Here’s to ya!


It’s not often that Garge references animated cartoons in his strip, but take a look at 9-9-1938 and 9-10.  In the finish to last week’s sequence, Ignatz tries to convince Offissa Pupp that the brick is actually an animated drawing! Pupp comes up with an animated rejoinder in 9-10 with his rolling jail. I love the gag in 9-14, it feels like Garge might have used in earlier years; it sort of ties in with the animation theme this week. Take a look at the drawing of Ignatz socking Krazy in the 9-15 strip. I think it’s the happiest Krazy that Garge ever penned. Once again, Ignatz tries to fool Offissa Pupp into thinking that the brick is a hallucination, but this time it doesn’t work. By the way, did you know that if you click on the strips, they will display larger in a seperate window? Some people don’t know that.

Cathy and I saw “Ratatouille” at the Sam Goldwyn theater last week. No film involved, an all digital presentation of an all-digital film. The image was very clean, no scratches or cue marks, looked almost flawless, although a shade under-lit. We all were really watching extremely high-class projected television. I must admit that I wasn’t thinking about whether it was film or digital projection until about half-way through the film. There was no hard-edge film “strobe” or chattering in the image, and that’s when it dawned on me that I wasn’t watching film.

“Ratatouille” is a pretty good looking (digital) “film”, we were both entertained by it. We are both fans of cooking and the Food Network, so the subject matter was appealing. Brad could have spent even more time in the kitchen cooking and less time with the romantic subplot, which didn’t seem believable. Preparing the actual ratatouille dish for the food critic, and his reaction to it, was the highspot of the picture for me. I’m glad Brad didn’t succumb to temptation and made one of the chefs a caricature of Emeril Lagasse, or something, though Emeril (Food Network chef) is quite a cartoony guy.

I used to animate for Brad, I worked on “The Family Dog” episode of Amazing Stories that he directed. I worked free-lance, one of the scenes I did was the Family Dog dropping his dog dish on the floor at the feet of the housewife. Brad was a good director and very intensely involved in telling the story. Sometimes he was so dedicated to, and emotional about the picture that I feared for his health. All of us who worked on the episode received T-shirts from Brad that said “Birdworks Animation Guerillas” on one side, and “Die, Mediocrity, Die!” on the reverse. Brad, was then and still is determined to purge his films of all “mediocrity”. You can never say that Brad doesn’t care about his work. Now that digital puppeteering has replaced the animated drawing as his performance medium, he can no doubt do corrections and changes and additions to scenes more easily than ever before. For the most part, this works in favor of the acting and against “mediocrity”. The only thing that bothered me even a little bit, was the sameness (not mediocrity)  in the expression of anger by most of the characters, be they rats, big chefs or little chefs. When one character gets angry at another one, they usually get nose to nose, teeth clenched in anger, usually with big gestures and Milt Kahl headshakes. The lady chef certainly acted that way in her early scenes with Linguini, and the head chef (the little guy) expressed anger in a similar way. Even the restaurant critic, voiced by Peter O’Toole let his anger boil over at least once that I recall. All of this isn’t really that much of a flaw, as it is a reflection of Brad’s personality through his characters. Brad can be a very intense (even angry) guy at times. Anger is a very “felt” emotion, and is fun to animate. Happiness, love, tenderness can be fun to express as well, but don’t involve the whole body as intensely as anger can. Maybe these scenes needed just a little more thought about how that SPECIFIC character would feel and express anger.

I thought the art direction and lighting in the movie were outstanding. I think Michel Gagne (it certainly looked like his stuff) animated the Oskar Fischinger-esque spirals and grawlixes to show visually how food tastes to a gourmand. They accompanied Remy talking about mixing flavors. When Remy’s pal, the fat rat, becomes aware of flavors, the grawlixes are there, but less intense in value and color to illustrate his amateur standing as a food fancier. The mobile camera is a very flexible tool in the hands of digital puppeteers, with the dimensional character, the camera can move all around, in front, behind and inside the character quite fluidly. Sometimes, this works well, as in the scene where Remy is throwing ingredients into a pot and the camera slowly circles him as he does it. Animating a scene like that with drawings would be a very difficult acting and technical challenge. I felt a bit less comfortable with several sequences in a row of Remy scrambling up and down buildings closely followed by the digital camera. One sequence like that would have been impressive, two or three in a row become disorienting on the big screen, and after awhile the audience takes them for granted. Does camera movement like that really advance the story? Sometimes simple camera pans over well-designed sets work just as well. Of course with such a Pandora’s box of tricks and tools as digital puppeteering provides for the filmmaker, the question is often: “I know I CAN, but SHOULD I?” “Ratatouille” is really enjoyable, though, although some folks, like Mike Sporn, were repulsed by a lot of rats in the kitchen. Well, at least they sterilized themselves in the dishwasher before working with the food, Mike. (I liked how fluffed up they were when coming out of the steamer.) I found myself more bothered by a cartoon cliche like a single-shot rifle (fired by the old lady), being able to fire many times in succession without being reloaded! I’m going to shut up, now. Expressing any kind of opinion on the internet can be troublesome and doing reviews of friends’ work can be dangerous. Fortunately, relatively few people read this blog. ‘Bye til next time.

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