Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wonderfully Surreal Hand Drawn Animation

This animation short, About Face, created by Chris James in 1978 involves animal and human transformation and wonderful caricatures of many famous people. The music is by Claude Jouvin and camera work by Julian Holdaway.

In this day of CGI animation, About Face has an appeal in its rawness of line, which pulsates with life and energy, and in its direct application of media, which appears to be a combination of color pencils, ink and watercolor.  The accidental and unpredictable way the hand creates and manipulates media, following the artist's creative dictates are on full display, making the viewer aware of the drawn and painted quality of the image and by extension aware of the presence and action of the artist's hand as creator. 

This is indie animation in the pre-digital age; it is the imperfect hand drawing imperfectly conveying an idiosyncrasy that expresses a dreamlike quality, conjuring ethereal and hallucinatory images in thin air.  The wild and violent metamorphosis of human and animal figures and transitions from scene to scene gives me the impression of what might happen if Salvador Dali and Afred Hitchcock were to collaborate, creating something intensely psychological, disquieting and phantasmagoric. In fact, Dali and Hitchcock have collaborated once in the movie Spellbound (1945). Beyond the obvious similarity of the musical treatment in Spellbound, About Face seems to tap into the visual language and mood from Spellbound’s dream sequence and another Hitchcock movie, Vertigo.  The dream sequence in Vertigo also uses hallucinatory transformations and flashing colors to give the alarming impression of a nightmare.

 About Face is animation at its best revealing the movement of the imagination with no limits, where anything is possible, the witty comedic shift to the surprising, to the absurd, to the threatening and to the terrifying".

Spellbound (1945)

Vertigo (1958)

Because I am discussing surrealism and the cinema and made reference to Dali, it would be fitting to present his 1929 surrealist classic. A short movie he collaborated on with Luis Bunuel called Un Chien Andalou. They created the film under the principle that " no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.

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