Random semiconscious musings

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mighty Hunters

Comic art and animation go hand in hand for many reasons. It's no coincidence that many people who appreciate animation also appreciate comic books, and for just cause.

In the early days both were a form of entertainment and artistic expression. They were meant to entertain and provide a humourous viewpoint on the world around us. Many times when a newspaper strip was interpreted into a cartoon, it was to experiment with the possibilities of bringing static drawings alive, and to gather audiences into the wonderful world of animation going one step further as to present the characters as walking, talking, moving creations. There have been some very successful crossovers, to mention a few:

  • MGM's "Captain and the Kids" cartoon series from the Newspaper strip, "The Katzenjammer Kids"

  • O. Soglow's "The Little King" strip in the Van Beuren and Max Fleischer properties

  • Popeye, as interpreted by Max Fleischer and then the later Paramount/Famous Studios

Even though nowadays animation has become not much more than a marketing tool, we still see crossovers from comic books and strips into the movie world.

However, one attempt I would like to focus on today involves the very well done cartoon by Warner Brothers Studios called "MIghty Hunters", based on James Swinnerton's early newspaper / magazine strip panel called "Canyon Kiddies".

Although by today's standards, panel art like this seems magnificently old-fashioned considering we have comic books which are much more dynamic, showing stories that are way more extreme... but imagine the mindset of readers in the 20s and 30s who found simple humour refreshing. This strip does have a certain innocent charm to it, when you look at it.

In 1940 Chuck Jones was experimenting with the already-established and highly successful "Disneyesque" method of creating animated cartoons which usually examined the world through the eyes of either children, or the 'miniature' entity. One of the best examples was his adaptation of this strip into an animated cartoon.

It's hard to deny that he did capture most of the same essence and light humour from the original newspaper strip. Sometimes still-life works translated to moving pictures go horribly astray... but not this time. References to the main characters from the strip are all there- the happy pup, Hiz-Ti the main little boy, Kiang the mule, and the ever-burdening responsibility of watching the baby.

It's interesting to note that all the backgrounds in this cartoon were created in oil paints so as to attempt to recreate the original flavour of the "Canyon Kiddies" soft and subtle artwork- and I must agree it worked. Although there's smatterings of cheesy cartoon humour interjected, like the chipmunk bit near the center of the film, and the bare-butt shot near the end, the production as an entirety still works.

Even if falling anvils, exploding bombs, and gunshots to the head are totally your preference, you've got to admit that aside from the slow-moving pace of this cartoon, there's loads of appeal and a certain simplistic humour that reaches out much in the same manner as the original newspaper strip would have done nearly 70 years ago.

Watch it with an open mind.... and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This week you get... a RANT!

A continual, subconcious, and vehemently futile pursuit of mine is to try to understand what exactly goes on in the minds of certain individuals who make decisions in the interest of a larger group.

This effort of mine is especially wasted whenever I apply it to those responsible for archiving and restoring historic properties so that the legacies can live on.

In an imaginary world someone is put in charge of restoring "La Giaconda" (the Mona Lisa) so that her beauty, originality, and essence will survive for future generations to witness and experience.

Announcements are made. Publicity is distributed. Excitement builds. The public awaits.

Then we are presented with the following.

It updates her prettiness, doesn't it? It's only a slight 'embellishment', isn't it? It adds a bit more life and visual pleasure to the image, right?


Am I the only one who would be outraged by it....?

Now let me bring this example into context.

I recently received a DVD boxset containing a 'restored' collection of animated works, which I personally had been looking forward to since learning of it last year. It was the animated series of an obscure, but relatively cool concept of a kids' show made in the 70s which I enjoyed, called "Mission: Magic".

The only available memories I could muster up of this show prior to this DVD release were from prints of old 16mm versions that I purchased from collectors years ago. I have watched them quite a few times while reliving my days of childhood, enjoying them in a purely nostalgic and innocent manner.

I couldn't wait to get into this newly 'restored' boxed set. After taking a look at the first two episodes, I was sorely disappointed.

While watching the opening credits, I sang along to the theme song while briefly revisiting my youth. However, at a point onscreen showing the characters float out of a magic hat and across the scene, some 'tinkling electro-generated' magical sound effect drove out of my speakers and into my ears like crystallized darts.

"WTF was that", I thought. I didn't have long to think about it, because in roughly 4 more seconds, the next display of 'magic' onscreen warranted the VERY SAME sound effect, plugged in like some hi-fidelity patch, piercing the melody of the title song. And it happened again, two more times by the end of the opening credits, louder and more annoying than any other audio stream coming through from the original production.

I felt stunned and betrayed- I suddenly imagined the thoughts of the person responsible for doing this, while running the originals through a restoration suite: "Hmph. This old stuff bores me. It's so dated. Hey, I know what will make it better, I'll make some neat-o stereophonic enhancements. Everyone will agree with me that it's better and I'll bring happiness to all those 40-something nostalgiacs watching it right now on their Dolby-Digital fantasy systems, and in years to come."

I thought maybe this might have been just an impulsive move on the part of the restoration staff member.... but NO! ....Later on in the episode during another scene where a character bounced along the ribcage of a dinosaur skeleton, I heard another 'wowie-zowie' blipping sound effect which literally penetrated my eardrum membrane. Sad to say, this kind of treatment continued throughout the next two episodes I watched.

I'll cut to the chase: what I want to know is this: Where does someone get off on thinking that they're doing the restoration justice by altering it this way? Whatever happened to "PRESERVING ORIGINALS"? Since this particular property is not likely to ever be given any attention in the near future, this is the way it's going to stay for generations to come.

To the person who made the decision to 'improve' or 'upgrade' the product like this:

Is this your subtle way of thumbing your nose at anyone who might appreciate something you personally don't like or care about?

Did you do this just because YOU CAN?

Is it because you've got to make some mark in history by adjusting the past?

Is it some self-empowering move you felt you needed to apply to help your already trampled self-image... or your way of rebelling against the machine?

Thanks a f**king lot, jerkoff... and to you and your posse of 'embellishing', 'DVNR-ing', 'so-called color-correcting', and 'censoring for the sake of others' ilk. F**k the whole lot of youse. You're not doing anybody any favours by trying to rewrite history.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog. :)