Michel Gagné is a brilliant animator. His effects work is top notch and his more experimental stuff (like what he did in Ratatouille) is imaginative and exceptional. I’m not to big into his “Saga of Rex” stuff, but I still think it looks amazing.
Hey Michael just wondering have you seen Neil Boyle's The Last Belle, and if so what did you think of it?
I have, and I think it’s wonderful. Besides the fact that it’s animated traditionally, inked and painted on to cel and shot under an old rostrum camera with absolutely no computer assistance whatsoever (!!!!!), I thought it was a very fun film. Oddly, what really got me excited watching it was not the big broad grand movements but the micro-movements, particularly in the pupils. Not many animators realize how often people dart their eyes, and when they do it in cartoons I just feel like that animator really has acute observation and/or grasp of human behavior to the point where they find it essential to put it in. (Notice how theres some of that in the Chomet Simpsons couch gag, because Neil Boyle animated that too!)
Another thing about it is just the amount of patience Boyle had to do some of the things he did. Watching any scene with the drunken lout moving around with that insanely floral pattern on his dress shirt completely blows me away. And the subway scene (laid out by Roy Naisbitt) is just insane. I still can’t picture how the hell he laid it out and shot the damn thing under the camera. Brilliant stuff!
I love Tex Avery’s cartoons for totally different reasons than I do other cartoons. I love how subversive they are, and how anti-Disney they are. I appreciate a Tex Avery cartoon just as I would appreciate a surreal Dali painting to what is considered to be “fine art”. Although his cartoons are nothing more than 7-minutes of loose, thrown-together gags in a very basic wraparound shell, they’re just as enjoyable, if not more so, than a realistic Disney cartoon. Disney cartoons, as much as I love them, NEVER make me laugh. I’m amused by them and am entertained by them, but they can barely get a chuckle out of me (the one exception being the Humphrey the Bear cartoons). Tex Avery cartoons, on the other hand, ALWAYS find a way to make me laugh. Many times it’s not from the gags, it’s from the odd drawings, the timing and even the sound effects.
Permit me to make a little comparison: Disney built unique worlds for every cartoon or film they made, with strong foundations in storytelling and emphasized through an unbelievable level of draftsmanship. They strongly maintain the reality of these worlds to the utmost degree, and the characters are living their lives as normally as they can without any knowledge that they’re being watched. If you watched how Disney cartoons developed through the 1930’s and 40’s, they struggled to bring animation from the rudimentary novelties they were in the 20’s to be a legitimate art form rivaling those of live-action film. Sentimental, heartfelt and passionate to be something more than a “cartoon”, and universally accepted by any age group. Beautiful, but safe.
Warner Bros. cartoons are like stand-up performances or a vaudeville show. There are stories to tell and the characters are as grounded and alive as Disney’s are, but they’re VERY aware that they’re being watched. They’re like actors on a stage, in on the joke and will occasionally look directly at you (the audience) and acknowledge your presence. And the directors there, many of them influenced and trained under the Disney regime, wanted to break away and make something unique from what Disney was doing. But to some degree, they kept some of that artistry and craftsmanship alive. And while children would be able to follow along with what was going on, there was much more adult-oriented humor and references that were much more sophisticated for kids to understand.
Tex Avery, on the other hand, not only jettisoned what Disney spent over a decade building up, he completely trampled over it. He made sure the audience knew it was all fake and that for 7 minutes, nothing was sacred. The characters, humorous as they are, are glorified automatons that can be splatted, blown up or erased without any threat of sympathy. You cannot sympathize or empathize with the Wolf or Screwy Squirrel or Spike. The laws of physics are completely gone, objects come alive… there are no rules in Tex Avery’s world. They’re very much the modern equivalent of early-30’s Fleischer cartoons. On top of that, Tex would practically hit the audience over the head about everything being make-believe, having the characters run off the film stock, speak to the audience or pull “hairs” out of the film gate (one of my favorite gags). No sentimentality, VERY subversive, adult humor, cheap gags, flat staging and draftsmanship… almost the EXACT polar opposite of Disney in nearly every imaginable way.