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Director: Tomer Eshed
Release date:
June 23, 2011
Rating:
 
★★
Review:

‘Flamingo Pride’ tells about a flamingo who’s apparently the only straight guy at an enormous gay dance festival. Then he falls in love with a female stork flying by…

‘Flamingo Pride’ turns the tables around, making being straight the minority. That is, in the flamingo community, because outside their own festival all birds seem to be straight and having classic role patterns.

It’s not very clear what the film tries to tell us. For starters it is a bit confusing that apparently all flamingos are gay, and none of the other birds is. Moreover, the gay flamingos pretty much look like gay stereotypes. None of them, not even ‘our hero’ has a grain of personality.

At least the film isn’t as funny as it was meant to be. The short is hampered by some ugly designs (the flamingos have teeth, for example), and odd camera movements, which distract from instead of enhance the main protagonist’s emotions. More problematical was that I couldn’t quite follow its story: the role of the two tigers is puzzling, as is the flamingo’s subsequent move.

I’m afraid I find ‘Flamingo Pride’ to be a rather immature and mediocre animation film about sex with some unwelcome gay stereotyping.

Watch ‘Flamingo Pride’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Flamingo Pride’ is available on The Animation Show of Shows DVD Box Set 8

Director: Eric Khoo
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The film ‘Tatsumi’ celebrates the work of Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi (1935-2015). Tatsumi is the inventor of the gegika manga style, a grittier, more alternative form of manga for adults. The film re-tells five of Tatsumi’s short stories in this this style, all from 1970-1972. These stories are bridged by excerpts from his drawn autobiography ‘A Drifting Life’ from 2008.

Thus, the film is completely drawn (only in the end we see the real Yoshihiro Tatsumi), but to keep the manga style intact the film was animated with Toon Boom Software, specialized in ‘animatics’, which brings story boards to life. Thus, full animation, although present, is rare, and most of the motion is rather basic, often lacking any realism of movement. The animation is enhanced by limited digital effects, and the first and last story are digitally manipulated to make the images look older.

The complete film thus is little more than slightly enhanced comic strips. One wonders if this is the best way to present Tatsumi’s work, as most probably his stories work better in their original manga form, but of course the movie is a great introduction to his work, which without doubt is fascinating and original.

Tatsumi’s manga style clearly deviates from his example, the great Osamu Tezaku. Tatsumi’s style is more raw, sketchier and knows nothing of the big eyes so common in manga. All but one story use a voice over narrator. And all but one are in the first person. The stories themselves are gritty, dark, depressing and bleak. The second story, ‘Beloved Monkey’, in which a factory worker falls in love with a girl at a zoo, is particularly bitter. The outer two take place just after the end of World War II and show the effects of Japan’s traumatic loss. All are about the losers in life, struggling at the bottom of society. As Tatsumi himself says near the end of the movie:

“The Japanese economy grew at a rapid pace. Part of the Japanese population enjoyed the new prosperity. The people had a great time. I couldn’t bear to watch it. I did not share in the wealth, and neither did the common people around me. My anger at this condition accumulated within me into a menacing black mass that I vomited into my stories.”

Surprisingly, the protagonists of all first-person stories, including the autobiography, all look more or less the same, as if Tatsumi couldn’t create more than one type of hero. Only the third story, ‘Just a Man’, the only one to use a third person narrator, stars a different and older man, while the last story, the utterly depressing ‘Good-bye’, is the only one to have a female protagonist. Tatsumi’s own life story is told in full color which contrasts with his short stories, which are mostly in black and white. Tatsumi’s autobiography is less compelling than his story work but adds to the understanding of the artist and his work.

Surprisingly, for such a Japanese film ‘Tatsumi’ was made in Singapore and animated in Indonesia.  According to Wikipedia Singaporean director Eric Khoo was first introduced to the works of Yoshihiro Tatsumi during his military service, and immediately was stricken by his stories. When ‘A Drifting Life’ was published in Singapore in 2009, Khoo realized that Tatsumi still was alive and wanted to pay tribute to him. Tatsumi himself was greatly involved in the film and narrates his own life story. The movie is a great tribute to one of the more original voices in Japanese manga, and well worth watching, if you can tolerate a dose of sex and violence.

Watch the trailer for ‘Tatsumi’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Tatsumi’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Michèle Cournoyer
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Le chapeau’ is a nonlinear, stream-of-consciousness-like film of flowing pen drawings morphing into each other on a white empty canvas, using the hat as a recurring motive.

The film is very associative, but it clearly says something about the male gaze and how it reduces women to mere objects of desire. The images show e.g. a female dancer dancing nude for a male audience, and images of sex. Most disturbing are the images in which the adult woman suddenly changes into a little girl and back, suggesting child abuse.

Cournoyer’s animation is flowing, her pen drawings are rough and sketchy, and her use of metamorphosis is mesmerizing. The result is a powerful, if rather uncomfortable short.

Watch ‘Le chapeau’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Director: Erica Russell
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Six years after ‘Feet of Song‘ Erica Russell returned with another extraordinarily beautiful dance film, this time using three dancers in a triangular relationship.

During most of the dance two women compete for a man, and the film features several dances between the man and either one of the women, the two women together, and, in the end, all three together.

The fluency of the movement combined with the elegance of Russell’s paintwork make the film a delight to watch. During most of the film the three dancers remain recognizable as human forms, but at times they change into almost abstract forms, with a strong Bauhaus influence.

Despite the high level of abstraction ‘Triangle’ is a very sensual film, and one never loses the idea that the film is about three characters with solid bodies, no matter how sketchily drawn. Charlie Hart’s score fits the images very well with its quasi-African touch to it.

Watch ‘Triangle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Triangle’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★

‘The Invention of Writing (and Its Destruction)’ is the second of only three films in Phil Mulloy’s ‘The History of the World’-series, which apparently should have existed of 140 different shorts.

Like ‘The Discovery of Language‘ this is a film about sex. The short uses the same white characters as ‘The Discovery of Language’, and takes place in 2,000 years B.C. The short tells about a man who doesn’t manage to get sex, because he’s beaten again and again by other men.

Then the man uses his own penis as a pen, writing ‘The penis (pen is) mightier than the sword’. The invention of writing earns him a multitude of women to have sex with, but it won’t last.

Like ‘The Discovery of Language’ ‘The Invention of Writing (and Its Destruction)’ is essentially a silent film, with intertitles. Mulloy’s animation is simple and crude, and makes effective use of cut-out techniques. The result is a strange mix of sex, violence and absurd humor.

Watch ‘The Invention of Writing (and Its Destruction)’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Invention of Writing (and Its Destruction)’ is available on the BFI DVD ‘Phil Mulloy – Extreme Animation’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★

‘The Discovery of Language’ is ‘episode 10’ of Phil Mulloy’s ‘The History of the World’, which in real life only consists of three films, of which this one is the first.

The film series uses Mulloy’s typical crude black and white style, enhanced by reds to depict blood. But unlike his other films, his characters are not black blots of inks, but white.

The short tells about a primitive tribe of women, 1,000,000 b.c. who discover letters in the soil, which together form the word ‘vagina’. As soon as they realize the meaning of the word they create their own Fall of Man, covering their crotches with skirts, and forbidding masturbation. Meanwhile, the men are on a similar quest to form the word ‘Penis’, but they are too stupid to fulfill the task.

The crude humor of this short is enhanced greatly by the effective soundtrack, featuring excellent music by Alex Balanescu.

Watch ‘The Discovery of Language’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Discovery of Language’ is available on the BFI DVD ‘Phil Mulloy – Extreme Animation’

Director: Andreas Hykade
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ★★★½

‘Wir lebten im Gras’ is the first of three films in which German animator Andreas Hykade explores the loss of innocence, the other two being ‘Ring of Fire’ (2000) and ‘Der Kloane’ (The Runt, 2006).

The film is also the most cryptic of the three, full of images that are very difficult to decipher. The film is set in a rather mythical place, ‘two streets away from the end of the world’ and has a timeless and universal feel.

The story is told by a boy voice over, who reminisces about his father, who told him that “All women is whore and all men is soldier”. Outside the voice over there is no dialogue. The little boy tries to see the world through his father’s eyes, but this conflicts with his softer side, and he’d rather fall in love with the enigmatic ‘dandelion girl’.

The film is less straightforward than this synopsis suggests, however, and the film is more surreal and suggestive than narrative. For example, the boy’s adventures are interjected by nightmarish dream sequences, the meaning of which is never really explained. These dream sequences are rendered in an expressionistic pastel style, reminiscent of Lorenzo Mattotti’s art work. This style contrasts highly with the simple cel animation.

Hykade’s drawing style is highly original. His human designs are simple, almost stickman-like, but genitals are very prominent, and the father is drawn as a more robust, earthly character.

The animation is very virtuoso, with a great feel for timing. Moreover, Hykade uses a lot of changing perspective, and has an admirable command of movement.

‘Wir lebten im Gras’ was Hykade’s last student film, but it certainly is his first major work. With this film Hykade proved to be a strong new voice in the animation world, a fact he consoled with his masterpiece ‘Ring of Fire’ from 2000.

Watch ‘Wir lebten im Gras’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wir lebten im Gras’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol. 2’

Director: Igor Kovalyov
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: May 7, 1994
Rating: ★★★½

Russian independent animation master Igor Kovalyov directs this erotically charged episode in which Duckman’s son Ajax falls in love.

The story features a very unlikely undercover investigation by Duckman and Cornfed dressed as ‘teenagers’ in Ajax’s school. More convincing and more importantly to the series is the search for Ajax by Aunt Bernice and Duckman in some honeymoon town in Mexico.

Duckman is more lustful than ever in this episode, which expands on both his relationship with Aunt Bernice as with his son, Ajax. Cornfed, on the other hand, is hardly present. His best gag is when he’s in a tree together with Duckman, spying on Ajax’s vice principle, fooling Duckman with describing erotic images to drive the latter’s lust to a boil.

The whole episode bursts with sex without revealing anything, and certainly is one of the most adult of all Duckman episodes, even if Duckman’s own desires and objectifications of women are rather juvenile.

Watch ‘It’s the Thing of the Principal’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 9
To the previous Duckman episode: Not So Easy Riders
To the next Duckman episode: Cellar Beware

‘It’s the Thing of the Principal’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 July 16, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Office Boy © Ub IwerksIn ‘The Office Boy’ Flips applies to be an office boy, and he’s hired on the post, after he has washed away all his competitors with a fire hose.

Once at work he accidentally starts a record player, and he and the sexy secretary start to dance to some rumba music. Later, a cat and a mouse cause havoc, leading to the secretary losing her dress, and Flip being fired.

‘The Office Boy’ is a gag-packed cartoon, the best of which is the one with a face Flip paints on a dirty window. Flip’s voice is remarkably Mickey Mouse-like in this cartoon, but most of the humor would not fit Mickey, at all, as many gags involve the sexy secretary, repeatedly revealing her underwear.

The secretary would be used again in Flip’s next cartoon, ‘Room Runners‘, which is even more erotic. The secretary is also shown chewing bubble gum, in one of the first animated depictions of this 1928 invention (another contender is the Mickey Mouse film ‘Barnyard Olympics‘ from April).

The erotic secretary seems proof that Iwerks wanted to compete with Fleischer’s sensual Betty Boop cartoons. However, it may also be an example of an increased amount of sex references employed by Hollywood in 1932 in general, for a stronger sexual content can also be noted in live action movies from the era.

This higher level of eroticism in Hollywood cinema remained extant until 1934, when the Hays code kicked in with a vengeance, and the tables were turned exactly the other way: for most of the 1930s cartoons often became ridiculously goody-goody and childish, reaching a low point around 1935/1936.

Watch ‘The Office Boy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 23
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The Bully
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Room Runners

‘The Office Boy’ is available on the DVD Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 31, 1930
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Barnacle Bill' featuring Barnacle Bill and Betty Boop on a singing couch

‘Barnacle Bill’ is a literal visual illustration of the folk song of the same name, made famous by Hoagy Carmichael’s 1930 recording.

Barnacle Bill (another version of early Bimbo) is visiting Betty Boop, who’s called Nancy Lee in this cartoon and who apparently is the Captain’s love. All neighbors gossip about it, and when the captain arrives, he chases Barnacle Bill into the sea, where the latter dances with some remarkably humanized mermaids.

‘Barnacle Bill’ is the second cartoon featuring Betty Boop, and it introduces the strong sexual overtones, associated with the character in her early years. One example is Betty’s dress that rolls itself up, exposing her legs. There’s also a couch that itself replaces several chairs when Betty invites Barnacle Bill inside.

‘Barnacle Bill’ uses musical dialogue almost exclusively. It contains some odd perspectives and flexible animation, but most important of all, it is wildly surrealistic, creating a completely original world of utter weirdness. For example, when Barnacle Bill threatens to bust in the door, the door shrinks and hides under the welcome mat. Later, we watch Barnacle Bill swim through the air, and dive into the couch. And when he leaves Nancy Lee’s apartment block, he sails one of the stairs. Touches like these make watching the cartoon a mind-blowing experience. I don’t think it’s considered a classic, but to me it should be.

Watch ‘Barnacle Bill’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 9
To the previous Talkartoon: Dizzy Dishes
To the next Talkartoon: Swing, You Sinners!

‘Barnacle Bill’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 18, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop, Max Fleischer
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Betty Boop's Rise to Fame © Paramount‘Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame” is a compilation cartoon, but it’s easily one of the best in its kind.

It features Betty Boop and her creator, Max Fleischer in a nice mix of animation and live action. Fleischer asks Betty, who is depicted as a tiny cartoon character, to perform for a reporter. She does three of her finest moments, using footage from ‘Stopping the Show‘ (1932), ‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle‘ (1932) and ‘The Old Man from the Mountain’ (1933).

In between, there’s some lovely interplay between Betty and “uncle Max”. Even these new scenes are sexy, when Betty changes clothes behind an ink pot and some books. This delightful cartoon can be regarded as an ode to Betty’s glorious past. From now on sex and eroticism would be banished from her cartoons due to the censorship of the Hays code.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 28
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty in Blunderland
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Trial

‘Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 1, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko The Clown
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'I Heard' featuring Betty in underwear and Bimbo © ParamountBetty Boop works in a tavern near a coal mine, where Koko The Clown and Bimbo are working. The latter discovers some ghosts in the mine.

This short contains an excellent swinging jazz score by Don Redman and his orchestra, who are introduced in the beginning of the picture, playing in a zany cartoon decor. The music includes adapted versions of Don Redman’s hit songs ‘How am I doing?’ (1932) and ‘I Heard’ (1931).

‘I Heard’ was the last Fleischer cartoon to feature a great jazz score. Don Redman, and his predecessors Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong, where soon replaced by Rubinoff and his orchestra playing sweet semi-classical music in ‘Morning Noon and Night‘  and ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers‘ (both late 1933). Even worse, the cartoon marked Bimbo’s last screen appearance. Being an animal he was no longer accepted as being Betty’s suitor in a Hays Code dominated Hollywood which shunned all eroticism and ‘unnatural sexual behavior’, including human-animal relationships.

After Bimbo, Betty would shortly date a human character named Fearless Freddie, but from 1935 on she remained a bachelor apparently with no interest in men whatsoever. In this cartoon, though, she’s still sexy, and she can briefly be seen in her underwear, after the elevator she and Bimbo had taken has crashed.

Thus, in many ways, one can regard ‘I Heard’ as the last of the classic Betty Boop cartoons. After this cartoon, the intoxicating mix of sex and surrealism was only seen once, in the compilation cartoon ‘Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame‘ (1934), a last tribute to Betty’s glory days.

Watch ‘I Heard’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 20
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: The Old Man of the Mountain
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Morning Noon and Night

‘I Heard’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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