Lögberg-Heimskringla - 06.12.1985, Blaðsíða 7

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 06.12.1985, Blaðsíða 7
WINNIPEG, FOSTUDAGUR 6. DESEMBER 1985-7 Central Animation Continued from page 6. now regularly shows and which Neil Mclnnes and Andrew Schultz give strong hints of developing. The lit- erary equivalent of their work would be the couplet. Though the animators have not yet developed to the sonnet or even the limerick stage, their accomplishments are worthy of more notice than from just their relatives and friends. To extend the literary analogy a step further, Winnipeg does not have an epic-producing animation group such as Nelvana Studios in Toronto — capable of feature-length cartoons and regular half-hour television specials. Nor does it have sonneteers of the stature of Frederick Back of Montreal or A1 Sens of Vancouver or some of the headliners of the NFB'S headquarters (Co Hoedeman, Ishu Patel and the now retired Norman McLaren) — animators with a unique personal style whose reputations have been earned through a series of successful short films done over a number of years. But Richard Con- die is probably right on the verge, and Brad Caslor could vault immedi- ately into prominence on the strength of his tour de force animation in Get A Job. The clever oxymoron of The Big Snit should at least win Condie an award for best title of the decade. His ten-minute cartoon pivots on an elaboration of this absurd contradic- tion; it's about a petty lovers' quar- rel between two house-bound odd- balls (one vacuums the bathtub, the other saws the furniture com- pulsively) who are oblivious to the fact that nuclear war is about to destroy the world. And The Big Snit combines the apparently incompati- ble qualities of Condie's two most re- cent films: the speedball zaniness of Pigbird and the offbeat dilatoriness of Getting Started. Condie’s strengths as a cartoonist derive from his wacky and original sense of humour. The Big Snit is a showcase of his comic talents. His characters are amusing — visually, emotionally and behaviour- ally. He gets laughs from sounds (teeth clattering like castanets when a sleeper exhales, a cat that yells in pain like Hulk Hogan), from ideas (a yellow sad-face button alternates on television with a mush-room bomb explosion to indicate a nuclear alert, Noah's ark floats down the street in the nuclear panic) and from just gen- eral weirdness (the quarrel takes place during a lopsided Scrabble game over the fact that the woman shakes her eyes like a baby rattle). His satire on television (a quiz show called "Sawing for Teens" is inter- rupted by the nuclear alert) is quick and casual. What makes The Big Snit impres- sive is the advances Condie has made in both his storytelling abilities and his 'camera placements'. The Big Snit moves beyond the single character enactment of a situation that char- acterized his previous work into a two-character comic drama. Thus more attention had to be paid to char- acter, dialogue, interplay, and timing. And action is here presented more ambitiously. It doesn't just happen on a single plane in middle and long shot at a 90° angle to the camera. Where the moviejs less successful is in its conclusion. The Big Snit takes on a bold subject, nuclear annihila- tion, for a cartoon and handles it in a marvelously black comic way. But the end is disappointing. The lovers' reconciliation is rather trite as an idea and in its execution. And the payoff is too short, restrained and unclear. Nonetheless, The Big Snit will un- doubtedly win Richard Condie many new fans and more animation awards. Though the influences on his work is visible in his films, he is unique and irreplaceable, a true Win- nipeg treasure. Brad Caslor's debts are much more obvious and his individuality more subtle, but his Get a Job is such an ambitious and fully-realized work that it quickly deflates any quibbles about its being derivative. It is an un- abashed homage to the golden age of animation: Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons of the late thirties and early forties. Get a Job took six years from conception to realization, and it's easy to see why. The care and artistry of the animator are visible in every frame. If cheap and clumsy Saturday morning animation de- presses you, Get a Job will put you on cloud nine. Originally conceived by Caslor and Derek Mazur as a parody of Disney's "How to" cartoons featuring Goofy learning to swim, play baseball, etc., Get a Job takes its title from the old fifties rock and roll classic by the Sil- houettes. The opening sequence is like an animated rock video of this song as produced by animation idols Bob Clampett and Tax Avery. As a bloated pig, an oily rat, and a wolf serenade him, Bob Dog is booted out of one shop after another in his quest for employment. The timing is so snappy and the drawings are so lively that it is immediately obvious that this is an animator who has absorbed the secrets of the masters. No vague single-sketch backgrounds here; these are drawings that create a 360° cartoon environment. And the an- thropomorphized animals have weight, dimensions, and pliancy to them. The rest of the ten-minute cartoon is a series of songs and mini-sitcoms aimed at showing and telling Bob Dog what to do to Get a Job. An Elvis impersonator (flawlessly dubbed by Ray St. Germain) croons that "You Gotta Have a Plan". A Carmen Miranda look-alike asks the musical question: "What Are the Things That You Like to Do?" A sing- ing frog offers advice about resumés. And three porcine Andrews Sisters tunefully insist on following a schedule. Although all but the Elvis clone are rather old-fashioned and banal as characterizations, the action and animation are full and inventive. Inanimate objects like phones and hammers and pencils develop mouths that not only serve as back up accompaniment for the singerí but are intimidating to Bob Dog ir their towering insistence. In fact, one of the remarkable things about Gel a Job is that it is not only a clever in- structional movie and a Looney Tunes entertainment, it also effec- tively recreates the urgency, humilia- tion, and rejection of the job hunt. The movie is like an animated ver- sion of Woody Allen meeting film noir: a schlemiel swept along by a series of comic-horrific experiences that he can’t control. If Get a Job has a fault, it lies in the fact that the narrative is a bit too modernist, its pacing too slam-bang, its animation too rich to be absorbed on one viewing. And perhaps the ending is too pat. In an age of such pallid and meretricious cartoonery, however, this is hardly a criticism. If you yearn for the glory days of ani- mation when intelligence, wit, and artistry were part of a cartoonist's arsenal, then get a look, or two or three, at Get a Job. Of the other two NFB animated films to be released this year, Cordell Barker's movie The Cat Came Back is still too early in the drawing stages to be fairly appraised. But if the bang- on parody of K-Tel ads that he con- tributed to Brad Caslor's movie is any indication, then this will be some- thing to watch for. Though the song is familiar and has been set to images before, Fred Penner is a warm, attractive singer and Barker an experienced hand at animation. Of all the animation done in Winni- peg recently, Alan Pakarnyk's Car- ried Away has the advantage of be- ing completely different from the work of his colleagues. In washed- out grey/sepia tones a wandering character (an animated Alan himself) walks through a wasteland. A brightly-coloured butterfly turns into a pair of glasses; when he puts them on, he is transformed into a magician in a rainbow cloak dispensing col- oured bubbles. A menacing male head forms out of a blue storm-cloud; in an explosion of yellow a woman's head forms out of the clouds and Alan is assumed into it..Though it is pleasant and dreamy and attractively visualized, it is too quaint in its six- ties hallucinatory mysticism. It is also reminiscent of an early Jackson Five rock video though without that group's more invigorating music and fecundity of imagery and ideas. Pakarnyk's film highlights one of the real dangers that the animation community in Winnipeg is now fac- ing despite the upbeat mood gen- erated by a four-film year. And that is that animators here must work quickly and must keep abreast, not only of films done eisewhere but also of changes in technology. Computers can do, have already done, similar things and more things in a tiny frac- tion of the amount of time it took to complete Carried Away. Winnipeg animators must not avoid the chal- lenge of the computer, as a potential helpmate or serious threat. The government-sponsored organ- izations that support the local ani- mation community, i.e., the CBC and the NFB, have some responsibility in this regard. Computers are expen- sive, and no individual or small group can easily afford the capital outlay for such a constantly changing tech- nology. More importantly, these organizations must be vigilant in maintaining the level of support for animators that is now in place. The Prairie production office of the NFB has gone out of its way to encourage ani:írction, more so than any other regional NFB office. But last year Winnipeg had forly Sesame Street segments; this year there are only twenty-seven. If this source of work is allowed to dry up because of CBC cutbacks and centralization, ani- mators will be forced to find work elsewhere. An important part of the cultural life of the community will disappear. And a chain of animation history stretching back seventy-five years to Jean Arsin will lose a vital link. Gene Walz teaches in the Film Studies Program at the University of Manitoba. He has written a book on Francois Truffaut and has contri- buted articles to Cinema Canada and Arts Manitoba. Courtesy Border Crossings, Autumn, 1985 Sun Over Darkness Prevail An album of Stephan G. Stephansson poems in translation put to folk music settings by Alberta songwriter Richard White featuring translations by Jakobina Johnson, Thorvaldur Johnson, Paul Sigurdson, and others "... kept the strength ofthe original poems and added the beauty ofmusic to them." Winnipeg Free Press Available for $11.00 postpaid ($13.00 first class) from Tonic Records Box 9631 Edmonton Alberta T6E 5X3



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