Cartoon characters have had four fingers for as long as we can remember. Sure, some cartoons have five fingers, but the majority of animation shows characters with only four fingers. How did this become the standard in the animation industry? Will cartoons always only have four fingers? We dig deep into one of the oldest animation questions in cartoon history… Why do cartoons only have four fingers? (synopsis via Laughing Squid)
Have you wondered why it is that pretty much all your favourite ‘toon friends come with just four fingers?
This fascinating. rich-with-detail from host Cade Hiser of Channel Frederatorexplains how it came to be, the psychological and practical reasons why it’s a standard for most animators (though not all; Japanese anime largely sticks with five fingers) and four fingers, of course, is cheaper and easier to draw.
As Hiser rightly points out too, once you’ve noticed that Bugs, Homer and Cartman don’t have the full allocation of digits, you can’t unsee it, something you will now have me to thank for.
At least you’ll know why and that’s should help you sleep easier at night.
Well, when you’re not laughing at your favourite cartoons naturally!
One of my fondest childhood memories is lying sprawled on the family room floor with comic books spread out before me, everything from British comics like Cheeky Weekly and Whoopee through to Peanuts, Tumbleweeds and Murray Ball’s Footrot Flats (1975-1994).
It’s that last title that has particular resonance for me at the moment as I reflect upon the much-loved New Zealand cartoonist’s passing over the weekend from Alzheimer’s Disease, a cruel way for anyone to go but especially as cleverly witty, gloriously down to earth and funny as Murray Ball.
I fell in love with Dog, the central character for all intents and purposes, in Footrot Flats, a comic strip set on a typical New Zealand farm that met more than its fair share of adversity, all of it filtered through Dog’s thought-bubble perspective and that of Wal Footrot, Dog’s laconic owner and the wrangler of a posse of gorgeously idiosyncratic friends, loved ones such as girlfriend Cheeky and niece Pongo, and the otehr animalian inhabitants of the farm such as Horse, a damnn near invincible cat and Prince Charles, the poncy Welsh Corgi who belongs to Wal’s prim and proper Aunt Dolly.
Unlike Snoopy, another comic strip canine favourite of mine, Dog was unabashedly a dog; not for him the type of sage anthropomorphic insights that we’ve come to associate with many an ink-and-pen animal.
Not that he was stupid by any stretch; Dog knew what was what and reacted accordingly; rather he reacted to things as a dog might, with wry amusement and understanding sure and even a little advice as needed – he was not adverse to some rugby tips when needed – but exactly as you might imagine a dog responding (see the panel above).
In keeping with Ball’s down to earth persona and wish to portray New Zealand farm life as realistically as possible, the scenarios that Dog and Wal found themselves were the stuff of everyday rural life – fences that needed to be replaced, flooded paddocks and rugby games that needed to be played.
You may have thought that would have rendered the strip far too niche to be widely appealing, however Footrot Flats was written with such good humour, some sweet insight for the human condition and a reverence for the bonds of family, friends and community, no matter how they might sometimes amuse you, that you couldn’t help but be drawn in.
I mean, I was most assuredly not a New Zealand farmer nor really connected intimately with farming life, despite growing up in regional far northern New South Wales, Australia, but I fell hook, line and sinker for Ball’s magnificent creation, loving Dog and the crew so much that one birthday, close friends gave me a wood-burned version of Dog in his iconic pose (see top of the post).
It was honestly one of the best presents I have ever received and even now, 40 years later, it is among my most treasured possessions.
Another comic strip of Ball’s was Stanley the Paleolithic Hero, which ran in the UK’s Punch magazine in the 1970s, along with All the King’s Comrades, was another offbeat favourite of mine.
I loved Stanley’s thoughtful approach to life so much that when I had to do a school project on the paleolithic era, back when such undertakings involve paper, glue and lots of handwritten articulation, I decorated it, probably against regulations (even if it was, my teacher happily went along with my idiosyncratic choice), with lots of Stanley comic strips.
The thing with all of Ball’s comic strips was that they both beautifully drawn and thoughtful in their narrative intent, gems of brief, pitch-perfect comedic articulation that came with richly-drawn (literally) characters and heartfelt emotional resonance.
Ball’s work was such a high quality that he gained himself some pretty impressive fans, according The Guardian‘s obituary, one in particular dovetailing pleasingly with another great comic strip obsession of mine.
“Ball and Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz had a mutual admiration of each other’s work, with one Footrot Flats strip showed Dog laughing at a Snoopy cartoon. Schulz wrote the introduction to the only Footrot Flats volume ever to be published in the United States.
“‘The dog is definitely one of my favorite cartoon characters of all time,’ wrote Schulz of Ball’s ‘wonderful strip’. ‘Being a fanatic about comic strips, I am always either very impressed by good drawing, or saddened by poor drawing. I love the way Murray draws these animals. I love the relationship among all of the characters, and am especially fond of the absolutely original approach to the humor.'”
But Ball didn’t just enrich Schulz’s life; he made the lives of anyone who read his elegantly pithy, funny, clever work better, gracing us with characters that meant something to each other and to us, whose lives were real, vibrant and funny and who came to be a part of our lives.
That is the ultimate accolade for any creative person and as Murray Ball joins Dog in heaven – the character was based on Ball’s own dog who died in the early ’90s, partly precipitating the end of the comic strip – we can only hope he knew how much he was loved and admired and how very deeply he will be missed.
* The song above is from Footrot Flats: A Dog’s Tail Tale, which came out in 1986 to stupendous success proving once again that you can’t keep a good dog or man down.
It’s my most wonderful time of the year when I can decorate my tree to within one inch of its much-loved life with pop culture ornaments without number – there are a finite number of them but when I start pulling out all the boxes, it sure doesn’t feel like that – sing warm-and-fuzzy festive songs with gusto and when I get to see close friends and family, often in the one wondrous place.
It’s bliss on a stick for me but I get that not everyone loves it the way I do. So don’t worry you won’t get this reaction from me …
And no, I won’t do this to you either …
And I appreciate you might feel like this is the way Christmas actually feels …
Try though to remember that even when everything seems bleak, that there is love, care and friendship awaiting you.
Maybe even love sweet festive love (along with Mariah Carey in The Late Show’s James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke) …
And have yourself a merry little (Grover) Christmas Day …
Thank you so much for reading my blog all year. I have loved writing and appreciate all the support everyone has given me. Now go off and enjoy all those chestnuts roasting, those sleight bells and your favourite Christmas TV specials and movies. Have some festive fun will ya?!
A great place to start doing that is here with Sean Hayes and Scott Icenogle’s latest Christmas extravaganza backed by Barbara Streisand’s delicious take on “Jingle Bells” …
I am both a Christmas tree addict and a pop culture junkie.
All of which means that with the arrival of the most wonderful time of the year, my thoughts tend to go to covering my delightful artificial pine tree – when I was growing natural pine trees were a rarity and an expense my parents couldn’t afford so it was plastic trees from the word go and so shall it always be – with as many pop culture ornaments as is humanly possible.
Which given I am an extrovert naturally prone to excess is a substantial number. A ridiculously substantial number in fact.
Thus I have ornaments from The Muppets and Sesame Street, Looney Tunes, Disney and Hanna-Barbera, Star Wars, comic strips such as Peanuts and Dilbert, feature animation such as Minions, Zootopia and Inside Out, and even Smurfs.
Yep I have a wide assortment of pop culture ornaments, which add to every year, not by one or two ornaments as my partner hopes and prays but by 10 to 12, largely because experience has taught me that many of these ornaments are rare and rarely come back up for sale again (they’re not like baubles or more traditional ornaments which are far more common).
So without any further ado, here are 5 of this year’s additions to the ornaments collection, which carry a heavy, nay pretty much exclusive, animation bias.
Voiced by with forgetful delight by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory was the breakaway star of Finding Nemo (2003) and of course Finding Dory (2016). In this year’s sequel we see Dory both as a very cute baby fish – we see her origin story in flashbacks – and as the grown up fish we have come to know and love. It’s the adult version that Hallmark have brought to life in this delightful piece, which captures an appealing amnesic glint in her eye. Now if I could only remember where I packed it … kidding she’s on the tree already.
There’s no other word for him – Baymax, the cuddly, kindhearted and trusting protagonist of Big Hero 6 (2014), is adorable. Ridiculously, gloriously, huggably adorable. He is a distinctive hero who departs from the usual superhero in that he takes goes from naive child to capable adult over the course of the film which is warm, rich, action-packed, fun and poignant in equal measure. Baymax stole my heart and continues to delight me so having him on the tree makes perfect sense and is long overdue.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a Marvel maverick film – while it has a bunch of superheroes at the heart of its narrative, so much so template, it also dares to upset the creative applecart, thrown in a good amount of irreverence, silliness and over the top playfulness, something distinctly lacking in its more serious genre counterparts. While everyone loves Star-Lord’s retro ’80s chic, the two characters I love the most are wisecracking mercenary Rocket Raccoon and his sentient tree friend, the vocabulary-challenged Groot. Finding them together in an ornaments pack was thrilling and made my Guardians-loving heart glad.
Voiced by Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Oh, the protagonist of Home(2015), is a Boov, an outcast member of a compliant, conformist alien race called the Boov who colonise Earth without so much as a how-you-do, sending humanity to live on a beautifully manicured suburban prisons high in the sky. Largely because he isn’t one of the gang, Oh hilariously connects with a young feisty girl Tip (Rihanna), something the rest of his race would never think to do, in the process changing the course of human and Boov history. he’s a delight and the ornament, complete with Tip’s cat is similarly delightful.
Granted The Good Dinosaur is not one of Pixar’s more celebrated movies, possessing a rather pedestrian been-there-done-that narrative that hardly pushes any storytelling envelopes. But there’s something about Arlo (a dinosaur voiced by Raymond Ochoa) and Spot (a caveboy voiced by Jack Bright) that warms the heart and gives the film a deep emotional resonance far beyond what its conventional plot might suggest. I love these guys and so, naturally, I love their ornament.
I have always been drawn to exquisitely colourful, imaginative artwork.
But these works by Korean artist jeeyoung lee, all of which are created inside her four metre square studio are breathtakingly leaps and bounds beyond anything I’ve seen before.
They are worlds and universes unto themselves, telling a story even as they dazzle and enthrall with colour, design and out-of-the-box thinking.
You don’t so much want to look at this artwork as disappear into it and go on a grand reality-defying adventure.
As you might expect, they take a considerable amount and though to bring to being, as Design Boom explains:
“in their making, the elaborate sets require extraordinary patience and copious creative materials, as each element is individually handcrafted to diminish the need for post-production manipulation. the compositions act as a visual representation of the artist’s own thoughts and frustrations. although she includes herself in each piece, her image is not meant as a self-portrait — rather a quest for identity, a desire for personal introspection, and an exploration of her frame of mind. [sic]”
The artist draws all her inspiration from her personal experience, which makes you wish your life was as vivid and as utterly transportive as her most clearly is.
You can see more of Jeeyoung Lee’s art and an interview with the artist at Design Boom.
It goes without saying that Vincent Van Gogh was a breathtakingly talented artist, a man who, despite his many afflictions, created some of the most stunningly beautiful, leap-off-the-canvas art the world has ever seen.
You may not think you could improve on art that luminously entrancing, and truth be told the makers of Loving Vincent aren’t even trying, but the hand-painted film they and a legion of artists schooled in the master’s inimitable style is a wondrous extension and celebration of the rich colours and landscapes of Van Gogh’s creations.
Loving Vincent, described as the “first feature-length painted animation”, tells the story of Van Gogh through the animated recreation of 120 of his own paintings. It’s not necessarily intended as an exhaustive biopic; rather an evocation of the life and spirit of the man, and in that respect the film, which uses 12 paintings to create one second of onscreen time, succeeds marvellously.
The trailer alone is enchanting, with many points where you feel like you could just tumble into the endlessly moving art unfurling before you, so you can only wonder at how special the final film, from Oscar-winners, Breakthru Films, will be.
There’s no release yet but rest assured when there is, Loving Vincent looks like one of those films you will haveto see on the big screen.
Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory reunites everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang, Dory, with her friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. What can she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak Whale? Directed by Andrew Stanton and produced by Lindsey Collins, the film features the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton. (synopsis via official Finding Dory facebook page)
Dory’s remembered she has parents! Well mostly … OK a little bit … intermittently … look the point is a bunch of migrating stingrays prompt some long forgotten memories in Dory and she has to go find her parents.
Wherever they are! She has to find them! Wait … what was she doing again?
She may not always remember but she remembers enough to go off in search of her beloved parents, during which she encounters a sneaky octopus with issues, an effervescently happy whale shark who hasn’t quite got the whole swimming thing down, and of course, Nemo and dad Marlin.
We get to see way more of Dory’s epic journey to reunite with her family and Ellen DeGeneres as the titular fish in search of those she loves, well when she remembers she loves them, is as delightful as ever.
Finding Dory opens 16 June 2016 in Australia and 17 June in USA.
As Love Bites, a delightful 2014 short film by Agaki Bautista, Aram Davern, Michael De Caria, and Jonathon Iskov (then students at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment Sydney), with music by Peter Lam makes gorgeously clear, love is but an appetiser to a yummy testosterone-laced meal.
Only someone forgot to give the adorable young Cecil the memo.
The young male praying mantis sweetly and naively ties a bow around a pretty red ladybird before setting off for what he imagines will be the realisation of all his romantic mantis dreams.
But as the heads of other male mantises start to fall around him, he realises love may be more of a degustation than a delight.
But might he defy the odds and find sweet insect love after all?
Anything is possible in the magically wonderful world of Love Bites.
Assuming the venus fly traps allow you to live and tell the tale …
Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) is rightly regarded as one of the master animators of the modern era.
A gifted storyteller with an enthralling ability to conjure up evocative characters and the beguiling, unique worlds they inhabit, he examines and celebrates the human condition in ways few other animators, besides Pixar, seem to manage.
It’s why people reacted with horror and sorrow when it appeared he was hanging up his animator boots for good; thankfully that’s not the case with Miyazaki working on a 10-minute short film about a hairy caterpillar that will be shown at Studio Ghibli’s museum in Tokyo.
But it does appear that the era of Miyazaki-helmed feature films may have passed, which is why this montage video by French animator Dono celebrating Miyazaki’s work is such a wonderful treat.
Covering everything from pre-Ghibli Castle of Cagliostro to his final beautifully touching work The Wind Rises, it vividly illustrates how marvelous Miyazaki’s creations are, and they fit so seamlessly together into one delightful, transportive whole.
There is no such thing as too many Pixar movies in one year.
Especially after a year (2014) where there were no movies from the rightly acclaimed animation powerhouse at all.
Hot, relative again to last year’s Pixar drought on the heels of the beyond superlative Inside Out, comes The Good Dinosaur which wonders what would have happened if that pesky meteorite has screamed right on by Earth 65 millions years ago and left dinosaurs and humans to get to know other than by the fossil record (quite a way down the track of course).
It’s hard to say how that prehistoric alternative history would have played out but one thing’s for sure – if this trailer is anything to go by, it could have been downright magical.
Granted, in the real world, it would likely have played out with a lot of running (humans) and chomping (T-Rex and his kin) but I like to think that maybe, just maybe there would have been a little bit of the lovely storyline we see in the film where an Apatosaurus named Arlo meets and befriends a young human boy and wonderful heartwarming, life-affirming things happen.
And hopefully all to a lovely song like “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men which accompanies the trailer, and without a single Pixar-unfriendly velociraptor in sight.
The Good Dinosaur opens 18 November 2015 in USA and Boxing Day in Australia.