Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Animated World and Books

(Part of Animation Month)

Through the ages an animated image or creation has been equated to the illustrations in a book. To complete the passage from the flat representation of the other world to complete immersion within it is normally achieved through the camera melting into the world of the page or through the page transforming itself to make its presence felt in our world.

I have talked too about the vast number of animations that show the creator or the moment of creation. Is there an added artificiality and inherent alienness in animation that needs to be acknowledged and mitigated against by these 'before the curtain parts' interjections? Is it mere playfulness?

There are also many instances of the audience being beckoned further into the animation once we have already arrived such as the welcome afforded us by the oiseau of Paul Grimault's 1980 film Le Roi et L'Oiseau.

Below are a few examples taking us from the (relatively) early days right up to the here and now of books giving birth to animation. They are all three fine films:

Le Roman du Renard (1930), Ladislas Starewitch

A professorial monkey (with glasses of course) gives a roll-call of the characters of the story, revealed between the turning pages of the book.

Starewitch is best known for his insect animation The Cameraman's Revenge (1912). That film is more of a gimmick when compared to his greatest film The Mascot from 1933, a precursor in some respects to Pixar's Toy Story.

The Snow Queen (1957), Lev Atamanov

A little old man introduces us to the Hans Christian Andersen book.

Hayao Miyazaki cites The Snow Queen as one of his favourite animated films and a significant influence on his career. It has a naive beauty and a serenity of spirit also exhibited in Atamanov's lovely 1969 short Ballerina on a Boat.

Enchanted (2007), Kevin Lima

We are led into the animated section of the film through the pop-up design of a book. This is in part homage to the opening of Beauty and the Beast.


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  2. Reitherman's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) is one of the great animated films inspired by storybooks, as Reitherman has a lot of respect for the original A.I. Milne stories; and I really like the moment when the camera zooms in on the storybook, and the image of Christopher Robin on the swing begins to move back and forth. My thoughts on the film here: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2009/07/many-adventures-of-winnie-pooh-1977.html

  3. Thanks, Stephen, for this sampling of films referring to the books they originate from, through the ages. I've only seen Starewicz's film and I loved it. The recent Wes Anderson film too starts out somewhat like Starewicz's movie.
    I think this kind of practice, more often than not, amounts to nothing more than playfulness. But it's fun anyway (If I rememeber correct, Red Shoes also begins with the book).

  4. Adam, I'm afraid that version of Winnie the Pooh has passed me by.

    I shall try to check it out forthwith.

  5. JAFB, thanks and it's my pleasure as always.

    My recollection of The Red Shoes is too hazy to comment I'm afraid.

    Speaking of characters introducing us to their films, whatever happened to that type of trailer that was all the rage in the 30s - 60s? (an actor or the director addressing us to invite us to watch their film). I love those trailers.

  6. Yes. I love that Psycho trailer, where Hitch introduces the house first...

  7. Hitchcock standing at the bottom of the steps telling us how 'messy' it gets!

    (I think that's what he says)