Irish Songs and Secret, in Cartoon Form

This Sunday are the Oscars, and the nominees for animated feature film feature three pretty big American releases (How to Train your Dragon 2, The Boxtrolls, and Big Hero 6) and two more exotic releases, including the latest Studio Ghibli release.  Besides Japan, the other foreign country represented is, perhaps surprisingly, Ireland!

Song of the Sea was created by Paul Young and Tomm Moore, and it takes on the Irish myth of the selkie, seals who shed their seal skins to become women and take human husbands… or something like that…  The Oscars’ page on the film has some more footage, and it really is stunning!

The selkie is a pretty folk tale, but of course my favorite interpretation is John Allison’s!  Selkies figured into a 2012 Bad Machinery case, and I just love those meddling mystery-solving kids!  Click on the image below to read The Case of the Fire Inside from the beginning!

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside, copyright John Allison

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside, copyright John Allison

Tomm Moore is also the creator of the similarly-Irish-themed and similarly-gorgeously-animated 2009 feature film The Secret of Kells, this one about the classic monastic illustrated manuscript, The Book of Kells.

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Abstract Animation

Yesterday an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on the post-war German, and eventually international, network of artists called Zero closed.  I had never heard of the group or most of its members, but it was a great exhibit and an interesting moment in (art) history…

One of the recurring themes for the group and many of its members was movement in art, either literally art with moving parts, or optically, creating the impression of movement.

Vision in Motion / Motion in Vision exhibit at Hessenhuis, Antwerp 1959

Vision in Motion / Motion in Vision exhibit at Hessenhuis, Antwerp 1959

As such, it was interesting that one of the earliest group shows, whose distinctive installation (seen above) the Guggenheim mimicked in part of their own exhibit, was called Vision in Motion – Motion in Vision.  Held in an old industrial building in Antwerp in 1959, it included some moving pieces, proto-op-art pieces implying movement, and one abstract animation by the American Robert Breer.

The Breer piece included in the Guggenheim was Phase Forms IV, from 1959, and the above animation, Eyewash, was from the same year, the earliest piece I could find by him online…  The piece I saw at the Guggenheim, maybe more than this one, reminded me a tiny bit of a better known 1965 semi-abstract animation by that American animation giant, Chuck Jones:

Kindred spirits-ish…

Happy Birthday Miyazaki!

Today is Hayao Miyazaki‘s 74th birthday!  He is most famous as co-founder of the Studio Ghibli animation studio (official website, in Japanese) and as writer and director of many of its most beloved films.

Miyazaki began working in animation in 1963, a career that came to an end 50 years later in 2013 with the release of The Wind Rises, which he said would be his last movie.  His retirement has launched a new wave of accolades, including an Academy Honorary Award at last year’s Governor Awards (see his acceptance here).

Five years earlier in 2009 Miyazaki was honored at an event by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and here he speaks on the tension between hand-drawn and computer-aided animation:

(There are more clips from this conversation, and this bit about his villains is especially interesting for someone known for his morally ambiguous “bad” guys.)

As for what Miyazaki will do in retirement, he has started work on a serialized samurai manga set in Japan’s Warring States period, (EDIT: updated Warring States link from ancient Chinese namesake to correct Japanese version) so a return to manga like his environmental epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, serialized between 1982 and 1994.  I’m actually on the last volume of this myself, so expect further thoughts on it soon…

Some of his collaborators have said it’s likely Miyazaki will come out of retirement (he’s done so before), but in the meantime, Studio Ghibli is still releasing movies, including The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (already released in Japan in 2013), directed by the other Studio Ghibli co-founder, Isao Takahata, with a markedly different animation style:

You Meddling Kids!

I’ve written about Manchester-based cartoonist John Allison before: he’s made several webcomic series set in the mystery-filled north English town of Tackleford since 1998, and the most recent series is Bad Machinery, launched in 2009.  I may like this series best of all as it fulfills my love of mystery-solving kids!

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside, copyright John Allison

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside, copyright John Allison

Sadly, Allison recently said that he’s retiring Bad Machinery, if not the beloved characters themselves:

I don’t want to stop telling stories with these characters, but I’m not sure I can do much more with them without returning to the drawing board. There’s definitely more to come from Charlotte, Shauna and the rest of them, but you might not see much of them for a little while. (source)

In the meantime, he has plenty of characters and stories to build on in the shared universe that is Tackleford for regular updates until he figures out their next incarnation; currently, he’s returned to the Bobbins heading that started his webcomic career off back in 1998.  As for Bad Machinery, there are eight full cases available online, and Oni Press is also releasing them in print form, two down and six to go!

While I wait for the junior detectives of Tackleford to make their come back, I do have another pair of meddling kids to tide me over:

That’s right, Alex Hirsch‘s Gravity Falls from Disney Animation!  Starring twins Mabel and Dipper Pines and their paranormal adventures in the mystery-filled town of Gravity Falls, Oregon…  It has a really enchanting setting and great animation, but compared to Bad Machinery it maybe has a more cynical, detached sense of humor?  Which doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it!  But maybe Bad Machinery is more satisfying on more levels…

And of course, in deference to the grandaddy of all mystery solving kids shows, here’s Mabel Pine’s Scooby Doo impersonation:

Illustration Week 2014 Plus

Today is the start of Illustration Week 2014, with panels, exhibits, and screenings on illustration, comics, and animation at several New York institutions including the Society of Illustrators and SVA.  In addition to the official events, I have a couple of other, relevant events you might want to add to your calendar this week…

Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen

Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen

The weekly New York Comic Picture & Story Symposium actually has two events this week, the regularly scheduled one on Tuesday about late Medieval religious cartoons by Marlene Villalobos Hennessy of Hunter College and an extra meeting on Wednesday with Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen on his work.  Both events at the New School at 7 pm.

Then, on Friday at 6:15 pm, as part of MoMA‘s To Save and Project film series of recently preserved film from around the world, a night of cartoons by the legendary Winsor McCay, famed creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland!  The event is moderated by animator and animation historian John Canemaker, author of the 2005 book Winsor McCay: His Life and Art.

The event is programmed in part for the 100th anniversary of Gertie the Dinosaur from 1914, the first cartoon to use keyframe animation among other techniques, so that will of course be part of the programming!

The Natives are on TV

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

In honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, Opéra National de Bordeaux is putting on Rameau‘s 1735 opera Les Indes Galantes (which I’ve discussed before), and Medici TV has your front row, live streaming ticket today!

The opera is structured as four love stories in four “exotic” settings; last time I shared excerpts from the North American and Persian settings, so here’s one from the Peruvian story in a different production by Les Arts Florissants at the Paris Opera:

For a more modern, but still Bizarro Twins appropriate, depiction of Native Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York is offering daily screenings of installments of the Stories from the Seventh Fire, a series of cartoons inspired by Anishinaabe folklore through Sunday.

The series by Canadian director Gregory Coyes can be purchased through Green Planet Films.

The animation is in parts inspired by the art of pioneering Anishinaabe Canadian artist Norval Morriseau, which is also on view at the NMAI.  Here’s an appraisal of some lovely Morriseau pieces on Antiques Roadshow, if that floats your boat like it does mine.

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

40 Years of Funky

Today’s Saturday morning cartoon post is about a new exhibit on black cartoon characters up at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (host to the Black Comics Fest a few weeks ago).

Specifically charting the increasingly positive depictions of black characters in cartoons from the 1970s, the show is actually the first traveling exhibit of the Museum of Uncut Funk, founded by Sista ToFunky (favorite comic? Heroes for Hire) in 2009.

The show features characters like the Jackson 5ive, Harlem GlobeTrotters, and of course Fat Albert:

One noteworthy cartoon here is “Kid Power“, which I’d never heard of, but was based on Morrie Turner‘s nationally syndicated multicultural comic strip Wee Pals.  Turner died in January of this year.

If you can’t make it to New York, you can see selections from the museum’s animation collection online.