Friday, March 03, 2006

Windmill, Windmill

Windmill, Windmill for the land,
Turn forever hand in hand,
Love forever, love is free,
Let’s turn forever, you and me.”
(“Feel Good, Inc.” - Gorillaz (composer: Gorillaz/Jolicoeur, D.) [band’s Wikipedia entry, web site]

The animated music video of “Feel Good, Inc.” [video in real & winmedia from Toshiba-EMI Japan] by Gorillaz (a “virtual band” composed of four fictional animated characters which are featured in the bands’ animated music videos) has enjoyed popularity and seems apropos as a segue to noting a very important anniversary in popular media – 2006 is the 100th anniversary of the animated film.

In April, 1906, Englishman-in-America James Stuart Blackton  created what is regarded as the first American animated film – “...Blackton directed "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" [video in mpg from America’s Library] which uses stop-motion as well as stick puppetry to produce a series of effects. After Blackton's hand draws two faces on a chalkboard, they appear to come to life and engage in antics. Most of the film uses life action effects instead of animation, but nevertheless this film had a huge effect in stimulating the creation of animated films in America” [quoted text from Wikipedia, additional information from here].

Animated films have come a long way from these humble beginnings, and what was an exotic novelty a century ago is now the stuff of the universal childhood experience, and a high circulation genre at most public libraries. In recent years Japanese anime has become extremely popular and influential beyond the shores of Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed watching several films by Hayao Miyazaki that were featured on sequential Thursday nights on AMC not long ago, and I was not the least surprised to learn that my colleague, Roger Thompson, is at his local video store the day the latest release (3 volumes and running) in the Ghost in the Shell series hits retail shelves.

Libraries, archives, and museums no doubt have a lot of work going on this space, but I’ll admit my knowledge is a bit limited as to what’s going on. A search of the still-growing directory (search the “Archive Explore” directory) for animation collections at the Moving Image Collections (MIC) site yielded 81 agencies. Though unfortunately not yet listed at MIC (as I said MIC’s directory is a work in progress – add your collection if yours is not yet listed), worth noting is the ASIFA-Hollywood Archives which “acts as a repository for papers, production materials, publications and artwork of animation artists, organizations and studios, and makes them available to scholars, journalists and filmmakers” [source].  Their blog is promoting the 100th anniversary of animated film and offering news about ASIFA-Hollywood’s work on a project [Wikipedia entry] that “involves the creation of a VIRTUAL ARCHIVE which will house images, movie clips and sound files pertaining to the art of animation” [some interesting technical details here]. Courtesy of  a post on the Rogue Scholar, catalogers in particular may wish to consult a great article, “Graphic Novels! Japanese Anime! Help!!!,” by Jeanne Poole, in the December 2005 issue of TechKNOW.

Finally, as a historical note, for those of us who remember when MTV was young, the first major high-end animation music video was by the Norwegian group, A-ha [Wikipedia entry] whose song, “Take Me On” [video on MTV] enjoyed well-deserved heavy rotation on its debut. Stylistically different from the Gorillaz music videos, “Take Me On” displays uncommonly high production values given the general state of music videos issued during the same period.

So over to you, gentle IAG readers, where are the stand-out scholarly animation collections? What cool animation projects and animation-for-the-users stories are out there that everyone should know about? And is it just me, or does anyone else think ALA should get Gorillaz to pose for a celebrity READ poster?

(Note, image of Demon Days album cover is from here, and it’s use in this posting is believed to fair use)


Andy Havens said...

Great post! Lots of neat links on an important medium.

Another area worth touching on in the discussion of animation is its use in gaming. And while animation in games is fascinating in and of itself, I'm even more intrigued by the use of gaming engines to specifically *create* animation progjects; the term for the output of which being "machinima;" I blogged briefly a bit on the subject awhile ago.

Using a medium (animation) created to entertain in another medium (games) to go back out and create yet more animation. How meta is that?

Eric said...

Andy, thanks for the nice comment. Roger Thompson mentioned machinima briefly to me on Friday, but we didn't have him explain it properly. Your post does. Thanks. I should have possibly added in the original post a link to Sitayana by Nina Paley which is an absolutely delightful animation, but all the more interesting because it uses early 20th century western popular music to shape and propel a modern retailing of an ancient tale. Maybe reuse and remixing are the ultimate long tail drivers?

DJ dADDy Lanz said...

I just love the D.A.R.E. video...Recently discovered the band. Heard of them but never really listen.