Sunday 21 January 2018

More animation

Been watching Sally Cruikshank's award-winning short from 1975, Quasi at the Quackadero, which is set in an interesting carnival dystopia and its sequel, Make Me Psychic (1978), which isn't as good, despite the appealing fat-bellied Quasi character. Cruikshank's 1987 short, produced by her ex-Corman associate husband Jon Davison (and featuring a thanks to Dick Miller credit), is basically a music video for its composers, Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo. A lot of 70s student animation has a weird undergraduate thing to it that people would say, "oh it's all made by hippies on drugs", but definitely there is a part of that that is true.
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Also watched Canadian animator Gerald Potterton's 1970s adaptations of Wilde's The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince (1974, narrated by Glynis Johns and Christopher Plummer) and The Remarkable Rocket (1975, with David Niven and Graham Stark), which although undeniably beautiful have this slightly too reverential feel, and feel like better versions of those cheap Australian adaptations of classics, and animations that are not tongue-in-cheek, especially if they outlast their welcome, and Potterton's shorts are half an hour.  The Remarkable Rocket might be the most enjoyable. It is very simplistic, with a range of anthropomorphic national stereotype fireworks, Stark giving us his Indian and his Scouse and his Italian (i.e. his character Tony the Italian trattoria owner in Hi-De-Hi) and Stark clearly gets a bit self-indulgent with his voices. Shorts like the NFB output such as the UPA-esque Potterton-Leacock My Financial Career, the blackly comic Beano-esque EB White adap The Family that Dwelt Apart (1972), Rene Jodoin's experimental  plotless wanders e.g. 1976's Monsieur Pointu and Bretislav Pojar's Mr. Men-esque 1972 short Balablok or the ahead of its time 1963 Potterton-Norman McLaren collaboration Christmas Cracker or John Weldon's 1990 woman's picture To Be and 1991 photomontage The Lump or Cordell Baker's 2002 short Strange invaders (not the crap 80s film but the story of a button-eyed nightmare child) don't outstay their welcome. Especially not the wondrous  ant-mad stop-motion/live action musical crossbreed of Juke Bar (1989). As well as the bizarre 1976 NFB death-umentary Afterlife and the simple 1997 dance sequence of Bully Dance.
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Also watched the shorts of George Dunning, like Potterton, an animator on Yellow Submarine, and they're surrealist for the sake of it, Gilliamesque drivel.

The 1973 ABC Depatie Freleng special The Incredible Indelible Magical Physical Mystery Trip is odd, a cutesy but psychedelic mix per US kidvid of the era, two live action kids on an animated Fantastic Voyage inside their smoker Uncle Carl, guided by the anthropomorphic Timer, a Public Service announcement character and featuring lungs moaning about lack of fresh air in their nicotine stained domain.

Also watched Fred Wolf's 1967 short NFB-ish The Box, about a beardy old man pulling girls (that's it) and the pre-Irish move Murakami-Wolf 1971 special The Point, a cutesy Harry Nilsson-scored allegory with (depending on the version) Dustin Hoffman, "friend of Rolf" Alan Thicke or Ringo Starr, and Brady Bunch kid Mike Lookinland as a kid with a round head in a world where everyone has pointy heads so he wears a pointy hat cos he doesn't have a point. Also saw the trippy but sugary Puff the Magic Dragon specials they did with added weirdness such as Puff helping liars, orphans and kids with an imaginary friend called Mr. Nobody, a duck in a feathered saucepan hat. The Magic Pear Tree (1967), another Murakami short with Agnes Moorehead as a French princess. It's very caricatured, and somehow American shorts lack the strangeness and well, how else can I put it, sheer Canadian wit.
And also a few shorts by John Hubley, whose style I don't really enjoy - because it's almost identical to Charley Says. And thus they feel oddly preachy even when not.

Though in terms of NFB-like ability, the simple but pleasing children's book adaptations of Weston Woods e.g. Gene Deitch's creepy Teeny Tiny and the Witch-Woman (1980, narrated by Marie Rosulkova, the American tourist in possibly the greatest sci-fi film of the 1970s, Tomorrow, I Shall Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea*) and Deitch's Tomi Ungerer adap The Beast of Monsieur Racine come close.  Also saw Weston Woods' Harold and the Purple Crayon (1971, based on a book that possibly inspired Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings). Deitch's stuff was mostly post-his UPA days done in Eastern Europe like the uplifting underage soldier tale of Munro (1960, which surely inspired Grampa Simpson's youth) and looks appealing because it's based on a Jules Feiffer story.

Also watched the 1971 Spike Milligan-narrated video for Cat Stevens' Moonshadow, with a little lad in a top hat, one of those ITV region fillers like Rondo Veneziano or the Butterfly Ball by Halas-Batchelor.

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Also looked at the popular 1970s Hungarian-TVNZ Gustav shorts, which are about a rather seedy middle-aged bald man going about his life, basically a cartoon Reggie Perrin, but with the odd transvestite bridal fantasy and dinosaur encounter thrown in, and an episode called "Gustav is a Muff".
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I've also been trying to delve my toes into Yugoslavian animation, having seen Zagreb film's shape-changing sporadically coloured surrealist journey and seeming Disney satire and Oscar submission Diary (1974) full of striking images such as the bouncing micro-universes in cubes.   Their Cypporat/Surrogat by Dusan Vukotic is very a UPA-esque genii-related Tales from the Crypt-like twist in the tale and 1959's Cow On The Moon is similar modernist, though I couldn't tell if the Angelica from Rugrats-ish little girl is the titular cow, as an actual cow only features briefly. Has a neat bucket-and-aerial headed "alien" disguise.  In the 70s, we got the witty Benidorm-set insomniac's battle Tup-Tup (1972), (featuring a nude lady with grotesquely droopy boobs and a flying Red Bull ad-esque postman and kissing a Moomin-like hippo-thing in a crown that becomes a princess in a grave) and the Deux-Deux-esque radiophonic-soundtracked rivals of Learning to Walk (1978),  By the 1980s, they were making Posla koka u ducan, a Yugoslavian music video featuring a clucking chicken leading a funny animal disco. There's a lot of similarities with the NFB, to the extent, that one of their guiding lights, Zlatko Grgic made the NFB's Hot Stuff, amongst others.

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The Magic Pony (1977) - a remake of a seminal Soyuzmultfilm film, that inspired Disney, this one of the few Soyuzmultfilm animations to reach a western audience, dubbed by Gadabout Gaddis communications with the voices of Hans Conried and Joanie from Happy Days. Has that folky feel Soyuzmultfilm specialise in, and were dubbed for PBS and hosted by Mikhail Baryshnikov, which then resulted in a lawsuit.  But this is also a typical "magic horse" film, like the Last Unicorn, but better animated and not as psychotronically weird.

Fyodor Kitruk, who did Soyuzmultfilm's Winnie the Pooh also did Great Troubles (1961), a sort of domestic sitcom told in child's drawings featuring dancing to Soviet rock and roll, narrated by a woman with a Russian "50s voice actress dubbing child" voice, and the modernist photomontage of Story of One Crime (1962) which features an extraordinary range of images - live action footage on television and even creating the platform videogame 20 years early. His Man in the Frame (1965) and the Bob Marley-on-a-desert-island-plus-some-scientists fun of Island (1973).

Also saw the most interesting Soyuzmultfilm, Robert Silverberg adaptation Contract (1985), a very strange Soviet Metal Hurlant sci-fi with a matchbox, a cashier cat-bot and a disco hosted by a Max Quordlepleen-type.

And finally after a while tracking, saw Bretislav Pojar's Elahw the Whale from 1977, the charming tale of a whale newsagent. Yes, really. Also features a grumpy suitcase-hatted cat.

Been watching the Herbs/Parsley the Lion. Charming but every ep the same.

Have been sampling Ladislas Starewich's stuff e.g. 1933's The Mascot and his early re-animations of dead ants have a spooky, uncanny valley feel - like if Toy Story was a found footage film from the early 20th century.

Also been for the first time, seeing Ray Harryhausen's early fairy tale adaptations, and the dolls are terrifying, Auton-esque blank-eyed things. No wonder monsters are his first love. It says something when Humpty Dumpty for once is the jolliest looking creature. Even the witch in Hansel and Gretel is actually quite normal compared to the titular grotesque charity box-like sprogs.

Also been reading Animation - The Global History and the work of Paul Grimault (whose unfinished and rather strange Dogtanian-esque steampunk epic Mr. Wonderbird ended up in Herschell Gordon Lewis' film Jimmy the Boy Wonder), e.g. the steampunky LES PASSAGERS DE LA GRANDE OURSE and the attractive but very odd to look at work of Nazi animator Hans Fischerkoesen. A lot of early 2-D animation, especially immediately post-Disney is strange, it's pretty but it almost feels too hard to be matching Disney, and therefore though there will be some invention, it feels  very pleasant but very generic. Found the work of Columbia's early animations from the 30s sickly sweet, though.

*Looking at a list of 70s SF films, and I find it weird that a lot of them I'm indifferent on. Too many dull dystopias and cold, characterless scientific experiments. Not enough fun. Worthy, interesting but not that enthralling films like the Andromeda Strain, Rollerball (Death Race 2000 is better), the Terminal Man, the Forbin Project, the Groundstar Conspiracy, ZPG, the Stepford Wives, THX 1138, Slaughterhouse 5, I realise that I'm not really a literally SF man. Then again, I'm not into 50s sci-fi so much. I'm in the middleground, intelligent but fun. I'm more into fun, big concepts.

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