Friday, February 29, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Let's face it, regardless of if you love or hate "Anime," Japan is kicking our asses when it comes to outright technical skill and creativity and actually taking advantage of the 2d animated medium. Not just 2d, but also using technology and combining 2d with 3d and even live action to get effects and shots you could only dream of in your wildest imaginations. Meanwhile, we live in Disney's shadow. Simply trying to relearn and relive what has already been. While we're catching up with the past, they're actually creating things that are completely new. Chances are being taken.
To think that hand drawn animation is considered a "risk" in today's CG saturated market, let alone hand drawn animation that seeks to experiment and manipulate rules to create new stimulating visuals. Certain elements in Japan at least acknowledge animation as a craft, not just a commodity. In the states we "ooh" and "ah" in 7 minute intervals at something mildly different and creative that was made by some obscure animator living in a closet somewhere. They've got at least a couple of entire studios dedicated to trying out new things.
Apparently they're making money or how else would movies like Mindgame, Paprika or Tekkon Kinkreet keep getting made? One could argue that their audience is more sophisticated and appreciative of art, comics and animation and recognize that the mediums are in fact, MEDIUMS and not just a "kiddy genre." Is it simply a difference in culture or could a lack of effort to challenge status quo here in the west be all that stands in the way of saving a dying (and believe me, almost dead as far as big business in the West is concerned) craft?
There is an incredible lack of skill concerning art and entertainment in the United States, in general, that I think is brought on by serious ignorance and a lack of historic context. Instead of capitalizing on hundreds of years of technique and knowledge developed by master illustrators and painters and building upon that knowledge and moving ahead with even better work, many people that "draw" simply seek to emulate what they saw the day before. Copying copies of a copy of a copy and not ever once thinking about the source of that style or technique and what that particular line on a character's chin is really supposed to represent. Merely content to emulate drawings superficially and without thought as to WHY the artist they copy put that line in that particular spot.
Gee, where have I seen that hand before? I'm not even gonna bother with pointing out everything else wrong with this drawing.
An even more disturbing thing I notice is that some so-called "professional" artists and animators don't even know how low the standards for their craft have gotten. One need only look to foreign art and animation to see that people around the world, particularly in places like France, Spain and Japan, have been able to develop well-crafted, original art, comics and animation more consistently for mainstream purposes. That's the key right there... MAINSTREAM art. Not some guy, in a closet, working for crumbs and living simply off of passion and getting lucky enough to be showcased in a festival seen by people who already like animation, in essence, preaching to the choir.
Obviously those countries have their fair share of crap as well. People that hate anime are, for the most part, justified in their prejudices, but you can't ignore the fact that the small percentage of well-crafted work in Japan still exceeds the standards of what we consider well-crafted in the States.
Quite honestly, shows like El Tigre are a bit overdone and lack focused art direction. Everything is yelling at you in terms of detail and color and there is no seeming hierarchy that leads your eye to focus on what is important at any given moment. The backgrounds are loud and the characters are loud and the storytelling.... well, that's loud too. It's wonderful that all of these talented (and many personal fav's of mine) are working on the show, but some detail must be held back in order for the other elements to be their most effective. Still, it's one of the most well designed shows on tv...
When it gets right down to it, our priorities in the West are simply counterproductive to any attempts to add to the culture. Instead we've simply perfected capitalism and made everything into an assembly line. That's fine and well when it comes to creating cars and toothpicks but when it comes to something so incredibly personal and customized to each person's way of thinking, the culture suffers. We have nothing personal to show or to say to each other. Nothing to be proud of and to look back on as an incredible accomplishment. We've replaced culture with hollow nostalgia. Even the shows and movies we create nowadays simply seek to remind us of better entertainment that has long since passed. Family Guy makes a fortune off of it. But even Seth McFarlane is at least personally invested in his creation as he pitched a fit when Fox decided to continue the series after he decided to leave it. I understand a guy like Seth McFarlane is a huge fan of good entertainment and he is certainly cares about celebrating good entertainment, but when your biggest achievement was simply a creation that gets most of it's entertainment value from reminding us of past entertainment, well... there's something wrong going on there.
Eh... let's just end this rant right there. I hope that whoever reads this at least gets the gist of what I'm trying to articulate. We gotta try harder and take more chances. Don't look at what's current to set your standards for what's "good," look to the past for what was "best" and seek to go miles beyond that.