Post #8: Lesser Known Facts About Mickey Mouse

Over the years I’ve read a lot of different explanations for the design and inspiration of Mickey Mouse. Recently, I’ve found one that I believe has a lot of merit to it. One of the main designs for Mickey Mouse was Black face. At first I immediately shut it down, refusing to believe that the cute little mouse could be based off of something so racist. However, as we all known, earlier animations were known to be extremely racist.

“Mickey Mouse is the msot graphic offspring of blackface minstrels’ portrayals of the plantation slave. Black, wide-eyed, childlike, falsetto-voiced, and ever the clown, Mickey Mouse even takes his costuming from the burnt-cork brotherhood: see the oversized white gloves, suspender buttons (minus suspenders), big feet, coy stance.” –Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family’s Claim to the Confederate Anthempg. 158

During the 1930s and 1940s, cartoons in the US often featured blackface bits along with a slew of other racial, and ethnic, caricatures. In 1933 United Artists released a short titled “Mickey’s Mellerdrammer” which was based off of the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Despite already being black, Mickey was shown with “exaggerated, orange lips, bushy white side-whiskers and his now-trademark white gloves”.

 

Post #7: Glen Keane & Tangled

Glen Keane is well known and respected as being one of the best hand-drawn animators. In fact, Glen Keane has even been credited as being the 6th most influential Disney animators of all time. I think one of the most important things about him though, is to remember how he handled the production of Tangled. Without having any experience with 3D animation, Glen Keane helped make Tangled a global success. 

While other companies were switching over more and more to 3D animation, Glen Keane was an avid supporter of hand drawn animation, claiming that it would be impossible to translate the whimsy and attractive of hand-drawn characters onto a digital canvas. Keane had to change his opinion though, when he was faced without another medium to choose to use. In 2003, Keane was given approval to make a Rapunzel project, however he was only given approval with the stipulation that he it be created using computer animation. Keane was reasonably upset about this, because despite having over 30 years of experience animating, he had zero experience with computer animation.

Tangled has been the most expensive animated movie made to date. It was even more expensive to produce than Avatar. I believe that one reason the film was so expensive to produce has to do with Glen Keane’s involvement. He refused to accept less than perfect on the smallest detail during production. “If the animation was too stiff or unpleasant, Keane sent it back. He’d draw what he wanted with his own hand and not accepted the scene until it matched his artwork“.

Post Six: Animated Films vs. Live-Action Films

Many stories are told more than once in different mediums, whether it be book, animated movie or series, or live-action movie or action. Most of these stories are adapted when they switched mediums so it is hard to compare which one is better. Peter Pan was not adapted very much when it was switched so I think it is a good one to use to compare animated films and live-action films. They were both produced within the same five years, too. Peter Pan was a larger success as an animation than as a live-action film.

When Disney’s Peter Pan was released in 1953 it was the highest grossing film of that year. The animation was the first time Tinker Bell could make a true appearance, since a pint sized fairy is not easy to show in a live-action production. The 1960 live-action film was nominated for one award. The 1953 animated film has been nominated for two awards since it’s production. Going by that alone, the animation was a bigger success.

Post #5: Midterm Post: Changing Demographics

Seven years after the end of Teen Titans, the show was brought back on air, this time titled Teen Titans Go! While the original voice cast was brought back, there were many other changes made. The changes made to Teen Titans were made to ensure the successful change of the targeted demographic. The new version of the show was never intended to be a continuation of the old series but rather a new one just keeping the dynamic of the interactions between the five main characters. According to one of the producers, Michael Jelenic, one of the main points of having him work with the other producer, Aaron Horvath, was that he was not previously involved with anything comic book related. Jelenic went on to say that, “They want to stay away from being too loyal to these old shows. They don’t want someone from the old show to put in a joke that only they would get. Aaron has no loyalty.”

Intros from Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!

At first glance, the revamped show does not appear like a success, especially when comparing it to the first. However, if you view it with the intention behind it being a younger demographic this changes. The episodes split from one 22 minute episode to two individual, shorter episodes. There is no overarching plot throughout the season. The show is much more colorful and has quite lighter plot lines. Even the changing atmosphere of the show helps to show how the targeted audience is much younger.

According to Common Sense Media (a website that rates and reviews all types of media targeting children for parents) the original series was all about the fight scenes. The new version has a much more positive review reading: “. . . the characters’ secondary personas as “normal” teens living together in their home/command center is the show’s focus, so the stories center on how they deal with everyday troubles like divvying up chores, jealousy, and trying to be a good friend. Of course, the fact that they have superpowers (and live on their own) always complicates matters since there’s so much potential for comical mayhem. There are some exchanges of blows and weapons (swords, a staff, gunfire from a robotic arm), but it’s not central to the stories’ themes, and it’s very short-lived. Positive themes of friendship, compromise, and resolving differences are tangible in some of the stories as well.” From these ratings you can see how the the changes made the show go from a show which targeted older teens to one made for younger audiences.

The proof of their success is clear as day. The premier of Teen Titans Go had 2 million viewers, and according to the same source went on to become the number one kids program in the 2-14 years old demographic.

Post #4: Changing Demographics

Seven years after the end of Teen Titans, the show was brought back on air, this time titled Teen Titans Go! While the original voice cast was brought back, there were many other changes made. The changes made to Teen Titans were made to ensure the successful change of the targeted demographic. The new version of the show was never intended to be a continuation of the old series but rather a new one just keeping the dynamic of the interactions between the five main characters. According to one of the producers, Michael Jelenic, one of the main points of having him work with the other producer, Aaron Horvath, was that he was not previously involved with anything comic book related. Jelenic went on to say that, “They want to stay away from being too loyal to these old shows. They don’t want someone from the old show to put in a joke that only they would get. Aaron has no loyalty.”

Intros from Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!

 

 

 

At first glance, the revamped show does not appear like a success, especially when comparing it to the first. However, if you view it with the intention behind it being a younger demographic this changes. The episodes split from one 22 minute episode to two individual, shorter episodes. There is no overarching plot throughout the season. The show is much more colorful and has quite lighter plot lines. Even the changing atmosphere of the show helps to show how the targeted audience is much younger.

According to Common Sense Media (a website that rates and reviews all types of media targeting children for parents) the original series was all about the fight scenes. The new version has a much more positive review reading: “. . . the characters’ secondary personas as “normal” teens living together in their home/command center is the show’s focus, so the stories center on how they deal with everyday troubles like divvying up chores, jealousy, and trying to be a good friend. Of course, the fact that they have superpowers (and live on their own) always complicates matters since there’s so much potential for comical mayhem. There are some exchanges of blows and weapons (swords, a staff, gunfire from a robotic arm), but it’s not central to the stories’ themes, and it’s very short-lived. Positive themes of friendship, compromise, and resolving differences are tangible in some of the stories as well.” From these ratings you can see how the the changes made the show go from a show which targeted older teens to one made for younger audiences.

The proof of their success is clear as day. The premier of Teen Titans Go had 2 million viewers, and according to the same source went on to become the number one kids program in the 2-14 years old demographic.

Post #3: Combining 2D and 3D

In 2012 Disney released a short animation called Paperman which went on to win an Oscar. The six minute tale was created using a new technology known as Meander (basically involves combining 2D and 3D into one animation, but follow the link for a more technical explanation). I believe that this process could successfully be used in a feature length animation. According to the director of Paperman, John Kars, the idea: “was to bring across the expressiveness and individuality imparted to characters by an artist’s hand and merge it with the power and flexibility of computer generated imagery”. He also wanted to bring back Disney’s legacy of 2D in a 3D dominated age. There’s a reason that this technology was able to make a film so beautiful. It makes it so that animations get to combine the beautiful designs of computer generated worlds, like in Pixar’s Up, with the old Disney magic of hand drawn lines. 

John Kars has said in an interview that he is still perusing the use of Meander. While he does not mention using the technology for feature length animations, I do not think that it is too far in the future. Disney and Pixar often use shorts to experiment as they advance their art before using the advancements in feature length films. This is shown in how: “Steamboat Willie introduced sound and it is generally accepted knowledge that the feathers in For The Birds were an early test for Sulley’s fur.” While the Meander process is labor intensive that has never been an issue for Disney. As Walt has said, “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it, until it’s done, and done right”.

Post #2: No Dialogue

 

We are always told that a picture tells a thousand words. However, can that picture successfully tell the story a few sentences would have? Or in the case of an animation, can a ten minute short tell a story without having any dialogue between the main characters? The Reward, a nine minute short by The Animation Workshop, shows that this is quite possible. Dialogue is not needed to successfully tell a moving story in a short animation.

 

While this short does include the characters making vocal sounds (laughter, squeals, groans) I do not believe that this can be counted as dialogue since no true words are spoken. The film starts with the two main characters getting a treasure map. As they are fighting over the map, they accidentally rip it in half. After this they agree to work together to find the treasure. The short follows them along their journey as they become closer and better friends until they find the real reward at the end (I won’t spoil what the reward is–but be sure to watch after the credits). There is action and drama, arguments and agreements all without a single sentence being uttered. If this does not show you that dialogue is not necessary in animations, I don’t know what will.

 

I made a point of specifying short animations because I’m not sure how well it consistently transfers to full length features. The only example I can think of is the Pixar Film Wall-E which includes limited dialogue, however there still is some. Partially due to this, some reviews believed that it had a better reception with adults than children. However, it still did very well in the box office, and the film has many fans boasting of the storytelling. Until there is a feature length animation without any dialogue, I will have to stick with limiting the success to shorts without dialogue.