After briefly straying into the domain of protests and revolution, it’s time to get back on track with some funky R&B from the height of the carnivalistic madness of the 1980s. Behind this great track are the Bar Kays, a resilient band with a stormy history. They started out in 1966 as a backing band for Stax Records, and were chosen to support Otis Redding in 1967. Tragically, four of the founding members died in the same plane crash that also ended Otis Redding’s career much too early. The two surviving members of the Bar Kays however managed to re-establish the band – an admirable accomplishment. They went on to become a successful funk band in the seventies, and kept up the success with a more commercial sound as they entered the eighties.
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.
Here is a gem of a music video, of legendary Jean Michel Jarre’s song Zoolook. It was one of two singles on the album of the same name, released back in 1984. The plot revolves around a crazy Frankenstein-ish scientist who travels the world with his fantastic robot show, enchanting young audiences from Shanghai to Zanzibar…
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.