I finally have my own personal website, which I’m being told is a must for creative professionals in today’s competitive online marketplace. Here it is: www.dukepope.com
To be honest I’m still trying to figure out how to get ahead in this rat race of self promotion and social media mumbo jumbo. I sometimes wish we could go back to the time of knocking doors and calling up solid desktop telephones with gut shaking mechanical ringing and get through to a real person on the other side. In reality I guess there’s nothing stopping us from knocking doors and ringing up people, and despite the mantra of “online presence is everything” perhaps this is still the way that would actually get you somewhere as an aspiring creative professional. I guess it’s time to put it to the test! (And perhaps I’ll even let you know how it goes). In the meantime please have a look at my webpage and let me know what you think of it! (And as a side note, if you click the “music” link, it will take you to my soundcloud and my latest song, which I finished last week, called Believe in Love.)
This short cartoon from 1943 is considered in Japan to be one of the greatest anime movies of all time. Even though I didn’t watch an awful lot of anime, it makes perfect sense to me that this wonderful little movie has gained such a standing. Kenzō Masaoka, who created Spider and Tulip is an important figure in the history of Anime, as he was the first to introduce both cel animation and synchronized sound to the genre. He was also a master animator, rivalling his contemporaries in the USA and elsewhere with exceptional drawing skills and stylistic confidence. In Spider and Tulip, we meet an innocent, singing little ladybug, and the sly Mr. Spider, who cunningly tries to capture her in his web.
If you happened to watch Dumbo as a kid, you might remember the scene where dumbo falls into a tub filled with champagne and accidentialy becomes intoxicated by alcohol. Dumbo’s hallicunations however are quite wild, and point in the direction of something else having found its way into the drink. Did Disney’s animators draw inspiration from some other, more exotic substance, back in 1941 when they created this segment of the Dumbo movie? I guess we will never know, but in any case “Pink Elephants on Parade” remains one of the most colourful and fantastic moments in the history of animated cartoons.
This surrealistic animation from 1978 is a real feast for the eyes, so full of wonky weirdness you can not avoid being amazed. It’s a bit like seventies counter culture meets Betty Boop and Koko the clown in outer space. In fact Sally Cruikshank has admitted to being influenced by Fleischer Studios (who made Betty Boop) – but that said, she is a one of a kind genius – owing her success to a wildly creative imagination. In addition to making her own movies, Sally Cruikshank worked for many years producing short animations for Sesame Street. The inspiration for this film seems to be the flimsy world of healing, astrology and new age hocus-pocus.
This short film by German animator Andreas Hykade takes you on a spastic journey back and forth through cartoon history, with short detours via evolution and psychedelic trip.
The cat and mouse game has been a favourite theme for animators and audiences alike since the early days of the animated cartoon. Whether the predator is a wolf or a cat, and whatever animal the innocent victim may be, these films always follow the same pattern; the big bad wolf/cat looses his chances to eat bunny/bird/mouse steak due to arrogance, stupidity and slow response in the defining moment. The audience loves to see the innocent little animal making a fool of the big bad animal trying to eat him. It is a deeply rooted theme, also present in fairytales from every corner of the world. It seems we all like to see the big and strong being overpowered by the small and helpless. In the case of Nu Pogodi, we have a cigarette smoking wolf constantly assaulting an androgynous little bunny rabbit – luckily to no avail.
This thriller of a movie has a special cast in a special set; all characters come from the brands that invade our lives, and the drama unfolds in a corporate city of logos and trademarks. It won Oscars for best animated short film in 2010, but somehow hasn’t become as widely watched as it ought to be.
Canadian animator Ryan Larkin has sadly become just as well known for his unfortunate life story, as his powerful animations. After being nominated for Oscars with “Walking” in 1969, he followed up the success with this amazing little film in 1972. Unfortunately, Street Musique became the last complete movie he made. Somehow Larkin ended up on a path of alcoholism, drug abuse and homelessness. A few years before his death in 2007, he did however have a little comeback; as the director of the music video “spare change”, but only as a vague shadow the creative genius he once used to be.
Until very recently Felix the Cat had been just a pop culture icon to me, without actually having seen him in any cartoons. I love the black and white animations from the twenties and thirties, so I decided to have a look at the original Felix. And what a great surprise – here is one of the absolutely funniest cartoons I have ever watched. Felix the Cat was created by cartoonists Otto Messmer and Pat Sullivan in 1919. He was the first animated character reaching the popularity needed to draw significant movie audiences, and continued to do so throughout the 1920s. Felix was a silent movie character, so when sound cartoons entered the stage towards the end of the decade, he gradually lost his popularity. When Sullivan’s studios finally decided to move to sound in 1929, it was allready too late, by then Mickey Mouse had become the new superstar of the cartoon world. Production of the original Felix the Cat cartoons ended the following year, in 1930.
Yellow Magic Orchestra are less known than their German contemporaries Kraftwerk, but they were no less important in shaping the synthpop of the eighties and in turn electronic music as we know it today. Rydeen is one of the highlights from their second album, Solid State Survivor, mixing disco with eastern musical elements. It’s an energetic and uptempo tune, which also showcases their pioneering use of synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines. Although the music video may look simple to our modern eyes, it must have been pretty advanced for it’s time.
Betty Boop was created by animator and director Max Fleischer, who somehow came in the shadow of his contemporary Walt Disney. But he was no less important in shaping the animation history of the 20th century. In addition to creating Betty Boop and bringing Popeye and Superman to the movie screen, he was the inventor of the rotoscoping technique, where stills from live action movies are traced to create animation frames. It is still a widely used thechique. In this movie, Koko the Clown, Betty Boop and Bimbo come to town to sell magic medicine, causing wild exitement and havoc among the public.
Moustapha Alassane was born in Niger in 1942. Originally a mechanic, he discovered the art of animation on a trip to Canada, sponsored by French filmmaker Jean Rouch. His animation style is uniquely African, mostly starring naively drawn frog characters and commenting on the (then) newly independent African nations with surrealistic satire. He draws directly on the film roll, cleverly avoiding the trouble of transferring the animation from paper.
3D Animation didn’t really take off until the mid nineties – the real breaktrhough came with Toy Story in 1995, which was the first feature lenght computer animated movie. This movie clip, created by 3d animation pioneer Robert Abel in 1981 is surprisingly elegant and advanced, considering it was made almost fifteen years earlier. I love the placid and slightly mystical feel of this movie, enhanced by the VHS quality and the airy soundtrack.
This one defenitely ranks high on the Lego stop motion hall of fame. Swedish chiptune duo Rymdreglage must have spent ages creating this animation frame by frame. But the result is pretty amazing, I can not see how they could have possibly spent their time better. I guess there is nothing more for me to say than to sit back and enjoy.
This short movie by Dutch animators Studio Smack shows the enormous amount of branded images we encounter just by spending five minutes in a big city. Normally however, we are so visually overstimulated that we subconsciously filter out most of it. Hundertwasser, one of my favourite artists, sums it up quite well in this famous quote: “Visual pollution is more poisonous than any other pollution because it kills the soul”.
Today’s sleek and soulless computer animations have a long and quirky history behind them. Steve Rutt and Bill Etra were two of the pioneers of computer animation, and revolutionized the field with their video synthesizer from 1972. In the somewhat surrealistic video below, Bill Etra himself explains some of the features of their synthesizer: