Thursday, December 31, 2015

Who says 3D is new?

From King of the Mardi Gras, a 1935 Popeye cartoon. Max Fleischer was one of the great innovators of early animation. As far as I am concerned, he kicked Disney's ass. His stuff was extremely goofy and almost surreal, busting out of Disney's ultra-conventional mold. In this cartoon, the rides of the fairground are eerily realistic in the background, almost as if. . . as if they were really there

And they were.

The whole thing was done on a turntable with miniatures. I think that's brilliant. I can't explain it as well as this paragraph I found on an animation site:

The setback rig consists of a forced-perspective, miniature set mounted on a turntable, serving as background to the cel art held in a vertical glass platen, and a horizontal animation camera. The turntable is rotated incrementally behind the cels, creating the effect of a “tracking shot” — the 2D animated character, in a side-view walk cycle, traverses a realistically proportioned (but still recognizably Fleischeresque) 3D environment which moves perspectivally across the background.

Take that, Mickey bleeping Mouse.

BUT WAIT - there's more! Information on this process isn't that easy to find, as I keep getting sidetracked by people using the term "rotoscope" (including in the comments under the original YouTube video). This is another process entirely, involving painting over live-action images.

But here it is, an actual photograph of Dave Fleischer at work with his "set-back" animation method.

How 3-D Animation Was Made Seventy Years Ago

In 1941, the Fleischer Studio constructed this elaborate three-dimensional distorted perspective set for the feature Mr. Bug Goes to Town.

Built of balsa wood and plastics, it required architect-artists four months to construct. The entire set rests on a steel turntable which can both revolve and move up and down. Drawings will be photographed a full six feet in front of the set and the combination of the “set-back” photography and the “distorted perspective” of the set will provide the illusion of third dimension, according to director Dave Fleischer, who is seen moving the set.

Blogger's reflections. From what I've picked up, Mr. Bug was watered-down Fleischer that didn't do so well at the box office, having been released on Pearl Harbour Day in 1941. Americans had more pressing things on their minds than animated bugs.

When I look at this, I see someone trying to copy Disney. Maybe it was called survival. At any rate, the one-line review I found in Rotten Tomatoes kind of shocked me.

A bizarre mess that fails at every imaginable level.
Full Review… | February 4, 2011
Film Threat

Oh, and. As a P. S. to the P. S., here's a snippet of gold: from Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves, one of those "feature-length" Popeye cartoons that lasted seventeen minutes. Beautiful, they were, and very three-dimensional.

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TURNABOUT opening credits NBC sitcom

I keep running into this thing. I even found, sort-of, an episode, but it had two guys making comments on top of it, a form I find hard to take. Let the episode speak for itself, with its own special brand of cheesiness, rather than "Oh man! Lookit how cheesy this is!" "Awesome!". Yeah.

I have always liked animation at the start of TV sitcoms, and these reached a full flowering in the mid-to-late '60s (though there was lots of abstract stuff in the '50s). This show came later, in the '70s some time. Apparently the series lasted seven episodes. Sharon Gless and John Schuck do their best, but it's a soiled rag, folks. Actors can only do so much with material this weak/bizarre.

A new low in narcissism: Facebook quote of the day/year

Actual Facebook quote. Name withheld, though I don't know why:

"A complete stranger stopped me to say I looked beautiful. That hasn't happened in many years and it made my day."

To this person, I'd say: I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes. This is what you'd hear, and you'd probably find it intolerable:

"Hi, everybody. My beauty is so overwhelming, people literally stop me in the street just to tell me! Of course, this isn't the first time I've been stopped in the street. It used to happen to me all the time. So now I guess it has started up again. This makes my day, particularly since it is Facebook bait for dozens and dozens of gushing remarks about how beautiful I am. I mean, what else can they say?"

Who needs ipecac when you have stuff like this.

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