At the 4:36 point in the clip, there’s a glimpse of a pink passageway that incorporates both yin and yang.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Satyajit Ray’s trippy ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’
04.04.2011
02:48 pm

Topics:
Animation
Movies

Tags:
Satyajit Ray

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Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1968) was written, scored and directed by Satyajit Ray. It is Ray’s most commercially successful film and to this day is hugely popular in India.

The cinematography by Shoumendu Roy and choreography by Sambhunath Bhattacharya is particularly enchanting in this fantasy sequence combining live action, shadow puppets and Indian percussion instruments.

Our comic heroes Goopy and Bagha meet the King Of Ghosts in the jungle and he grants them three wishes (boons): they will get food whenever they want, the second: they can go anywhere they want and the third: they will master art of music and everybody will be spell bound and motionless while they sing.

Trippier than E.T. and every bit as weirdly wonderful as anything in Eraserhead, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne is a ‘head” film for all ages.

Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne is one of 17 Ray films restored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, but the restored version is still unavailable on DVD. According to Film Threat magazine…

[...] the restored print is still in the AMPAS vaults – there is no temperature-controlled film vault in India that could hold the restored version. Since the restored version is not available, older worn-out prints are still circulating. But these prints have clearly seen better days – they are so drained that even the surprise color shot at the film’s end look monochromatic.”

Criterion or Image are you listening?
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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1966 psychedelic Life Savers TV commercial by Terry Gilliam ?

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There’s no absolute proof but brilliant Los Angeles pop culture historian Domenic Priore believes this 1966 commercial to be the work of a young pre-Monty Python Terry Gilliam. I say it’s true. (Oops, it’s not. See below…)  Gilliam did after all attend high school in my beloved San Fernando Valley and worked at Carson Roberts advertising agency (along with Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher) in Los Angeles before finding his ultimate destiny in the U.K. There is unfortunately no official record or listing of Gilliam’s early TV commercial work, though there are doubtless many more such examples out there.
 

 
Update: Terry Gilliam’s co-worker at Carson Roberts, one Mike Salisbury has claimed creator-ship of this clip. He says: ”...Ed Ruscha worked there also. One of the first TV spots I did was there, for Baskin Robbins ice cream . Terry Gilliam and I worked on some things together but this one I created, wrote and animated. They gave us a lot of freedom. (it was a fun place to work—the in-house producer was the model for Mr. Magoo.)...” Also this from DM facebook friend Susan Pile: This direct from my pal TG: “...I had nothing to do with the commercial. And no idea who might have been the clever bastard. I’m up to my neck in my first opera: Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. All foolishly backed by the English National Opera. Luckily I’m surrounded by real pros that are keeping me from drowning….”  So there ya go !

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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Death of a tape deck: ‘Mechanical Sympathy’
03.26.2011
10:26 pm

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
Mechanical Sympathy

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The sad demise of a Uher reel to reel tape recorder is told in this short stop motion animated film by Tom McDermott. Mechanical Sympathy uses over 6500 still photos and tremendous craftsmanship to bring an inanimate object to life only to kill it. I was actually sad to see that tape deck die.

Music:
Steppin’ Out - Electric Light Orchestra
Wedding March - Mendelssohn
Lullaby - Fisher-Price Lullaby Baby
Lovesick Blues - Hank Williams
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Smutley the Cat teaches us about AIDS awareness (NSFW)
03.24.2011
08:44 am

Topics:
Amusing
Animals
Animation
Current Events
Sex

Tags:
PSA
AIDS

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An extremely wild Fritz the Cat style PSA about AIDS awareness set to the tune of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.”  No animals were harmed while making this… I think.

 
(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The psychedelic animated short films of Vincent Collins

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From our friends at the wonderful Network Awesome comes this tight little collection of psuper-psychedelic animation from the pseventies by Vince Collins. The first of which was commissioned by the U.S. Information Agency to commemorate the bicentennial in 1976. The freaky final clip Malice in Wonderland is a bit NSFWish.
 

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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‘Eraserhead’ in sixty seconds

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Two sixty-second versions of David Lynch’s Eraserhead: one by Lee Hardcastle; the other by Martin Funke, which was made for the Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds competition.

It takes Lee Hardcastle 10 days to make one of his 60-second claymations, as he told Don’t Panic magazine:

I have some shortcuts, biggest ones are within the story – keep characters/locations down to a minimum because that stuff takes the most time to create. Something I learned over time is that whatever you do, do not skip out on the animation. People watch a video for animation, not a static image or boring moving graphics.

I re-use materials like cards & clay. Once in a blue moon, I’ll invest in something, last year I bought & made three armatures at £70 a pop. If I need something, I’ll search the apartment for props/materials. Check out my Eraserhead claymation, the bed sheet they’re sleeping in are in fact the underpants am wearing right now. It’s just the rent I have to worry about.

Lee has made a variety of other great 60 seconds films, including Evil Dead and The Exorcist, all of which can be found here.

Martin’s Eraserhead was one of the 10 shortlisted finalists, and more of his work can be found here.
 

 

 
Previously on DM

‘Inception’ in 60 seconds


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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My Dinner With Paul (Stanley)
03.12.2011
09:32 am

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
Kiss
Paul Stanley

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“Episode 1. Paul gives me advice about the ladies and makes an offer.”

True story: Sometime in 2004, I was returning to my car in the parking lot of a CVS drugstore in Sherman Oaks, California (the one with “The Party Store,” the Marie Callendar’s restaurant and the really good dry cleaners on Ventura Blvd. & Willis Ave., for all you locals).

Just as Paul Stanley and his son, who was maybe 6-years-old at the time, were leaving “The Party Store,” two transgendered women were walking in.

The kid looked them and when the door automatic doors had closed behind them, he asked his father the rock star, “Dad were those GUYS???”

Stanley, with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face that I will never forget said softly: “I don’t know, son” and then quickly changed the topic to “Hey, this is going to be a really great party, tomorrow, huh?”
 

 
Via Kembra Pfahler/Howie Pyro

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’
03.10.2011
05:50 pm

Topics:
Animation
Movies

Tags:
Psycho

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Previously on Dangerous Minds:
24 Second ‘Psycho’
Psycho at 50: Zizek’s Three Floors Of The Mind

(via the always delightful If we don’t, remember me.)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘Moby Dick’ and Alex Itin’s ‘Orson Whales’

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Ah, the drum solo. The moment when the other band members retreat backstage to hoover the sherbets, gargle the fizz, change instruments and discuss the merits of the audience. Depending on the drummer’s talent and stamina, this can be a short interlude, or a half-time intermission.

The late, great John Bonham’s “Moby Dick” is one hell of drum solo, and his performances of the track ranged from two minutes to twenty. Like the book - epic. Bonham may have died thirty-one years ago, but he is still considered the greatest drummer who ever lived. An incredible accolade for a self-taught musician, who started banging out rhythm at the age of five, on tin boxes, coffee cans and whatever came to hand. His mother bought him a snare drum and 10, and he received his first drum kit for his 15th birthday. Bonham favored heavy sticks, or “trees” as he called them, which delivered the best and heaviest sound possible. As Roger Taylor of Queen once said

The greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer of all time was John Bonham who did things that nobody had ever even thought possible before with the drum kit. And also the greatest sound out of his drums - they sounded enormous, and just one bass drum. So fast on it that he did more with one bass drum than most people could do with three, if they could manage them. And he had technique to burn and fantastic power and tremendous feel for rock`n`roll.

Artist Alex Itin has used Bonham’s epic track, to great effect in his brilliant stream-of-consciousness, short animation Orson Whales. Itin has pulled together Welles reading of Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick (with some added champagne), over Bonham’s genius drumming and his own wonderful and distinctive illustrations, drawn on pages from Melville’s book.  Itin is artist-in-residence at the Institute for the Future of the Book, you can check out more of his excellent work here.
 

 
Bonus clip of Bonham’s ‘Moby Dick’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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