Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Finally, Something I Like!

I saw this over on Cartoon Brew yesterday and was so impressed with it that I felt compelled to comment on it here. It's just a short promo for the Palm Springs International Short Fest, yet somehow it has excited me more than any animated feature has in recent years. It was created by a studio called MAKE in Minneapolis, and the director/lead animator was Andrew Chesworth. Interestingly, all of the comments over at Cartoon Brew have been enthusiastically positive in their praise of the film - which is an unusual situation at The Brew, where there is generally mixed feelings on most animated clips posted. Anyway, watch it first, then I'll discuss it:

Here's why I like it so much. First of all, it's a spoof of that oh so familiar scene in 40's film noir where the damsel in distress shows up at the office of the hardboiled private detective begging him to take the case. Strangely, film noir has never been done in a full animated feature, the closest thing being the animation/live action hybrid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so I think it's a genre that would be ripe for an animated feature. And like this short, I'd want to see that feature animated in glorious, traditional, hand-drawn animation, not CG! Take a look at the overall style of this short - it's so unabashedly a cartoon. The characters are all highly caricatured and stylized: the hero in bold angular outlines and blocky shapes, the femme fatale all in sexy curves. The animated movement is equally cartoony in it's timing. Also, look at how distinct all of the character designs are and how they communicate immediately to the viewer what those characters are all about. The hero is reminiscent of tough guy actors with chiseled features like George C. Scott or Richard Conte. He's not one of those pretty boy metrosexuals that have been dominating animated features for the last 20 years. Neither is the girl generic in any way. Her features are exaggerated to show her sexiness and her deceptive personality - look at that imposing jawline that shows her to be a tough cookie. I also love the highly designed curly hair, as it shows what drawn animation can do so much better than CG, which is a slave to literal form. I hope that my Sheridan students are taking note, as this short film is a great example of what I'm always stressing to see in your Character Design assignments.

As far as I'm concerned, this short is a breath of fresh air, so different from the stagnation of semi-realistic character design that we've been seeing in so many hand-drawn features of the last 15 to 20 years. Interestingly, John Kricfalusi has been taking a stab at the generic male leads that are all looking too similar, culminating in the latest attempt in the upcoming Tangled, with the hero, Flynn Rider. I happen to agree with much of what John says in this regard, as I'm getting damn tired of what I've come to call the "Rock Star" look of all male leads in the latter-day films of Disney, Dreamworks, and a few other studios. Disney artists should check out some classic Hollywood films of the past and start studying real men like Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, etc. etc, so as to get away from this current trend of designing longhaired metrosexuals. This short film with the film noir detective hopefully will inspire some more satisfying heroes in future animated features. My sincere congratulations to Andrew Chesworth and his talented crew for creating a small gem of animated brilliance!