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‘A Short Vision’: The gory anti-nuclear cartoon that traumatized an entire generation


 
A Short Vision is one of the most influential pieces of animation ever created; it is also one of the most disturbing and controversial. In 1952, the very first successful hydrogen bomb was detonated, and it was over 450 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Horrified at such potential for destruction, Hungarian-British animator Peter Foldes and his wife, Joan, began working on a short cartoon in their kitchen, and in 1956 A Short Vision was aired on The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan attempted to prepare his audience for the horror of the film, but his introduction stopped short of warning viewers they were about to watch an interpretation of the nuclear holocaust, complete with bloody, melting faces:

“Just last week you read about the H-bomb being dropped. Now two great English writers, two very imaginative writers—I’m gonna tell you if you have youngsters in the living room tell them not to be alarmed at this ‘cause it’s a fantasy, the whole thing is animated—but two English writers, Joan and Peter Foldes, wrote a thing which they called A Short Vision in which they wondered what might happen to the animal population of the world if an H-bomb were dropped. It’s produced by George K. Arthur and I’d like you to see it. It is grim, but I think we can all stand it to realize that in war there is no winner.”

While the short received a lot of praise from audiences and critics, many were angry and disturbed by such graphic depictions of the apocalypse. To be fair, most viewers were probably expecting something more along the lines of Julie Andrews, or at least Señor Wences. Undeterred by the backlash, Foldes continued producing groundbreaking, socially conscious animation throughout his career, including the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award, La Faim in 1974. The short is a violent tale of inequality in which a gluttonous man is eventually devoured by the starving masses—you know, for kids!
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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06.12.2015
10:25 am
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Ten years before Disney, Lotte Reiniger made breathtaking animated features before fleeing the Nazis
05.12.2015
07:09 pm
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The popular history of animation starts with Walt Disney—a tragic oversight and a considerably US-centric misconception. In addition to the pre-Disney animation in America, the Soviets were making cartoons early on (starting with cautionary propaganda, of course) and the Japanese produced amazing early animation referencing folklore. However, the most beautiful and ambitious of early cartoons have to be from Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger, a German filmmaker who produced lush, elaborate scenes using stop-motion with excruciatingly detailed silhouette cut-outs. Even more impressive was the duration of her films—which qualify as features—made ten years before Disney’s Snow White, which is generally recognized as the first animated feature film.
 

 
Below you can watch Reiniger’s most famous work, 1935’s Papageno, which was set to music from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” While it lacked the production values of some of her later features, Papageno is the most fantastical, following Papageno the birdcatcher’s quest to find his true love. The silhouettes themselves are a perfect example of Reiniger’s cut-out style, which was inspired by Chinese silhouette puppetry. The cut-outs were generally set against brightly monochromatic backgrounds, but the painstakingly cut scenery and subjects really pop against white as well. The piece is a perfect fairy tale—richly evoked with drama, romance and humor.
 

 
Despite her success (she was particularly popular in the avant-garde scene alongside artists like Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill), Reiniger’s career was sporadic. As known leftists during the rise of the Third Reich, she left the country with her husband and collaborator Carl Koch. Unable to get permanent Visas, the couple hopped around Europe for over ten years and still managed to create twelve films, including Däumelinchen (better known as “Thumbelina”), Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and 1955’s beautifully colored Hansel and Gretel
 

 

 
Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost
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05.12.2015
07:09 pm
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King Diamond as the voice of He-Man in a tale of homosexual betrayal in the men’s room of Eternia
02.23.2015
11:09 am
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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
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02.23.2015
11:09 am
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The Swedes have an unusual way of teaching kids about sex, don’t they?

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Meet Snoppen and Snippan, they’re Internet sensations.

It’s easy to see why this charming little children’s animation from Sweden has become such a massive hit there. It’s obviously the bright colors, the rather catchy tune that will have you singing along in a minute or two…and the…er…jolly bouncy characters who look very..er..well, very happy with each other. It’s all very Swedish.

Apparently, this is one way that Swedes teach their children all about the facts of life—through the animated characters “Willie” (Snoppen) and his very close friend Snippan—which are apparently slang words for something or another. This gloriously surreal cartoon comes from the hit children’s TV show Bacillakuten, and that earworm of a song tells how Willie is “full of pace” and Snippan is “really cool, you better believe it, even on an old lady. It just sits there so elegantly.” Okay, the scansion may be a bit off, but I think we all get the idea.

YouTube originally made this an “adult only” video before reversing themselves on that. Still, if they tried something like this on Sesame Street, the responsible party would probably be imprisoned. Gotta love those free lovin’ Swedes!
 

 
Via Nyheter24.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.13.2015
09:20 am
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Watch ‘Angel,’ the 1966 Canadian government-funded art film starring Leonard Cohen
11.21.2014
09:49 am
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Before Leonard Cohen became known as a singer-songwriter, he was a trust-fund kid struggling to be a writer and poet. This is why the 1966 short Angel (a product of the National Film Board of Canada), credits him with, “Music by poet Leonard Cohen, played by The Stormy Clovers”; The Stormy Clovers were one of Cohen’s early musical projects—here’s their version of “Suzanne”. I’ve seen the film once before, but was excited to see it on Vimeo in high definition—the clarity really highlights the the stark contrast of what looks to be overexposed film that’s been run through an old school analog video switcher.

The premise isn’t elaborate; a woman in decorative wings frolics with a man (an uncredited Cohen), and a dog. The man then tries on the wings, before they are put on the dog. A tryst is implied, then the woman leaves, much to both their resigned dismay. It’s all incredibly lovely, with a striking minimalist aesthetic and an intimate soundtrack. The film received Honourable Mention at the (Canadian) International Annual Film Festival, a Chris Certificate Award in the Graphic Arts Category at the International Film and Video Festival (US), First Prize in the Arts and Experimental category at the Genie Awards (Canada) and Special Mention at the Festival of Canadian Films.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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11.21.2014
09:49 am
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Extremely dark Soviet-era Stephen King animation
10.30.2014
04:29 pm
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There are some amazing cinematic adaptations of Stephen King’s writing. There are also some… less impressive examples. This 1986 animated short, “Battle,” is not only a fine example of the former, it has the distinction of being the only Stephen King adaptation produced in the famously dark genre of Soviet animation. Based on King’s short story, “Battleground” (first published in a magazine in 1972, then compiled in his 1978 Night Shift anthology), the story is a classic revenge tale with a supernatural twist. A hitman is hired to kill a toymaker, and toy soldiers come to life in the murderer’s home to avenge their father’s death. Their artillery is tiny, but their warfare is relentless, and the hitman meets a brutal end.

“Battle” touches on the fear of the small, and “golem terror”—a sort of childlike anxiety around anthropomorphic objects and the irrational fear that they will become both animate and malevolent. You can see thematic similarities in both the third installment of King’s 1985 trilogy, Cat’s Eye, (where the titular cat protects a young Drew Barrymore from a tiny troll), and the brilliant “Amelia” tale from the 1975 TV movie Trilogy of Terror, where Karen Black is terrorized in her home by a Zuni fetish doll come to life. (A 2006 adaptation of “Battleground,” (starring William Hurt, and also quite good/intense), actually shows the Zuni fetish doll in the background of Hurt’s apartment multiple times as a sort of Hidden Mickey.)

The cartoon itself is a beautiful horror-noir, much of it done via rotoscoping, which gives it the fast-action fear it needs without sacrificing great animation. At any rate, you could definitely use it to scare children into putting their toys away, right?
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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10.30.2014
04:29 pm
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‘The Hunger’: An impressively repulsive computer-animated short from 1974
03.14.2014
10:31 am
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The availability of new technology usually inspires the artistic impulse to create something lovely and elaborate. But the pioneering 1974 short film, The Hunger (or La Faim, in the original French), feels—intentionally—both ugly and crude.  The art has the feel of rough sketches, and only in the movement of the animation can you see the computer technology at work. It’s a strange, eery effect that is intensified by an artfully unsettling soundtrack.

The film received a Special Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA Award for Best Animation Film, and was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award. What’s more, it was actually produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an agency of The Canadian Federal Government (and we can’t even get our government to fund food stamps?)

The plot is simple: a piggish man eats too much and is eventually devoured by the starving masses. It’s all told in a sort of animated Kafkaesque expressionism, and while I’ve always scoffed at the “sinfulness” of gluttony (especially since world hunger has very little to do with actual scarcity, and even less to do with the dietary habits of fat Westerners), it did disturb me enough to eschew cookies for breakfast this morning.  It is grotesque, violent, nauseating, and truly stunning.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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03.14.2014
10:31 am
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Mel Brooks heckles the avant–garde in his Oscar-winning 1963 animated short, ‘The Critic’
12.04.2013
06:42 pm
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Mel Brooks
Brooks accepting his 2001 Tony for ‘The Producers,’ and still mocking Nazis after all these years
 
I highly recommend anyone unfamiliar with the legacy of Jewish comedy to read up on The Borscht Belt. A cheeky play on The Bible Belt, the Borscht Belt—or the “Jewish Alps”—was a scenic region of upstate New York peppered with resort towns, nicknamed for the beet soup favored by the Eastern and Central European Jewish immigrants who vacationed there from the 20s to the 70s. The entertainment traditions that developed in these resorts laid the foundation of what we now recognize as stand-up comedy. Prior to the character-driven monologue style of Borscht Belt comics, the most popular vehicles for comedy were vaudeville and minstrel shows, with jokes either embedded in a more elaborate act, or used as a buffer between them.

While the Borscht Belt comics pioneered the “mic and brick wall” minimalism of modern stand-up, they were also on the ground floor with some of the more experimental stuff. Below is the animated short film, The Critic, a brilliant piece by the immortal Borscht Belt alumnus, Mel Brooks. Inspired by his own experience overhearing a gentleman of the tribe kvetching during an avant-garde movie, Brooks voices the part of an Ashkenazi grouser with affection and bite.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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12.04.2013
06:42 pm
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Ren & Stimpy creator John K animates The Simpsons


 
Ok, so it’s just the sofa section of the show’s opening, but as a huge fan of both The Simpsons and Ren & Stimpy I just had to share this. Those two shows were the high watermarks of the 90s golden age of mainstream animation, and very influential on an entire generation of young, impressionable minds. So in a way this is the cartoon equivalent of the Beatles jamming with the Stones - but much weirder. A lot of people won’t like this (and some would say it’s a good fifteen years or more since both were at their peak), but it’s still great to see John K’s dark and twisted take on America’s first family. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I detect a subtle swipe at the character’s roles here, and Is that a hint of bitterness I can taste in the his rendering of their front room in such gloomy colors?
 

 
You can see a lot more of John Kricfalusi’s work at his blog.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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10.04.2011
08:38 pm
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Start me up: Radio Soulwax’s brilliant ‘Introversy’


 
Ok, so this is kind of cheeky and infuriating, but you have to admit it’s also brilliantly executed. The Dewale brothers, aka Radio Soulwax, aka original mash-up masters 2ManyDJs, recently mixed the intros of 500 songs together into one hour long set and called it Introversy. That’s a hell of a lot of song intros - and the mix is accompanied by animation of all the sleeves of all 500 of the tunes coming to life. Now that’s dedication!

Introversy was originally posted on the brothers’ website last month, but as the original was not embedable, here’s a cheeky rip of a ten minute segment that has ended up on YouTube. Yes, the audio and visual quality are not great, but you definitely get the gist, and it’s all the more reason to check out the hour long original which is available to download as a free app on the Radio Soulwax website. Soulwax, their apps and website are all highly recommended - their currently streaming Celestial Voyage Pt 2 mix is a great blend of prog rock and space-disco which also features animated sleeves and is well worth checking out. But for now, here’s a segment from the rather excellent Introversy:
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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08.19.2011
12:48 pm
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Are the Smurfs Communist Nazis?


Image by Bit Weird.

I’d heard the theory that the Smurfs were a ploy to get us used to the imminent arrival of little blue aliens, but this is news to me. A French academic has published a book claiming that the Smurfs were both Communist and anti-Semitic, claims that have met with a backlash from fans of the little blue guys. From The Guardian:

Antoine Buéno, a lecturer at Sciences Po university in Paris, makes the claims in his new book Le Petit Livre Bleu: Analyse critique et politique de la société des Schtroumpfs, in which he points out that the Smurfs live in a world where private initiative is rarely rewarded, where meals are all taken together in a communal room, where there is one leader and where the Smurfs rarely leave their small country.

“Does that not remind you of anything? A political dictatorship, for example?” asks Buéno, going on to compare the Smurfs’ world to a totalitarian utopia reminiscent of Stalinist communism (Papa wears a red outfit and resembles Stalin, while Brainy is similar to Trotsky) and nazism (the character of the Smurfs’ enemy Gargamel is an antisemitic caricature of a Jew, he proposes). A story about the Black Smurfs, meanwhile, in which the Smurfs are bitten by a fly which turns their skin black and renders them unable to speak, has colonial overtones.

Reactions to the book were immediate and hostile, with commenters on Smurf fansites calling Buéno a “dream breaker”, an imbecile and a crook with “paranoid delusions”, who is ruining childhood memories.

 
Is this strange video perhaps more proof of a connection?
 

 
Thanks to Nicola Blackmore.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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06.09.2011
09:02 pm
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Bastien Dubois’s Oscar-transcending animated short ‘Madagascar - A Journey Diary’
02.27.2011
09:17 pm
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Although it’s a touch more interesting than most awards shows, we tend to treat the Oscars as little more than a gossip source, fashion show, or fun subject for betting pools.

With that said, there are gratifying aspects about the awards themselves, including the fact that French filmmaker Bastien Dubois‘s gorgeous and surreal Madagascar - Carnet de Voyage was nominated for Best Animated Short Film.

It lost, but that takes nothing away from this meditation on mortality on the intriguing African island nation. It’s a dizzying yet coherent display of what seems like a dozen different animation and mixed-media styles. Check it out.
 

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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02.27.2011
09:17 pm
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Cabbie Chronicles: The “Steamboat Willie” of Jamaican animation?

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Jamaica has finally distinguished itself a bit in the global animation community. It’s easy to see why JA animators Allison and Anieph Latchman’s five-minute Cabbie Chronicles: Drive Thru Drama short won the Best Caribbean Animation Award at this year’s Animae Caribe Animation and New Media Festival. It’s some straight-up homegrown Kingston street satire.

Don’t get it twisted—Jamaicans have been doing animation for a minute now—for example, Coretta Singer’s fantastical 3-D work has been shown out in the global animation circuit for a couple of years now. And folks can point to the cutting-edge Ninjamaica, but that was a Canadian production. Cabbie Chronicles is straight from yard, and hopefully one of a long-running series that sets the tone for an era of great ‘toons from the island.
 

 
After the jump: check an interview with the screwfaced Cabbie himself…

READ ON
Posted by Ron Nachmann
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12.29.2010
12:48 pm
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Digital Tattoo: next-level audio/visual art from Berlin

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Berlin has always been a bastion of innovative cultural work, and one excellent example of this is the Digital Tattoo Productions outfit.

Comprised of the husband/wife team of video artist and animator Edna Orozco and sound artist Dean “Tricky D” Bagar, Digital Tattoo have executed video-mapping-and-sound projects on historical sites in both their home countries of Colombia and Croatia.

They also recently worked on the body-centered dance theatre piece Quia, performed in Bogota and excerpted below. Check it out and keep an eye and ear out for these folks…
 

Digital Tattoo- QUIA from digital tattoo on Vimeo.

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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12.18.2010
02:06 pm
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Millions of images: Virgil Widrich’s magical “Fast Film”

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Austrian filmmaker Virgil Widrich and his crew truly turned it out in 2003 with Fast Film, an amazingly obsessed confluence of film history, paper-craft and pre-digital animation.

Born from the scraps of Widrich’s equally well-crafted short, Copy Shop, Fast Film imbues its surrealistic qualities with familiarity, humor, anxiety, dread and hints of sexuality.
 


 
After the jump: How this incredible film was made…
 

READ ON
Posted by Ron Nachmann
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09.17.2010
07:18 pm
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