I know I'm
not surprising anyone when I point to how computers are helping
people "do more." Let's just take creating media for example.
Some years ago I self-published my first paperback...'did the
whole thing on a PowerBook, saved it on one of those clunky 44MB
Syquest disks, and sent it off to a vanity press. A few months
later a truck pulled up and BOOM, I had real books taking up space
in my parents' garage. This year, I produced a 24-minute, full
CGI cartoon...from writing to animating to output on mini-DV,
I created the whole cartoon with two computers (a G4 and a PC)
and a Sony Walkman mini-DV deck, all in my spare bedroom.
just the type of thing Bart Cheever, with his D.Film
Digital Film Festival , is looking to encourage...media creation
technology in the hands of the people. There's a good amount of
information at his site to help anyone get going, and Bart screens
tons of material for his rotating festival. He even quotes some
famous old French guy who once said, basically, film wouldn't
be a true art form until the common man has full access to the
tools of production. (It's too bad the French guy had to use the
In an interview
with D.Film, back in 1997 or so, I went on a bit of a tirade.
Full of myself, I proclaimed the advent and accessibility of film
creating technologies would NOT bring on a new age of creative
expression, but would, instead, open the floodgates for mediocrity.
I used cable access, homemade porn videos, and thousands of cat-centric
personal web pages as my oracle.
later, with a smarmy grin, I now confidently proclaim myself correct
in my guesses, and I owe the major part of pabulum's onset to
Macromedia's Flash. How many millions of plug-in downloads do
they now boast? Each is an open wound within your browser, just
begging for infection.
sites hoping to mature into next generation's animation studios
are popping up like mushrooms. A year or so ago, "everyone" was
submitting material to ifilm to where it quickly became a dumping
ground for anything resembling a movie. The sheer volume of current
material prevents me from giving any of it a chance. It completely
destroys my will, in fact. I still only have a 56K modem...I can't
afford to waste my time with the daunting task of finding diamonds
in the rough. The odds are not in my favor.
to all that haphazard material, smaller web sites have started
featuring "original content"...the golden goose of Internetdom.
This, too, isn't news to anyone. But I wonder if we, as the audience,
are taking the time to really appreciate the never before seen
volume of banality that has lowered itself upon us. It's sort
of like the plague, only boring. Never before in the history of
humanity have so many people had access to so much irrelevant
stuff (I don't have any stats to back this up, but I think it's
a pretty safe bet).
the June 2000 issue of ANIMATION MAGAZINE from a co-worker, and
I was mildly shocked. Almost every page features some kind of
advertisement for an up and coming animation studio dotcom hungry
to hire Flash animators for "webisodes."
really, anxiously watch webisodes? Do any of you? Be honest. To
this day, I haven't been able to get past the first episode of
Whirlgirl...(ha!) but maybe that's a bad example. I mean, why
sit and wait for a lame story, bad sound, and even worse visuals
to drip through the phone line one pixel at a time when I can
lie on the couch in front of the TV, right now, and watch reruns
of Three's Company?!?
related tangent. Of all the prime time animated shows on television,
South Park is easily the most influential to Flash cartoons. With
it's low-end animation, simple graphics, and snappy dialog, South
Park IS Flash animation (just done in Maya). And it's what the
bulk of Flash animators hope to emulate.
is technology looking for an idea. It's cheap, available to millions,
and easy enough to learn (and still primitive enough so the poor
level of animation isn't ever an issue). So, with the vehicle
built, we're all just looking for a place to go. The question
is, with the hundreds upon thousands of Sunday animators out there
toiling away at their independent creations, why hasn't "anything
good" come to the surface? Heck, I'll settle for "the next South
Park," right about now. But where are the geniuses? Where are
the brilliant, undiscovered talents? Where's that content creator
who's going to knock my socks off? (And if he's out there and
listening, god forbid he sell his soul to pop.com!)
the Internet delivered over the last year on any type of entertainment
level? There was Mahir's Turkish "I like sex" page (which doesn't
count since it's not animation), the SuperFriends Quicktime...that
was pretty funny, albeit appropriated...and before that there
was the first episode of Radiskull and Devil Doll. (Stuffing gerbils
in microwave ovens and other appliances at JoeCartoon does nothing
for me, by the way.)
I know there's
probably other "good stuff," but not a whole lot more. I'm drawing
kind of a blank, and instead shorts like wildbrain.com's Romanov
come to mind...an insufferable piece that is much more endured
than enjoyed. Clumsy imagery that--after the extended opening
credits--tell the slow, non-twisting story of a Russian painter
being punished for straying from the party line. And as if to
flog the horse to make sure it's truly dead, they go so far as
to actually show the ball and chain on poor Romanov's ankle. It's
funny how after plodding through such uninspired average-ism I
ultimately feel like I'm the one being punished.
Chrissy Snow when we need her?
saying goes, 99% of everything is garbage. And for hundreds of
years, that held true. There'd be a bunch of bad stuff...books,
music, movies, food, tv, fashion, games...and in that assortment
of worthlessness, some cool stuff would rise to the surface. But
with the help of the Internet we've actually managed to raise
the bar. And we've raised it a lot higher! The fact of the matter
is, though technology is allowing everyone to do more, it's not
necessarily making any of us better at it. We're just more obvious.
to Bart a few days ago, "Tools don't create genius. Only genius
creates genius." And right now I think Macromedia's Flash is the
tool of the moment, hoodwinking our youth into misdirected creation.
Sure, it delivers vector graphics somewhat economically from point
A to point B (until the file size creeps over 300K), but one of
the main ingredients of animation is "a story" and there ain't
no option for that among the pull-down menus!
irony in all of this...
care how much that Pentium-whatever set you back because even
at a trillion calculations a milli-second, Microsoft Word isn't
making you a better writer. Shakespeare used a peacock feather
dipped in berry juice. Hanna and Barbera probably used typewriters...and
if nothing else, Internet cartoons have me pining for the good
ol' days of Tom and Jerry or Wile E. Coyote.
of pulling out a pen and paper for practice...and maybe reading
a few good books to get a feel for pacing or style or whatever...the
lot of us (myself included) are scraping the bottom of the barrel
with poop jokes, dead house pets, and parodies of lame parodies...and
if we shoved all these bad homemade cartoons in one of JoeCartoon's
blenders and clicked liquefy, we wouldn't even have enough talent-juice
to fill up Tom's milk bowl.
come right out and said it, but I get the feeling that while the
number of submissions to D.Film grows and grows, the process of
finding quality material to fill 90 festival minutes isn't getting
any easier. Quality material just isn't growing at the same rate,
and we have no one to blame but ourselves. On our global "to do"
list, we need to put "learn how to write" at the very top. And
as another friend said, "It doesn't have to be funny, but if I'm
going to spend the time to download something, I should at least
worst part of all this (and there is a worst part), is that with
every failure...with every sophomoric, self-indulgent, misogynistic,
vulgar, poorly written, animal-injuring, Russian constructivist,
slow-moving, uninspired, banal, band-width waster of a webisode,
we're all making Trey Parker look that much more friggin brilliant!
And that, in itself, is a crime.
© 2000 Christopher Dante Romano. All Rights Reserved
Dante Romano is a Los Angeles painter-turned-animator, creating
visual effects for bad movies and producing
his own independent
shorts. Recently, he released the 24 minute, DREAMBOY AND THE CLAM, an animated
cartoon featuring his characters from dreamboy.com. Before that, believe
it or not, he self-published DECEMBER 22...sort of 200+ page diary for self-deprecating
surrealists. Romano likes cookies, and his personality type is RATIONAL
- internet comics!
ON VHS! HIS NEW FEATURE AVAILABLE NOW!
22...SEE WHERE DREAMBOY GOT HIS START!
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