Posted by: emjb | September 30, 2005

Scrappy-Dappy…aw, man, change the channel…

Cleaning out some old non-working links, which made me click on everything in my blogroll to test it.

While doing so, I discovered that Nina Paley’s site is both a blog and includes some amazing images from her upcoming animated film Sita Sings the Blues, a retelling of the Ramayana.

Stills here.
Clips here.

It look gorgeous and funny…I wish she didn’t think it was going to take 2.5 more years to complete, but I dropped a little donation to her in hopes of speeding that up.

Good animation is so rare, and good animation by and/or about women doubly so.

(begin rant)
With the kidling on the way, I’ve been taking the time to watch some of what’s out there animation-wise, and I have to say that the good-to-crap ratio is still way too low. Dragonball Z is probably the worst excuse for a cartoon show ever made, and I’m including the Scrappy Doo era of Scooby Doo in that list. It’s that bad and boring, and violent and sexist to boot, which, to give Scrappy his due, he never was. Sure it’s of the “toy-commercial” genre of animation, but next to it, old Transformers episodes look like Kurosawa.

I’ve yet to be impressed by any Japanese animation that I’ve seen, story-wise; the stuff that makes it onto Cartoon Network is all battles and bad puns and stupid weepy/oversexualized yet childlike female characters. And not much better male ones. Its saving grace appears to be sheer strangeness and bizarreness, (and some nice backgrounds) which is good for a few minutes (as in Spirited Away) but can’t carry the whole episode or film.

American animation isn’t faring much better, with a few exceptions. There’s more and more computer-generated animation out there, and even at it’s cutest, like The Backyardigans, I find the overly-smooth surfaces and gliding movement of CGI animation disturbing and plastic. Too close to the Uncanny Valley. The only place it works is on Rolie Polie Olie, which is about a family of robots living on a robot planet. For the most part, CGI suits the setting.

Robot Chicken is brilliant, and shows like Aqua Teen Hungerforce and The Brak Show wonderfully surreal, but completely adult. And the animation stinks on all three, which is part of their point. So I’m not sure they do much to change the equation. I’ll also leave out The Simpsons (dying) and Family Guy (crap) for that reason. Even if they were better, they’re not so much for little ones.

Actually, the best stuff for kids right now appears to be more live action or claymation type than animated, although I’ll come out right now and say the characters on Boobah still looks like nothing so much as rainbow-colored dancing testicles. (link requires Flash).


Ok, I was talking about Nina Paley. Go there now and check out her work, and that of some of the other women artists in my blogroll. They’re doing some great and funny stuff that’s a joy to look at, and will hopefully push all memories of Scrappy Doo right out of your head.


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