Waltz with Bashir (2008): Trauma and Representation in the Animated Documentary

By Joseph A. Kraemer

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There is a struggle in presenting traumatic events, as it comes along with aesthetic and ethical considerations. McCay was an important precursor for a number of trends in artistic representation that lead to defining the twentieth century in portraying the modernist tendencies toward experiencing human catastrophe. Having these visual documents allows for society to understand better what they have not encountered directly themselves.

“The drive to complete and heal trauma is as powerful and tenacious as the symptoms it creates. The urge to resolve trauma through re-enactment can be severe and compulsive. We are inextricably drawn into situations that replicate the original trauma in both obvious and unobvious ways”… The concept of the reenactment, outside of its role as a symptom of and treatment for the traumatic experience, also points the way to how animation can fit within the myriad discourses defining the ways in which nonfiction film can represent the world.

Ari Folman’s filmic process reveals the interplay between the signifier (the animated image), the signified (the viewer’s mediated experience), and the referent (the historical reality). Instead of using “rotoscoping”, a common animation technique where the image is directly painted over to create a unique look for the movement of the plastic image, Folman used the video instead as a visual reference for a stand-alone process of animation where the images were crafted frame by frame using drawings and vector-based computer technology (“Waltz with Bashir Press Kit” 4-6).

Folman reveals the live footage at the end of the film, rendering the animation as the cartoonish element in comparison to the vulgarity of actual dead bodies. It was as though he hypothesized the viewer wanted “know” the truth and the reality of the trauma of the massacre. The purpose this serves is through the unveiling of the massacre’s effects, there is a moment of supreme catharsis where the true scale of suffering is felt. Many threads converge at once and the whole picture can be seen. The thesis is formed in attempt to remember and understand the truth of the event, which is how the filmic act becomes the means by which Folman is able to achieve his therapy.

Bibliography:

Kraemer, Joseph. (2015) Waltz with Bashir (2008): Trauma and Representation in the Animated Documentary. Journal of Film and Video 67.3-4. University of Illinois Press.

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Writing Animated Documentary: A Theory of Practice

by Paul Wells.

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Only recently there has been an acknowledged view of animation’s self-evident role in public engagement. Wells aim is to present approaches to writing animated documentary using theoretical concepts as tools of practice and identify practical applications. Wells claim is that animated documentary cannot be divorced from its conditions of production, as there may be specific contexts, socio-political outlook, but it can vary in terms of its uses. Such as artwork, a vehicle for information and training, educational text for knowledge transfer. The challenges of animated documentary that Wells addresses is that the text is more often interrogated for its form, rather than content. The ability to reconcile the relationship between “form” and “content” in animated documentary would mean increasing credibility in this field. Documentary simply put is an act of social record. Wells describes the animated documentary to operate in three ways. Firstly, it is a model of personal, social and institutional memory; second it reflects aspects of relationships between individuals and government bodies and finally it is how such texts evidence their own form as a matter of record. In relation to the extract, Wells mentions the documentary film maker Jon Else who provides a useful perspective to understanding what procedure is recommended to produce a documentary based on secondary materials. The sourced materials used will always have social subjectivity as its driving force and needs to convey a non-fictional enunciation, manifested visually. Wells further states his case through Paul Laverty’s statement that “good issues don’t make good films – good stories do” and this means that it is essential the presentation of the “document” requires a perspective. Thus, Wells redefines animated documentary as animated non-fictional dramaturgy. Wells recognizes the potential of animated documentary and reasons out the necessity to clarify the definition of documentary in order for viewers to take the animated documentary seriously. After establishing the genre of dramaturgy, Wells presents five core principles in the production of animated documentaries, with consideration to Halas’ taxonomy.

Notes:

  • What is animated documentary?
    • p7. theorisation of documentary practice has been characterised by the address of its core genres – travelogue, cinema verite, fly-on-the-wall, screen-journalism, docu-drama, observational actuality etc.
  • What challenges are there presented in the field?
    • p8. considerations insist upon deciding what the use of animation helps to actually achieve in the film that cannot be achieved in any other way.
    • p12. More challenging is to prove how an animated documentary not merely speaks to the public sphere as evidenced above; but how in itself it answers research questions.
  • What approaches are there to produce a successful animated documentary? *define what is successful – the conditions and considerations needed
    • p10. Animation’s key characteristics: symbolisation of objects and human beings; picturing the invisible; penetration; selection, exaggeration and transformation; showing the past and predicting the future; controlling speed and time
    • Examples: Break the Silence; The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation by John Canemaker; His Mother’s Voice by Dennis Tupicoff
    • p13. five core principles required to create animated documentary: making animation choices; staging in space; using attachment and detachment; episodic lists and micro-narratives; transition and associative relations

 

Bibliography:

Wells, Paul (2016) Writing Animated Documentary: A Theory of Practice. International Journal of Film and Media Arts. Available at: <http://revistas.ulusofona.pt/index.php/ijfma/article/view/5432>. Date accessed: 06 jan. 2017.

Toy Story: A Critical Reading

by Tom Kemper

Playing with destruction

This extract ‘Playing with Destruction’ from chapter 6 Playtime: The Film describes the above particular scene employing intertextuality, being rich with historical and cultural references that can be associated across multiple mediums. The scene introduces the viewer to the environment of Sid’s room and the mutant toys that inhabit there. There is a juxtaposition of creativity by how Sid ‘plays’ with his toys in a dark horror genre and Andy’s heroic happy-ever-after inventive play. Kenper highlights the satire that can be drawn from Mad magazine and Wacky Packages, as well as the surreal assemblages of artists Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell. Each having its own twisted take on the modern day commercial manufactured products. This is seen through the reconstruction of the toys Sid has operated on. The Pixar team has truly been able to inspire gruesome, repulsion and disgust through these characters, and most effectively with ‘Baby Face’, who is composed of a baby’s head on an erector set constructed like spiders legs. The fact he is missing an eye adds to the spooky melancholy characteristic. He is described like a lost spirit, reminiscent of the ghostly trapped figure in the classic horror film Eyes without a Face 1960. These pop references would only be appropriately acknowledged by the adults. What these characters serve is to unnerve and shock us, as a subtle symbol of sharing the impulses behind Wacky Packages, Mad, EC horror comics and other forms of popular culture.

This element of Toy Story is what I find personally useful in applying these intertextual elements and symbolism in animations of my own. This enriches the product as a whole and is thought provoking to understanding the cultures and more about humanity.

Bibliography:

Kemper, Tom. (2015) Toy Story: A Critical Reading, London, Palgrave

Popular Culture

Popular culture is recognized as Brummett describes to involve aspects of social life that are most actively observed by the public. The interactions between people and the everyday activities may include: fashion, use of slang, seasonal traditions, books, music and trending foods just to name a few. Popular culture is greatly informed by the mass media.

Especially in this century, technological advances has excelled connectivity and opened vast platforms of communication. Popular culture comprises of subjects that hold a great influence, along with the common belief and acceptance as the norm. Other influences can include iconic brands such as the Nike swoosh or McDonald’s golden arches.

The movements of photography, the theater, ballet, musicals and films demonstrate a progressive development in the mass media in storytelling and aesthetic achievements. The rise of animation has been a challenge, that had its beginnings from attempting to produce more realistic effects in films and family entertainment. Streams of animated short films, other animated based content that aim to target a wider audience beyond family have been branching out.

Understanding trends and the evolution of popular culture aids in better grasping how to better communicate ideas in a noisy technologically driven society. Originality, aesthetics and quality idea content are key aspects to successful communication.

A source of inspiration that I have been deriving from is http://www.webtoons.com a platform for professionals and amateurs to post and share comic strips for free reading. Here is the link to an extract from the Blue Chair comic below:

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This stream is a growing trend, which I find useful in developing my own style and storyboarding as an animator.

References:

[AB 12] Basic Animation Aesthetics

by David O’Reilly

O’Reilly bases his arguments on his previous works’ successful reception. He discusses the elements that contribute to capturing a more unified kind of animation aesthetic that works. Firstly, O’Reilly establishes that there are elements contribute to producing poor aesthetics that result in unprofessional and disengaging outcomes. Instead of aiming to produce a refined, realistic and perfected animated short, O’Reilly emphasizes on coherence in the aesthetic. The world that is created for the animation, the values, laws and models of worlds can be crafted to make sense, be arbitrary and artificial as long as they are kept consistent. In O’Reilly’s words it is ‘just as a lie repeated often enough becomes truth’. The essay also raises the issues in rendering time along the production pipeline and other complications that can discourage individual film makers. In order to achieve this convenience, using simple geometry was used, contributing to the animated short’s aesthetic. O’Reilly concludes with a significant point that the key to originality is knowledge of aesthetics. As aesthetic choices are examined, it directs and furthers new methods of thinking and generating ideas.

Bibliography:

O’Reilly, David. (2009) Basic Animation Aesthetics. N.p., 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Game Culture

https://www.jesperjuul.net/text/endlessriverofgames/

Jesper Juul, the ludologist, an contemporary active video game researcher of today wrote the article Sailing the Endless River of Games. He co-founded the paper Game Studies.

Juul comments that the video game history has changed in ways experts have not predicted that includes casual games, independent games, free to play games. This drives us to consider different facets of video games and how they are categorized.

Categories of games that were discussed in the lecture were:

  1. Based on core elements – fps, rpg (open world map); subcategories like sci-fi fps
  2. Regional games, how culture can affect the style of the game
  3. Puzzle games, point-click
  4. Cross-over categories

Definition of what is a video game: electronic game that involves human interaction that uses the medium of a user interface displayed on a video device like computer monitor or TV screen.

The medium of games makes a statement by how it occupies and intrigues us through seeking out different combinations and ways to provide beyond entertainment to an active engagement and attitude development. It may expose the slightly more passive media such as watching television.

Games is a platform that enables the player to present themselves in whatever way they chose, to become an alter ego, a different part of themselves in a virtual world. Each players personal abilities to conquer games vary, thus exist different motivations are revealed, as enjoyment comes in various forms. One interesting type of game to consider is interactive drama whereby decisions made when a situation is presented will alter the outcome of the game. Multiple possibilities can be produced.

The alter ego is nonetheless the same person as these are the choices made in the context of the game are made none other than the person. It is platform that reveals more about the self, thus interactive drama games such as The Walking Dead by Telltale and Heavy Rain by Quantic Dream, when statistics are collected can demonstrate which choices were the most clear and which choice was the most challenging that could go either way. Telltale would present the percentage of choice, in which players can view if they were in the majority or not. I think there is potential to undertake research in the psychological choices and within the realm of the game and the player in reality.

An example of TV series that portrays this idea of choice making is Westworld. The whole park Westworld is where the player can enter and live in a western-themed park. The “hosts” are human robots that are assigned personalities and follow routines. The “newcomers” or “guests” are the players that enter this park and make their decisions, doing whatever they wish in the park without fear of retaliation from hosts.

A quote that relates to the topic at hand by one of the hosts William states:

I used to think this place was all about pandering to your baser instincts. Now I understand It doesn’t cater to your lower self, it reveals your deepest self; it shows you who you really are.

Thus this is why I find fascinating about the topic interactive drama games is that it is a platform to observe the choices of the player and the decisions made. The Game Ego presence is also a concept that is related, and something I shall delve into after further research.

[AB 11] Hyper-Realistic Characters and the Existence of the Uncanny Valley in Animation Films

by Fethi Kaba.

In this article, Kaba examines the paradox in animation as it faces developing a realistic aesthetic. When animation draws nearer to hyper-realism, that induces an unsettling aesthetic questioning the believeability of the animation, hence the uncanny valley. The concept of the uncanny was first introduced in a psychological approach, then applied to the production of human-like robots. Masahiro Mori published in 1970 of “the uncanny valley” that referred to these robots that has become the subject discussed in animation, defining the uncanny valley by how “people are usually upset when faced with some phenomenon it cannot represent… I have noticed that, as robots appear more humanlike, our sense of their familiarity increases until we come to a valley”.

Kaba uses two examples as a comparison for what is the uncanny valley and what is still acceptable that is ‘The Polar Express’ and ‘The Incredibles’. The character design of ‘The Incredibles’ represents more of a traditional cartoon form as opposed to ‘The Polar Express’. According to Tid Newton, he states in animation it takes a bit of exaggeration to make something look convincing.

With this in mind, the article is useful in understanding how certain aesthetics are more successful than others.

Bibliography:

KABA, Fethi (2013) Hyper-Realistic Characters and the Existence of the Uncanny Valley in Animation Films, International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp.188-195