Bits and Bobs

Here is a collection of work I’ve yet to upload, some of this work was used in my final outcome:

 

Leigh Pearce

Leigh Pearce is an illustrator who has produced a variety of posters, record sleeves, an endless amount of characters and more as well as more dynamic works such as animations and the design of apps, working for companies like Vodafone, Virgin Media and more. As with a lot of the artists I’ve researched for this project I first found Pearce in an issue of Computer Arts, for which he supplied an “army of brightly coloured chirpy retards”, by which he means characters. I loved these characters as soon as I saw them, they’re all interesting and have character, they all slightly vary in style, but are still recognisable as Pearce’s work and they look like they could each have a story of their own. Pearce often gives his characters a back-story, such as ‘Bacon Ears’ who was featured in the CA article, he is a Vietnam vet whose ears were lost in combat, which were then replaced with streaky bacon by a short-sited surgeon. I find this level of storytelling within one character really intriguing and relative to my own work and I think that this depth in Pearce’s work makes it more valuable by giving it meaning and potential — I bet — if not Pearce himself — someone, somewhere could easily produce a short animation depicting Bacon Ear’s misfortune and other stories.

leigh Pearce

Another piece which show’s Pearce’s ability to portray narrative and relevance is the poster produced for hip-hop trio De La Soul, Pearce gives specification of  and relevance to the elements in the image, linking to parts of/songs of De La Soul’s. The piece itself gives a characterised and somewhat humorous portrayal of the three men in Pearce’s naive and charming style. Like many of his others, this poster uses a very limited colour palette to aid in its use to portray certain feelings, these dark reds and maroons give the impression of a tough and hardened group, which is contrasted by Pearce’s style, not to mention the group themselves, whose lyrics are often quirky and less tough than some ex-gang-banging peers. I think the poster works well by combining these elements and I feel that most people who find this poster will have heard of De La Soul, meaning that they will probably relate the charming style to the group more than the ‘meaner’ colours.

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Here‘s a link to Pearce’s blog, and here‘s his website.

I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tie in one of my favourite bands, so here’s Gorillaz with one of their latest collaborations with De La Soul:

Erica Burns

Dolphin Beach

I discovered Erica Burns in ol’ faithful (Computer Arts magazine) and was immediately drawn in by the vibrant colours and thick black lines which create a very dense and vibrant image.  Her work has an Aboriginal or Native American look to it which matches the colourful nature of the piece. She says her style of work is ‘hallucinographic cartoon illustration’, which is closely related to my work through the psychedelic premise and overall theme. She’s produced a lot of commissioned work for a variety of clients such as Fenchurch, Aviva and the London Olympics. Burns says she feels more constricted by commissioned work, which comes as part of the job — having your creative flair being directed down a sometimes narrow path. Fortunately Burns has been able to retain her style in her commissioned pieces, I like her packaging design for Starbucks coffee cups in particular as it’s her most adapted work. It  looks least like the others as the dark green is used for most of the background as well as the outline, making it seem like the illustrations have no outline, however it’s still recognisable as her work which shows she has a unique and identifiable style.

Erica Burns Starbuck coffee cup 1

See more on her website.

SuperFuckers

SF Icon

One of Cartoon Hangover’s productions, James Kochalka’s cartoon ‘Superfuckers’ uses bright colours and a simple-yet-effective style of animation which is in direct contrast with the absurd and sometimes vulgar stories and dialogue. The cartoon has had a generally positive reception; however some people on YouTube don’t seem to like the profane nature of the show and think it is unnecessary and doesn’t add to the story. I think the vulgarity is part of the cartoon, the shock value wears off after one or two episodes (as illustrated by the ‘dislikes’ bar on each video), the cartoon creates an environment where everything is open for ridicule which aims it towards a more immature audience (i.e. me). I think this type of writing has influenced my work, although my writing is a lot more reserved – it has abstract elements and silly humour. Superfuckers also includes scenes set in ‘Dimension Zero’ which is similar to the portals on Dῡd; I think elements like this in a cartoon can be used as a scapegoat for any story that needs to finish quickly, or to conclude any other situation as the audience doesn’t know how these things work, giving the writer license to make it up as they go along, to an extent. Although in the few scenes it features, not much has much happened in dimension Zero – yet.

Here’s my favourite episode, mostly because of Shitstorm, the hardcore party-poo:

Rastamouse

Continuing with the different aspects of stereotypes in cartoons, I want to look at a show closer to home: Rastamouse. Hosted on Cbeebies, this stop-motion animated series follows Rastamouse – a Jamaican mouse – and his friends ‘Da Easy Crew’, and has been very popular since it’s release in early 2011, with a range of audiences. The show is somewhat smaller than Disney films collectively and I thought this may make a difference to the interaction between the press, public and themselves. The characters often help solve problems in the community and Rastamouse’s philosophy is “Makin’ a bad ting good!” and from the episodes I’ve watched it seems to work well for everyone. Unfortunately, as with most things, there are some cynics who criticise the show and try to twist some of the subjects to fit their theories, one being that cheese is a reference to cannabis and that the characters make smoking gestures whenever it’s mentioned, which may stem from the fact it has an older ‘accidental’ audience of late teens and 20-somethings. Producer Greg Boardman says that this is definitely not the case:

“We’re aware people have been reading things into it,” laughs Boardman, “but that’s the first I’ve heard about smoking gestures. I promise you, we never intentionally put in innuendo or anything that isn’t age-appropriate. We’re a family brand, we’re on CBeebies and we’re very careful. We can’t make it as cult viewing, even though it may later end up as cult viewing. So while we love that the fact that they’re watching, the students and messageboarders are barking up the wrong tree.”

Quoted from The Guardian’s article on the show: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/feb/15/rastamouse-cbeebies

I think for such a popular and mainstream show which comes under the relegation and standard of the BBC to make such a connection would be foolish and reckless, as the show could be pulled off the air if a theory like this was true. Another issue I found in The Guardian’s article was that “The BBC has received complaints from six viewers that it stereotypes black people. Another 95 have complained about the patois spoken by the animated characters.” I find this former of these statements ridiculous – the show stereotypes Jamaican people, yes, otherwise how would we know that the mice were Jamaican? This relates back to the foundation on which cartoons are built – typical characterisations that the viewer can identify. I feel that the latter statement quoted from the article has more solid ground to stand on, as children are always learning and may pick up bad linguistic habits from the show, however Boardman says it’s part of the whole package the show delivers: the music, colour, rhythm and rhyme of speech all help engage children. I’m sure that if they had varied sources of linguistic influences, children’s pronunciation and language skills would ‘level out’ to an understandable and correct accent.

Rastamouse is a good example of how a show can branch out into other areas – Rastamouse has a big following on Twitter with some celebrity fans, Da Easy Crew has a single out called ‘Ice Popp’, there are many plush toys on sale as well as activity sets, clothes and bags.

WÖNKY

I found WÖNKY in a Computer Arts magazine recently, it’s “an award-winning studio specialising in illustration and animation” based in Bristol. Their website states that they “work as a collective of creatives including illustrators, animators, musicians and writers to create content across a variety of media.”, their work focuses on character animation with an upbeat, humorous vibe, they have worked with a lot of major clients such as the BBC, Nokia, Adidas and more. The layout of the website emphasises the light and fun theme of the studio, and it’s visible that all of the team have the same ethos for their work — it’s bright, fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, even when dealing with a serious subject and putting across an important message, as portrayed in this outdoor project for Bristol Council when highlighting the effects of ketamine. From what I’ve seen so far, my favourite work by WÖNKY is ‘Toofs’, a social media campaign for Nokia’s (then) new range of Bluetooth headsets. The set of characters are quirky and cute, like something you might find in the bottom of a Weetos box (back when they were worth buying) or in a Kinder egg. Some of the characters are representations of the alter egos of some influential teenage bloggers. The look of the characters and the format of the campaign, along with the representations of some of the characters tell me that Nokia wanted to target a younger audience, however I don’t know of many teenagers who use Bluetooth headsets, so I’m unsure as to whether this project would’ve been as successful as Nokia would have hoped. I like WONKY’s in-house stuff too, the characters they use on their ‘How We Work’ page are simple and pleasant, and the animation illustrating the process of working with them shows how easy it is to do so.

Here’s the animation from their ‘How We Work ‘

Disney’s Portrayal of Female Characters

Disney logo

In a previous post I discussed the stereotypical aspect of cartoons, and I want to further this research by focussing on how Disney portray female characters in their films. An interesting piece which also looks at this subject is this collaborative assignment by Amanda Yerby, Samantha Baron and Youjin Lee.

http://www.american.edu/soc/film/upload/Gender-Roles-in-Disney.pdf

The piece brings up some interesting points – Disney has often depicted women as the weaker sex in the past, particularly when recreating fairytales in which there is a ‘damsel in distress’ who must wait for a valiant knight or prince to save her. In the case of retelling a classic fairytale, I don’t think Disney had the option to portray the female role differently without affecting the whole story.

The only other major part females would play (outside of the fairytale realm) until late is the ‘fem fatale’ role in which she would be driven by vanity to try to undermine the protagonist. Ursula from The Little Mermaid springs to mind, her goal is to have Ariel’s delicate voice and have Ariel as a shriveled sea creature. This domineering persona paints a vicious and dark picture of the female of the species (the song by Space seems quite fitting). There are also some male characters with similar goals such as Edgar in Aristocats who wants to get rid of the cats so he will be the recipient of Madame Adelaide Bonfamille’s fortune.

In the past 10-15 years I feel the roles in Disney films have started to change for the better, portraying woman as more capable beings. One character who illustrates this point well is Amelia from Treasure Planet – this feline humanoid is the first lady of the RLS Legacy in the film. She’s a perfect example of a female heroine in children’s film, she’s well spoken, agile and takes no-nonsense. She’s a solid rock for other characters to stand on, like the hyperactive and constantly flummoxed robot B.E.N.

Disney have also moved on to have female protagonists who save the day, like Mulan and Merida from Brave. These characters show a more naive determination and drive which is inspiring to see, I think they’re a good role model for young girls, however it’s ultimately up to the audience to allow themselves to be influenced by a film. I have two nieces who are 2 and 5 years of age and the eldest wants nothing more than to be a princess, but she likes to play fight too. We re-enact all the films she’s seen, I often end up either saving her from a monster or her dad who plays the baddie while simultaneously sitting on the couch watching TV (he’s very talented), or I play the role of the baddie who she battles with and kills. Whether the aspiration to be a princess is naturally appealing to a young girl or whether she has been conditioned to like that image by her experiences of the world so far is hard to tell. The same goes for the more ‘violent’ side. My niece has also recently discovered zombies, and I now sometimes laggardly and crookedly rise from where I’m sat to slowly chase and ‘bite’ her while morbidly groaning (I make a stellar performance). I suppose this is some sort of evidence supporting the argument that children are strongly influenced by what’s around them, and there are traits which aren’t hardwired into them. A counter argument would be that the more instinctive feminine traits of motherhood and empathy are naturally present.

Conclusively, I think Disney are managing to balance the portrayal of female characters well, there is still a sense of delicate beauty in some of the characters, which I feel there always will be, however there is a diverse number of roles played by females which are also played by males in their other films.

Our New Electrical Morals

ONEM Icon

One of the newest additions to Cartoon Hangover’s library is Mike Rosenthal’s ‘Our New Electrical Morals’, although there’s only one episode out at the moment, it’s had a huge positive response. The cartoon is based on the life of Business Cat and Douglas, Business Cat is a profit-driven capitalist who has little concern for much apart from money. Douglas is his counter part, he’s more level-headed and keeps Business Cat from blowing babies up with murder-tanks, and things of that nature. I’m not quite sure what their business is as of yet. The show uses quirky (and some potty) humour, and Delta Blues Crooner has great comedy value, using a strong delta blues voice to sing about contrastingly trivial subjects like jelly-jam sandwiches and the duo’s lack of parenting skills.

What I was amazed by was the amount of content surrounding the actual cartoon, there is over 45 minutes of extra content based around the 5 minute short, including a half hour live chat between Rosenthal and the presenter of Cartoon Hangover, the animatic of the cartoon, behind-the-scenes with the voice actors and more. These videos have been a great help to me as I can see most of the 14 month journey Rosenthal has been on to create the cartoon with the Cartoon Hangover staff, and it makes the idea of developing my own work beyond college a lot more realistic.

Rosenthal started illustrating comic strips for his school’s newspaper, he later wrote a 30 minute pilot (which sounds to be completely different to ONEM) and sent it to one of the guys at Cartoon Hangover, who loved the idea but said they’re focusing on 5 minute internet shorts. Rosenthal then sent the storyboard for the first episode of ONEM to him and got a reply confirming that the show was going to be made. This is a great example of how the instantaneous world of today can kick-start someone’s career in a matter of weeks or months, another big factor which has been overcome by technology was Rosenthal’s remote involvement with the production of the show, he said  he would Skype the team over in Hollywood and was never out of the loop. This also shows how Cartoon Hangover focuses on working with new creative minds rather than a more profit driven production company who would typically take the idea and hand it over to their in-house writers and maybe never contact the creator again.