Monday, April 30, 2012

"Fire and Ice" - We got barbarians! Lots of barbarians!

"Don't hunt for death, boy. It finds us all soon enough."

First of all, I just saw the new trailer for Prometheus. With each trailer they release, the more it seems to resemble Alien, but I'm really, really excited to see it.

I thought I'd post a little review of an animated film I watched a few weeks ago - Fire and Ice, directed by Ralph Bakshi. Just for reference, Bakshi directed a bunch of animated shorts and films starting in the late 1960s. He directed  the 1978 The Lord of the Rings animated movie, but he was also responsible for Fritz the Cat, which was history's first X-rated animated film.

On The Rotoscopers Episode 7 (Rango) Morgan mentioned Bakshi's views on animation (about 50 minutes into the show). Here are a couple of quotes from his IMDB bio:

"The art of cartooning is vulgarity. The only reason for cartooning to exist is to be on the edge. If you only take apart what they allow you to take apart, you're Disney. Cartooning is a low-class, for-the-public art, just like graffiti art and rap music. Vulgar but believable, that's the line I kept walking."

"None of my pictures were anything I could ever take my mother to see. You know it's working if you're making movies you don't want to your mother to see."

Yeah I understand his view, but I don't agree with it.

Fire and Ice, released in 1983, is an animated swords-and-sorcery fantasy film not unlike the Conan series. There's an evil sorcerer and his army invading a barbarian nation, a barbarian princess gets kidnapped, a hero sets out to save the world, and a tough-as-nails warrior named Darkwolf (pictured above) helps the hero on his quest. It's got monsters, it's got witches, and it's got a lot of violence.

Yeah this movie isn't for kids. While it's nothing R-rated, there are plenty of killings and the barbarian women don't dress/act very modestly.

What Makes This Film Interesting:

1) Very heavy use of Rotoscoping. First actors were filmed in live-action and later animators traced over their movements as the foundation for their animation. It gives the characters' movements a very naturalistic look. Value and tone (aka shading) on the characters' bodies is mostly nonexistent. I noticed the technique in this film more than any other. Although rotoscoping is cheap and not the most appealing animation technique, I thought it matched the spirit of the film. There's a lot of running, jumping, stabbing, squatting, swimming, etc. in Fire and Ice and you're certainly not going to see the characters line up and burst out into song.

I found this cool behind-the-scenes video on the rotoscope animation in Fire and Ice.

2) Minimal dialogue. Characters only speak if necessary. The film's plot is a story of struggle and survival, you know? So there's no dialogue to up the film's drama.

3) Cool-looking layouts. The background/layouts team mimicked the works of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta.

Check out that background. (A knife against a skeleton? Sooo ineffective)
It's a shame the characters don't match the quality of the layouts. This film would have been a lot better.

4) It's barbarians for crying out loud. There aren't a whole lot of animated films like this. For lovers of 80s fantasy adventures, Fire and Ice is a real treat. Darkwolf, your classic slash-first-and-ask-questions-later antihero, is by far the coolest character. If you're craving a campy fantasy film, I highly recommend this one. It's no Disney's Tarzan and will most likely fade away into animation oblivion, but it's still fun.

Check it out on Netflix Watch Instantly. If you enjoyed it and want to see more like it, I recommend Turok: Son of Stone (2008) or gorge yourself on some old He-Man cartoons.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Who Am I? I Could Be Anyone"

Get it? Rango quote. Animation.

Oh well.

Name: Mason Smith
Age: 23
Hometown: San Marcos, Texas
Occupation: Student
School: Brigham Young University
Major: Pre-Animation
Interests/Hobbies: Just read my blog. You'll figure it out.

What I'm up to These Days

I'm a podcast host. I'm a Rotoscoper.

Towards the end of last year my good friend Morgan started filling my head with dreams of being a co-host on an animation podcast. After weeks of brainstorming, researching, and trying to figure out a good show name, the first episode was scheduled for the first week of February. We came, we recorded, we conquered. Now, after 8 episodes, we've got a modest group of fans, and we've caught the attention of a few real-life animators. It's one of the funnest things I've ever done. We focus on one particular animated film for each episode, and we have nerdy discussions, quotes, and lots of random tangents. I love talking about film, especially animation, and Morgan, our other co-host Chelsea, and myself have a blast geeking out on the show.

Listen for free on We're also available on iTunes. I'll try to blog about stuff we talk about on the show, and vice versa.

I Like Animation.

Drawing, cartooning, watching movies, using my imagination. I enjoy it.

Lately I've been watching the X-Men Animated Series on Netflix. What a show! I'm not a big fan of the Marvel super hero movies that have been coming out (notable exception: The Incredible Hulk) mostly because I believe they poorly represent the world of Marvel comics. Download the Rotoscopers Episode 7 to hear a more in-depth opinion on the Marvel flicks.

Also, I just watched this crazy animated movie called Fire and Ice (1983). It's your standard Conan/Krull barbarian-fantasy film, only animated. Review coming soon.

BYU Animation

I'm currently putting together my portfolio to apply to BYU's animation program. The deadline is June 8th. It'll be a lot of figure drawing, some 3D stills, a sketchbook, my final project from 2D Animation, etc. Just to give you an idea of what I'm submitting:
My final project for one of last year's classes. I used Maya and Photoshop. 

 It's taking up a lot of my time and, usually, completely stressing me out. If you didn't already know, BYU Animation is a pretty tough program to get into. They only allow like 20 students into the program each year. To quote my INDES 150 professor Brent Adams, "There are, what, 15 people in this class? Yeah only two of you are going to make it into the program". Yeah. Failure isn't an option for me here; It's not just me being a perfectionist, I honestly don't want to do anything else with my life besides animation.

Lead singer for some kind of rock band would be nice too.

So I've got about a month here to put together an extremely important portfolio, and I should know if I made it into the program before mid-July. At that point my life will either be awesome or be officially over.

Stay tuned!