Priit PĂ€rn (1987)

Eine Murul (Breakfast on the Grass), inspired by Édouard Manet’s Le DĂ©jeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), is one of Priit PĂ€rn’s most powerful films. It’s also one of his most difficult, and its message is at times hard to decipher. PĂ€rn doesn’t tell straightforward stories, and much remains unexplained. Most importantly, it’s one of the few films showing insight in Eastern European life under the communist oppression. Its atmosphere is gloomy, its graphic style crude and scratchy, its humor dark, and its surrealism disturbing. Breakfast on the Grass won the Nika Award for Best Animated Feature Film in 1988.

Eine murul (Breakfast on the Grass) was made during a unique time in the 1980s when Soviet Bloc animation was enjoying both the new freedoms of Gorbachev’s regime while at the same time still receiving state funding, something that would soon largely disappear under the new capitalist-style free markets. As Estonian animation began to push its own identity and achieve recognition just before independence, Priit PĂ€rn’s films attracted attention with their naĂŻve drawing style and controversy for a perspective on life behind the ‘iron curtain’ that would have been considered dangerously subversive a decade previously. PĂ€rn managed to sidestep both the Disney-style kiddie cuteness previously prescribed by the government controlled Soyuzmultfilm studio and the dull preaching of a lot of his contemporaries’ ‘serious’ political animation. Along with the gritty social commentary, his films are also characterised by bizarre, surreal and ironic humour.

“PĂ€rn also managed to find a stylistic middle ground between traditional cartoon drawing and raw primitivism, his scratchy style of drawing was confident and original and managed to be both figurative enough to be easily readable while retaining a free, spontaneous nature (by its painstaking nature a quality hard to find in much animation). His complex films were not only a simple criticism against totalitarian communist societies but also seemed to question the flip-side of the coin, a free market extreme where naked competition and materialism can lead to alienation, exploitation and the coarsening of values.

“In Eine murul (Breakfast On The Grass), four overlapping stories show various citizens struggle not only against poverty, shortages and the limitations of life under communist rule but against their own inner demons. Uncontrolled desires for wealth, power and beauty lead to various forms of self-hate, greed and corruption, often expressed with surreal symbolism. The film ends in a dreamlike sequence in which the four main characters are admitted into a symbolic, private pleasure garden based on Èdouard Manet’s painting Le dĂ©jeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), perhaps the culmination of all their dreams.

“Many Ukrainian animators were heavily influenced by PĂ€rn’s style and, as travel limitations loosened for Soviet Bloc citizens, this influence spread around the world where its design can even be seen in mainstream examples such as the children’s TV series Rugrats.

-Stephen Cavalier

The music-loving inhabitants of Pepperland are under siege by the Blue Meanies, a nasty group of music-hating creatures. The Lord Mayor of Pepperland (Dick Emery) dispatches sailor Old Fred (Lance Percival) to Liverpool, England, where he is to recruit the help of the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr). The sympathetic Beatles ride a yellow submarine to the occupied Pepperland, where the Blue Meanies have no chance against the Fab Four’s groovy tunes.

Paul McCartney wrote the majority of this song. He explained shortly after it was released in 1966: “‘Yellow Submarine’ is very simple but very different. It’s a fun song, a children’s song. Originally we intended it to be ‘Sparky’ a children’s record. But now it’s the idea of a yellow submarine where all the kids went to have fun. I was just going to sleep one night and thinking if we had a children’s song, it would be nice to be on a yellow submarine where all your friends are with a band.”

Paul purposely used short words in the lyrics because he wanted kids to pick it up early and sing along.

 

Squirrel Nut Zippers (1998)

Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Ghost of Stephen Foster music video. From the album Perennial Favorites (Mammoth Records). Winner of “Best Animated Music Video” at the 1999 Vancouver Animation Festival. Directed and produced by Raymond Persi and Matthew Nastuk.

Animators include Ben Jones, Michael Ludy, Jason Magness, and Ashley Mims.

Pearl Jam & Todd McFarlane (1998)

The animated music video for Do the Evolution was co-directed by Kevin Altieri, known for his direction on Batman: The Animated Series, and Todd McFarlane, better known for his work with the popular comic book Spawn and Korn’s 1999 Freak on a Leash video. The video was produced by Joe Pearson, the president of Epoch Ink animation, and Terry Fitzgerald at TME. It was written and developed by Pearson and Altieri with input from McFarlane and Vedder. The total production time on the music video was 16 weeks. The animation pre-production was produced by Epoch Ink Animation at their studio in Santa Monica, California. Under Altieri and Pearson’s supervision the Epoch team boarded and designed the short in less than six weeks. Once McFarlane, Vedder, and Sony gave their final approvals, the short was taken to Korea by Altieri and Pearson for animation at Sun Min Image Pictures and Jireh Animation. Over a four-week period, a team of more than one hundred artists worked to deliver the finished animation.

Once the final animation was back in Los Angeles, California, Altieri, McFarlane, and Vedder edited the final cut at Vittello Productions. In a press release, McFarlane stated, “We choose to work with people who convey a particular attitude and this video is a tribute to that attitude,” while Pearl Jam stated, “As artists we are challenged to expand the meaning of our work and by utilizing this visual medium and working with a visionary like Todd, we were able to further explore some of the themes we depicted in the song Do the Evolution. Basically we’ve tried to make a good stoner video.” The video premiered on August 24, 1998 on MTV’s 120 Minutes. The video was the band’s first since the final video for the song Oceans on the album Ten. At the 1999 Grammy Awards, the music video received a nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form. The video clip for Do the Evolution can be found on the Touring Band 2000 DVD as one of the Special Features.

Claude Cloutier (2007)

In this animated short, Sleeping Betty is stuck in bed, victim to a strange bout of narcolepsy. The King calls on his subjects to rescue her and they all respond to the call: Uncle Henry VIII, Aunt Victoria, an oddly emotional alien, a funky witch and a handsome prince. But will a kiss really be enough to wake the sleeping princess? The film, drawn in ink, is a classic example of the anachronistic and playful world of Claude Cloutier.

Nelvana (1983)

Documentary on the making of the cult classic Nelvana animated film, Rock & Rule. Featuring interviews with Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Iggy Pop, Maurice White, and Director Clive Smith.

Progressive and daring for its time, Nelvana’s Rock & Rule was the first English-speaking animated feature film ever made entirely in Canada. It features adult themes, and a stellar rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack including Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick, and Earth Wind & Fire. Unfortunately, the production faced an enormous amount of hurdles and due in part to a lack of marketing and distribution, it was a box-office flop. Now, over 30 years later, Rock & Rule enjoys a cult status on par with Heavy Metal.

Oskar Fischenger (1940)

In Disney’s mind, the success of Snow White and the Mickey Mouse cartoons had purchased for the studio the artistic and financial freedom to take their art to new heights — and to take the risk of venturing into abstraction. “The abstractions that were done in Toccata and Fugue,” he explained, “were no sudden idea. Rather, they were something that we had nursed along for several years but we never had a chance to try.”

German-American animator Oskar Fischinger, whose Optical Poem (1938) had been set to music by Liszt, was regarded as the world’s finest creator of abstract animation.

Disney called on Fischinger to design visuals for the Bach animation — but when Disney insisted on adapting Fischinger’s work to a degree Fischinger found excessive, he quit and did not receive credit for his work.

By 1940, abstraction in art wasn’t new or shocking. Was the world ready, though, for dark, dense abstraction in an animated family feature? That was what Walt Disney was ready to find out when he brought his new film Fantasia to debut in New York City, which had been rocked 27 years earlier by Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.

Opening Fantasia with the Bach animation was a very deliberate choice. Not only did the challenging segment establish from the outset that this would be a very different sort of film than Snow White or Pinocchio, it served as a bridge between the orchestra and the screen.

With Fantasia, Disney aimed not only to explore new frontiers in the medium of animation, but to help a mass audience unlock the layers of complex classical music such as Bach’s organ composition.

“There are things in this music that the general public will not understand until they see the things on the screen representing that music,” Disney said in a Fantasia story conference. “Our object is to reach the very people who have walked out on this Toccata and Fugue because they didn’t understand it. I am one of those people; but when I understand it, I like it.”

-Jay Gabler

In this OscarÂź-winning short film, Norman McLaren employs the principles normally used to put drawings or puppets into motion to animate live actors. The story is a parable about two people who come to blows over the possession of a flower.                      Directed by Norman McLaren – 1952

This OscarÂź-winning animated short from Chris Landreth is based on the life of Ryan Larkin, a Canadian animator who produced some of the most influential animated films of his time. Ryan is living every artist’s worst nightmare – succumbing to addiction, panhandling on the streets to make ends meet. Through computer-generated characters, Landreth interviews his friend to shed light on his downward spiral. Some strong language. Viewer discretion is advised.

Animator Ryan Larkin uses an artist’s sensibility to illustrate the way people walk. He employs a variety of techniques–line drawing, colour wash, etc.–to catch and reproduce the motion of people afoot. The springing gait of youth, the mincing step of the high-heeled female, the doddering amble of the elderly–all are registered with humour and individuality, to the accompaniment of special sound. Without words.

Phil Tippett has spent a lifetime in the film industry, working as a model-maker, visual effects supervisor, director and stop-motion animator. He’s been involved with big-name productions such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and RoboCop among others. But his real passion lies in handmade stop-motion animation. For over 30 years, Tippett has been working on an incredibly detailed film called “Mad God”. He describes it as being set “in a Milton-esque world of monsters, mad scientists and war pigs.” Amazingly, each character is painstakingly constructed by hand from foam, clay, latex and wire. Despite all the arduous toil, Tippett sees “Mad God” as a form of therapy and a way to reconnect with a time when special effects and animation were all done by hand.