Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

09:14:23 pm , 568 words, 2911 views     Categories: Animation

Passing thoughts on influence and Yellow Submarine

It's funny how silly it can seem in retrospect to talk about animation history without having seen certain important landmarks. I'm just in the process of watching Yellow Submarine for the first time (gasp), and it's like a whole obvious level of significance just passed over my head as I was assessing a number of the landmark anime films. As soon as I sit down to watch it I realize that without it, two of my favorite anime films would never have been: Belladonna, which five years later was clearly indebted to Yellow Submarine with its exuberant psychedelic images and drug-laced musical sequences; and Little Jumbo, which 9 years later was clearly indebted to George Dunning's mad vision with it dayglo colors and musical format, not to mention having a flying hand that's a straight crib of the Blue Meanies' flying glove in Yellow Submarine.

This inspiration is clearly one of the things that sets these films apart and made them such timeless creations never to be repeated. They weren't improved versions of the kind the Japanese are so good at in industry, but inspired reflections by the talented artists of the day who wanted to create something liberated and free in the same mold and undoubtedly saw in the film a handy tool for doing so. This is what we need more of today. We have artists working in anime who could equal if not top the mad exuberance and nonstop genius imagination of Yellow Submarine. Set Masaaki Yuasa free of the reins of the industry and let him create something in this vein, where every moment breaks the rules of animated logic and revels in the joy of visual creativity. Pair him with Yasunori Miyazawa, whose clear genius for creative new visual schemes is IMO also being repressed by the shackles of the industry's requirements to create commodities cut from the template of past successes. Japan has the talent, but it's being completely wasted on garbage.

I also like the idea of a script rooted in the language - one that can't be translated without losing the significance, like the many puns that litter this film that would be impossible to translate. It's rare to find a script that defies translation by being so masterfully constructed out of the idiosyncrasies of a language.

If you haven't seen Yellow Submarine, thinking it nothing but a gimmick, like I did, do yourself the favor of checking it out, if you value creativity in animation. Laugh at the 60s imagery if you must, but its every minute is amazingly full of creative ideas of a kind we don't see in animated feature-length films anymore, so it makes you wonder if we've made progress or gone backwards.

I saw the delightful film Mr. Nobody a few weeks ago, and was struck how much it reminded me of Millennium Actress and even Mind Game. Am I the only one? Some of the things seemed too similar to be coincidence. Not that I'm accusing the film of plagiarism; it'd be great to see live-action films paying Kon's and Yuasa's genius the overdue honor of being inspired by them. I quite enjoyed the film, though it kind of slogged in the middle.

I've hit 500 posts over at my Animated Music Videos blog, so to commemorate the occasion, I posted a brief retrospective of the animated films I feel paved the way for musical animation.



D.Z. [Visitor]  

Saw the trailer for Mr. Nobody, and while it looks more like Benjamin Button than Millennium Actress, I do note your point on the similarities. Incidentally, people on Kon’s board were actually complaining a few years back about how Memoirs of a Geisha went for the same look as MA; and I actually agreed, even though I noted the book predating both movies. I’ve also joked about 2010 being year of ripping off Satoshi Kon, as we’re seeing Inception being “inspired” by Paprika and Black Swan being an unofficial remake of Perfect Blue. Anyway, Kon now has a Twitter account @konsatoshi .

08/17/10 @ 13:17
Niffiwan [Visitor]  

Yellow Submarine also inspired this very good Russian animated short:

08/29/10 @ 13:59