Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Del Connell Still Around?

Hi folks,

Sorry that I haven't been posting in the weekend because I had my Duke of Edinburgh "Qualifying" Expedition in that weekend and I left you with no notice - sorry.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

"Super Size Me" Review!

In my Science lessons at school - I'm currently studying Biology, and we were taking a look about obesity and health issues. We have been watching parts of the documentary Super Size Me on YouTube, and I thought it was a very interesting documentary, that today I decided to watch all of it from the beginning to end.

Super Size Me is a 2004 documentary written, produced, directed and featuring Morgan Spurlock. The documentary is sort of about controversy about the very popular fast-food chain company - McDonald's. Morgan is one of the Americans who are fit and healthy, and he decided (as a test) to try out and eat 30 days of nothing but McDonald's food, for breakfast, lunch and supper.

As he had several blood tests and fitness tests, his results of his normal diet show him as a healthy man in excellent shape. Morgan had actually been planning on the 30-day trial after the lawsuit against two obese teenage girls: aged 14 and 19, who tried to sue McDonald's about their obesity, before it was made illegal to do so. While doing the trial, he had to eat everything that was ordered on the menu for one of the 30 days period. If he was ordering his meal and was offered a "Super Size" meal, he was to accept all of it. He also had to try out walking like a typical American person would walk per day (1.5 mile) while Morgan walked 3 miles.

The documentary didn't just show clips of him eating his McDonald's meals - it shows some interesting footage on people's thoughts of fast food restaurants, and that the health effects on the American people. Morgan also mentioned that, America may be the most "fattest nation" but it was already becoming an unintelligent country. I'm not saying that to offend them, but this was from Morgan's words - to be honest - Britain is actually catching up as being a fat nation with health problems. Japan remains a country with the highest life expectancy rate, at around 82 or 83 - because of their good health, and the amount of rice they have, Canada is also at a pretty good life expectancy rate, too.

What really interested me was the fact that everywhere you go around the country, or anywhere - there would be a McDonald's restaurant everywhere. The advertisements with Ronald McDonald and other characters would be encouraging children to eat more of their food products which would mean that they would gain more weight. To be honest, I always thought of Ronald McDonald as some sort of pedophile character - even though I don't think he's done anything THAT harmful to kids.

As I recall, watching it from the beginning - I saw a group of 8-9 year old kids that appear to be sitting at the steps at some park and they are singing "McDonalds! Pizza Hut! KFC!" and singing that this was the food that people eat and that everyone enjoy. Erm? Really kids - I'm still a kid - a teenager perhaps, and to tell you the truth - I never ever go to McDonald's, the only time I would be ever go there if it was ARRANGED in a trip, and I only ever go there about 3 times a year. I would only go in there if there was a McFlurry there, and have that on such an occasion and walk out - myself eating a Big Mac or cheeseburger? That's very rarely ever seen of me doing so. I prefer getting some steak bakes at a bakery shop to take away and eat - if I was out in town, or lunch at Sainsbury's with some cocktail sausages or nice, saucy chicken legs - as a rare treat.

It seems that there are quite a number of people that were interviewed that were questioned on "How much fast food do you eat", and one person said, "Oh, every once in a while", and then Morgan replied "How often?" and the man replied, "Once every two weeks." Two weeks??? That doesn't sound like once in a while to me - it sounds like 'often' to me. There were some locals who were boasting about how cool McDonald's is  and that they would be heading off for a burger right now. There was one guy who looked like a hippie named Don Gorske who is most  well known for eating more than 25'000 Big Macs in his lifetime. To be honest, I don't think that it is an achievement of eating all those Big Macs - it's just years wasted on buying burgers. What's amazing is that he hasn't had any health problems and he looks very slim. Unless, he burned a lot of calories if he does any fitness activities?

Another part of the documentary, when Morgan had reported that United States is becoming a more unintelligent nation, and there were some extract footage showing these kids that were roughly aged 6-8 years old (some of them looked very unhealthy, comparing to how very little amount of teeth they have), and Morgan was showing a variety of pictures of Notable people from America and McDonald's advertisement characters. Some of them only vaguely knew George Washington in the picture. There was one picture where all the kids said "Nope, don;t know who he is", and Morgan turned the picture around and there was a picture of Jesus Christ - at that part with the picture of Jesus, I just burst out laughing at the fact and wondering, "Surely, they can't be THAT thick?"

After, days had past - Morgan Spurlock was becoming ill more and more, and he was gaining a bit of weight. The amount of food that he ate at McDonald's lead to him in a state of depression, migraines, sexual problems and became frigid, and had to take numerous blood tests inbetween those 30 days to show the consistency and comparison in the previous blood tests.

What I found interesting was the fact, that it wasn't only McDonald's causing the problems of the people's health and physical features, schools were providing junk food and a lack of a good, balanced diet. There would be pupils who would rather eat chips or nuggets, and not go for any of the goodies like fruit salad, vegetables, etc. There was a behaviour school in Wisconsin where the school provided excellent diets for the family, with enough peas and carrots, meat, vegetables, fruit salad, lasagne, etc. It was very interesting for me because they were providing a diet that most schools didn't provide, which is disappointing in a way.

After Spurlock completed his final McDonald's meal in the 30th day - there was a celebration party, and Murgon was delighted and his physician said that he ate 90 meals of McDonald's in that month which is about 8 years of an ordinary person eating it once a month. Incredible.

After watching it, I thought that it was a very inspiring documentary - and Morgan and the McDonald's opponents made a very good point on the effect of your health. It wasn't the food that was the problem, it was sort of the people with the addiction, as it was mentioned in the film. It's one of the best documentary films that I've seen, and I do think Morgan Spurlock is an excellent documentary presenter, and I'm starting to become a fan of his material.

I also felt some pity with the people that were overweight, who couldn't help that, and I can't blame them for that.

The entire film is on YouTube, I suggest you should go and watch it - it's definately worth watching and reciting.

I wasn't writing this review with a snooty attitude, but I was trying to make a point on how it's becoming a problem and that people should realize that. I hope you have enjoyed my review on that documentary written.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Snow White Mosaic: Part 5

Sorry, that I haven't been able to post a mosaic in quite a while - but here is a treat of a new sequence in Snow White.

As far as we have got up to, Snow White and the animal creatures have became friends and they agree to find a place for Snow White to live for a short while, and there, she finds a beautiful cottage (home to the Seven Dwarfs) and admires the house quickly, and takes a look inside. Now, from the outside view of the cottage, the house looks beautiful with a river flowing and butterflies flying around the house (animated by Cy Young). Therefore, the looks of the house from the outside appeals to Snow White and the animals, so they take a look inside the house. All to Snow White and the animal's surprise - the house is dirty, unorganized, and dark.

Snow White, although she still wants a place to stay and still determined not to go back to the castle where she would be surrounded with danger by the Queen, or the scary forest where she could be scared out of her wits. She mistaken the Seven Dwarfs as "seven little children", and believing that the so-called "children" are orphans and that was probably the case of why that the cottage was a slum. Hoping, that the "seven children" would offer her a place to stay at the cottage, and by doing that - she and the forest animals will clean up the house for the dwarfs and that she'll be liked a lot by them, and she'll be able to get a place there for sure.

Shot 1, with the butterflies appear to have been animated by two animators: a character animator and an effects animator: Ham Luske and Cy Young - now, I'm not sure what Ham Luske is doing there because the butterflies flittering around the cottage would be done by an effects artist, unless Ham Luske supervised the earlier shots. Cy could very well have done the river stream in that shot that's in the background.

Ham Luske's earlier scenes (again) demonstrate on how he handles the title character child looking. Shot 2 with the line "just like a doll's house" and the actions show, gives a very clear example on a Ham Luske scene. Tell you what, how about we could have a small game throughout the mosaic on spotting a Ham Luske scene and once the sequences get posted, the answers come.

Yet again, it appears to be that Jack Campbell takes over a lot of Snow White shots, and even a lot of scenes supported by his assistant Tony Rivera. It appears to be that Tony was Campbell's key assistant, I wonder why he wasn't in the screen credits since he contributed a chunk of Snow White there, although I suppose the reason why was because since his shots were supported mostly from character animator, Jack Campbell - the Board decided that it didn't count for Tony to merit credit.

The single-shots of the animals looking at the pile of dishes, is a great way of explaining the story through with the dirty dishes, without the Snow White having to animate the explanations, the layout artist and animal animators did a great job with showing what was going on - e.g. "Cobwebs everywhere - my, my, my!" the chipmunk is covered up with cobwebs and struggles to free himself shows of how dirty the house really is.

Another example shows the dirtiness of the house, is at the shelf of the fireplace with dust - it appears that dead skin had gone onto that fireplace - and another example on how the animals show you how it's dirty, is that the squirrels are sneezing over the dust, and there is some neat amount of weight used in there. The taller squirrels sneeze due to the reactions of dust, and they are big and strong enough to sneeze it out, while the little one is so small and weaker that it sneezes itself into the jat. It's an entertaining shot in its way.

Well, it appears to be that a few of the shots with the turtle wasn't all animated by James Algar, there were several shots of the turtle approaching into the dwarf's cottage and the animals running out - and the turtle was by Eric Larson.

I will leave it for now, and next up Whistle While You Work.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

My Visit to see The Rite of Spring

On Wednesday, 8 June 2011 - I was at a school trip and I was lucky enough to be invited by the Music Group to go to the Royal Opera Hall to watch Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. At school, I don't take Music as a subject - but the music teacher knew that I was a fan of Stravinsky, myself - and I was originally invited to go to it back in February. Around a month ago, I was told that I couldn't go because there wasn't a spare ticket. Until a week ago, there was a student that was absent from going and my luck turned and I was able to watch The Rite of Spring - I was in heaven when I found out that I was able to go.

We took our journey by the train and all the way to East Croydon, and we walked to the Royal Opera House in London - I couldn't believe that I was going to be going to one of the world's most famous opera houses in the world. I had been there before when I went to see The Rake's Progress - also composed by Stravinsky.

I was told that there were going to three music pieces going to be performed, and The Rite of Spring - and I had to wait until the end and watch through the first two boring pieces. While at the seats, and the show began - I was pretty infuriated with constant sounds in the audience, and I turned to find that it came from disabled people - I felt pity for them because I knew they couldn't help that - so I just had to get on and try and listen to the piece and ignore, like a gentlemen. While there were intermissions going back, the teachers had asked students for any ice-creams and only those with money could buy some - I didn't care really that I didn't have any money because I was looking forward to the final piece with Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

I already knew the history of it's premiere that there was a riot during the beginning of the performance, with the heavy dance steps, and the music in it, that they ended up throwing food at the dancers and the curtains had to be closed. I was glad to see that none of this happened at the premiere. ;-)

I had made a bet with another teacher on what the instrument at the very beginning was, I was sure that it was the oboe, and the teacher was sure it was a bassoon. Until the presenter came to talk to the audience, he said that he was a high bassoon, I was wrong - but it was difficult because both instruments sounded similar.

We are mostly familiar with The Rite of Spring in Disney's Fantasia with the dinosaurs and the growth of life. When I heard the music, I was visualizing the music as if it was going through the movie and it was excellent. However, I was pretty disappointed to discover with the Stravinsky piece that the music for Fantasia had been reorganized and I do understand why Stravinsky didn't like that. I noticed that there were music in the original piece that never got into the movie.

I remember walking out of the theater thinking what a great piece it was and that it was a real treat for me to be off school not doing lessons and enjoying listening to classical music at the Royal Opera House in London.

Here is a piece on YouTube to celebrate The Rite of Spring in three parts with the original costumes:

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

New Blog, New Inspiration

I know that I said that I wasn't going to post until June 17th, but I thought I was staying a school weekend, but it turned out that I was going home. So, I can post a bit more then.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

A quick note to tell you that next week I have a school fete, so this blog may not be updated until June 17th.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

One Year Today

With 195 posts being posted so far, and more than 350 comments being published (inc. my responses), and with more than 50'000 page views. My blog Blabbing on Arts and Culture has reached one year ever since I created it and my very first post.

You could say that I've contributed a lot of posts in a year's worth of posting, even though I may have been away at boarding school in many weeks. Heck, this won't stop me from retiring, I've still got tons more stuff to share with you and write about. I've even enjoyed the happy comments I've received and I hope that it will continue.

What do you think has been the peak of my blog, like what particular post have I written that has been your favourite in a year, so far? Some might say that my posts on Don Lusk or mosaics have been my peak, but I'd like to hear your thoughts?

Well, this is one year completed, and I'll continue to look forward another year.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Snow White Mosaic Part 4

Snow White has gone far off into the woods, and she already expressed her fears through the scary eyes and trees in the forest, but somehow a group of eyes turn out to be lovely, harmless forest animals who befriends Snow White.

It appears to be that Disney and his Story crew wanted a sequence from the previous where there was a dark setting with Snow White in the forest and how scary it was, and this time they wanted a rather more light-hearted sequence. The audience will recognize some animals in there, and they'll go "Aww" and admiring how "cute" the animals would be. 

Snow White immediately breaks down into tears after all the horror she is going through. The dark atmosphere of the forest fades away and there come a group of eyes through the darkness of the forest. The eyes appear much closer and we reveal forest animals and they are appalled, "What is this creature doing in the forest?" They approach much closer while Snow White is continuously bursting with tears. Snow White accidentally scares all the animals away as she reacts to the rabbit sniffing her. She has already been through some tough experience like the most recent one through the spooky forest, and the cold Queen stopping at nothing but to kill Snow White. She hopes that she doesn't go through any worse, but get some help from the animals and a sing-song will lighten her up.

As a result, the atmosphere lightened and the animals are very happy for her, and determined to help her find where she will stay as long as the Queen doesn't find her. This is a good sequence in which the emotions change well. Of course, there are methods and theories that singing makes people feel better, and it shows here with Snow White, as she was "white" with fear, and after breaking down from sobbing.

I have to admit that some of Snow White's dialogue written in the film just don't feel as if it matches what she is saying. It feels that every verse she writes ends up as a rhyme, for example "It's all because I was afraid, I'm so ashamed of the fuss I've made." or "What do you do when things go wrong? Oh you sing a song!" The best dialogue and the best poems don't rhyme. I know that, but I suppose Disney wanted it that way. Of course, it doesn't appear very much in the film, but suppose that this was probably one of the earliest sequences with story work finished.

Some nice animation from all the animators. This is another sequence in which Jack Campbell animates a lot of the animation. Ham Luske animates the earlier scenes of Snow White apologizing to the animals for scaring them and explaining about the depression she would be going through. While Snow White, starts singing to the little bluebird, Jack Campbell (and his assistant) Tony Rivera immediately take over the animation. I just wonder what Tony Rivera is doing, credited for a lot of Campbell scenes - could Campbell he supervising the animation and Tony "filling in the blanks", it certainly shows that Tony was Jack Campbell's key assistant on that film. In between Campbell's animation - Grim Natwick animates one scene of Snow White, and it's a pretty vital scene.

Campbell's animation of Snow White show some sophistication here, and he seemed very capable of animating the character. He certainly animates the character much more maturely and human-like than Ham Luske, some of Luske's scenes were pretty good - but not as grown up as Campbell was. It goes to show that mystery animators like Jack were very capable of animating. Funny enough, with Jack Campbell being a mystery, there is another "Jack" that is indeed a mystery - but an illustrious mystery, it's "Jack the Ripper".

The animal animators on this sequence are Eric Larson, James Algar, Milt Kahl and Bernard Garbutt. Each of those animators appear to be typecast here: Eric Larson animates mostly birds around here, and Bernard Garbutt animating a lot of deers and even the group of animators leading Snow White to a location where she could stay; Milt Kahl animating bunny rabbits or chipmunks, and Jim Algar animating chipmunks and even the turtle. Notice how every shot featuring the turtle appears to be animated by James Algar. We might see if there's other animators doing the turtle. You even notice that Ham Luske does some scenes of the animals here - Hollywood Cartoons says that Ham Luske supervised the animal animation as well as Snow White.

Eric Larson and James Algar appear to be the main animators on this sequence doing chunks of animation, with Milt Kahl and Bernard Garbutt supporting the scenes. Eric Larson handles a lot of birds and does some great animation of the little bird singing to Snow White - I wonder if this is the same bird from the previous sequence. Shot 15BBBB does excellent exaggeration of the pigeons reacting to the baby pigeon going out of tune. Besides, notice how the draft writes the scene numbers strangely starting from 15B to 15BBBBB? Is it really that normal?

Is that Max Gray animating on Shot 6, if so then I'm going to say that he did Snow White - since he worked with Ham Luske on the Huntsman. We are seeing quite a bit of uncredited folks on Snow White already - we might come across some more later.

Is it just me or is it the way that Adrianna Caselotti sings the song With a Smile and a Song that it sounds like Betty Boop a bit, or will it be me imagining things? There is an interesting part with Adrianna singing that song in Brian Sibley's interview with Adrianna in Walt's People - Volume 7. There's also an interesting video I saw on The Illusion of Life documentary (not the book) where Adrianna remembers the lines off by heart.

Scenes 1 and 3 are both done by the Multiplane camera as the draft completely labels "MULTIPLANE" on the Background data on those scenes in the draft. I can see that shot 1 was definitely used by the multiplane camera. I feel that shot 29 was also done by the multiplane camera as well.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Interesting Kimball Reponse to Younger Animators

While I was reading through a very interesting Ward Kimball interview by Thorkil B. Rasmaussen in Walt's People - Volume 3. There was one part of the volume that really interested me and the way Kimball explained it. The interview was conducted in 1978, and at the time Ward was teaching an art class once a week.

Here is a part of the interview that I like:

TR: I know that you (the Disney Studio) are looking for new talents for future productions?

Ward Kimball: Yes, but you see, today we don't have that great training ground called the shorts. We all worked on shorts, but we didn't have to be quite so exact; we could get away with small tricks, but you can't do that on a feature. So they don't trust new guys to take over whole sequences. But when you rehearsed and were trained on the shorts in the early days, you began to be noticed as a qualified animator. Then you graduated to the features. It was a stepwise evolution that they don't have today. You just don't learn everything sitting next to an animator. You learn by doing the stuff yourself.

The person conducting the interview, was talking about the future generations when that the old animators will have to retire and the newer generations of animators will have to take over. It seems that from Ward's point of view that he was explaining about that the problem with new animators is that in the 1970's - there wasn't any animated shorts being produced, and only animated features and live-action movies. The great animators that were considered veterans by the 1970's, all learnt from working on the shorts like a Silly Symphony short or Mickey Mouse. The process was being made until shorts were abandoned by Disney mostly until the early 1960's.

Of course, there were good animators at the time who were very capable of animating whole sequences like Don Bluth, although as Floyd Norman has mentioned: Don was one of the animators in the "middle group". While there were the older, more experienced animators (born around 1900's and early 1920's) and there's the younger animators (1940's and 1950's), and the middle group were born around (late 1920's and 1930's).

Ward is right in a way that if you were working on a short, you could get away with the crude animation in it, even though there were tons of animated shorts produced in the Golden Age with some crudeness into it. Walt Disney has always wanted realism into his shorts, so that's probably why the 1930's shorts resulted with some crude animation, either because an animator attempted to do its best and ended up animating as a bad result, or that they knew they knew they would get away into it.

That's probably why younger animators were not trusted by the directors and the producers to animate and plan the entire sequence, because they feared of the little amount of experience they had and that the results will be bad. The supervising animator planning a sequence is clearly shown in The Rescuers where there were junior animators like Gary Goldman, Andy Gaskill, Ron Clements, etc. doing bits of animation in several sequences. About every sequence in the film has a Supervising Animator or a veteran animator planning and animating much of the sequence, making sure that the character animators wouldn't screw up a scene - it seems that guys like Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl or Cliff Nordberg kept a special eye on them.

I suppose that the "shorts" was no longer created for Disney animation in the 1970's and it led to Eric Larson becoming a mentor for the all-new Disney training program. By the The Fox and the Hound and Pete's Dragon. The young animators were on their own, it was up to them to have the confidence to make these pictures real - and Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, or Woolie Reitherman were not there to help them as they would be in retirement, with Eric Larson preparing them by mentoring them.

Even Kimball mentioned that you "couldn't do tricks" on a feature. I wasn't too sure what me meant but I suppose he was talking about that crude animation wasn't allowed on a feature. Of course, there has been crude animation that somehow survived into an animated feature, even at Disney.

I'm going to leave my little talk. This is part of a Ward Kimball interview in Walt's People - Volume 3. I definitely recommend that you should collect the series of them edited by Didier Ghez. He's published ten volumes of these so far, and they're all worthy. I haven't got all the books myself, but I'm slowly collecting the series, I'm currently looking forward to Volume 11 for some more surprises.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

They Call Him Merlin Jones!

Here is what I found while I was typing up "Merlin Jones on YouTube, and I found the entire movie on YouTube which is The Misadventure of Merlin Jones (1964). I thought that it was brilliant, and I spent my time watching the movie. I thought it was a decent Disney movie, and it's like a typical popular movie that teens and kids would go to see in the cinemas.

Probably my favourite part is the very beginning in the film with the special titles by Bill Justice and Xavier Atencio, I might make some estimates on what I thought who did who on the special titles. The song by the Sherman Brothers are just wonderful, and it's surprising that not many people know that song well.

I suppose some of the characters in the film remind me of characters from Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor except it's not as genius and as funny as that film. Merlin Jones here as made an invention here of a machine in which electromagnetic waves would show - later, Merlin discovered that he could read people's minds.

The film was later followed by a sequel The Monkey's Uncle a year later with the guests such as The Beach Boys.