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kottke.org posts about animation

1000 Matchsticks Feature in This Epic Stop Motion Animation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2024

Tomohiro Okazaki has perfected a very specific skill: stop-animating matchsticks in more ways than you could possibly imagine. When I last wrote about his work, I said that I wished that the 7.5 minute movie were longer and, well, I got my wish: this new one runs for an hour and 17 minutes. I’ not going to sit here and tell you that I watched the whole thing, but I did watch for longer than I perhaps should have on a day with lots to accomplish. (via colossal)

Well Wishes My Love, Your Love

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2023

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the animation style Gabriel Gabriel Garble uses in his short film Well Wishes My Love, Your Love — it’s so cool and unique. Everything in the film has this sort of radiating energy that interacts with everything else. (via it’s nice that)

Disney+ to Air a Real-Time Toy Story Version of an NFL Game

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2023

This is pretty clever actually: Disney+ and ESPN+ will air a real-time, Toy Story-ified version of the Oct 1st Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons NFL game. From Deadline:

Using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats and on-field tracking data, every player and play will be presented in “Andy’s Room,” the familiar, brightly colored setting for the Toy Story franchise. The action will be virtually simultaneous with the main game telecast, with most plays recreated after an expected delay in the neighborhood of about 30 seconds. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and many other characters will be visible throughout, and a press release notes they will be “participating from the sidelines and in other non-gameplay elements.” Along with game action, the announcers, graphics, scoreboard, referees’ penalty announcements, celebrations and other parts of the experience will all be rendered in a Toy Story-centric fashion.

I stopped watching the NFL years ago, but I might tune in to see how this works.

The Trailer for The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki’s Final Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2023

It is with the appropriate feelings of melancholy and excitement that I share with you the teaser trailer for The Boy and the Heron, the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s final animated feature film for Studio Ghibli.

A young boy named Mahito, yearning for his mother, ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead.

There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning.

A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki had previously retired after 2013’s The Wind Rises but according to Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, he had good reason to come back for one more film:

Miyazaki is making the new film for his grandson. It’s his way of saying, ‘Grandpa is moving on to the next world, but he’s leaving behind this film.’

The Boy and the Heron opens on December 8 in the US. (via waxy)

An Animated Figure Battles Mathematics

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2023

It is astounding to me the number of YouTube channels that I have never heard of with subscriber bases larger than that of many countries. (This goes double and triple for Instagram and TikTok.) Alan Becker has over 23 million subscribers and makes videos pitting animated characters against various other entities. His latest video is Animation vs. Math and it is super nerdy and engaging. You might have to be a bit of a math nerd to enjoy this fully, but even if you only get the gist of what’s going on (like I did for at least half of the video), it’s still pretty entertaining. You can check the comments for an explanation of the math or this illustrated explainer.

Restoring a 100-Year-Old Animated Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2023

You’ve probably seen the work of animation pioneer Max Fleischer; he made the old Popeye, Superman, Betty Boop, and Koko the Clown cartoons waaaay back in the early-to-mid 20th century. Films from back then are often not well-preserved, so when a copy is discovered in a film library or private collection, great care must be exercised in restoring the film for future generations to enjoy.

This video follows the restoration process of Fleischer’s 1924 Koko the Clown film Birthday, from scanning a 35mm print from 1930 to the digital retouching. The fully restored print doesn’t seem to be online anywhere, but you can see a couple of before-and-after comparisons here and here.

How Spider-Verse Is Leading the Shift Away from “The Pixar Look”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2023

When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came out in 2018, it had a very different look than most other animated feature-length films. Since the release of Toy Story in the mid-90s, digitally animated films made by the large studios had taken their cues from Pixar. “The Pixar Look” was “extremely high quality, physically based, and in some cases almost photorealistic”. Spider-Verse introduced a different style and since then, digital animation studios have been experimenting with non-photorealism. This video looks at how that shift is happening.

Pass the Ball

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2022

40 animators from around the world collaborated on a 2-minute video called Pass the Ball: each person had three seconds to animate a ball and “pass” it to the next person. Reminds me of the old Layer Tennis matches. (via colossal)

Period-Specific Cartoon Homages to Wandavision

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2021

Art director Riana McKeith is watching Wandavision, each episode of which takes place in a different time period from the 50s to the present day. As a loving homage, she’s illustrating scenes from the show in the style of cartoons from each time period. Here’s the first episode, which takes place in the 50s a la I Love Lucy or Leave It to Beaver:

Wandavision cartoon

I don’t know enough about 50s cartoons to do more than guess at the inspiration of that one (Hanna Barbera? Looney Tunes?) but her 60s scene is obviously inspired by The Jetsons and The Flintstones:

Wandavision cartoon

My kids and I are obsessed with Wandavision — it’s a big ol’ love letter to television — and this project is the perfect complement to the show.

30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals from Studio Ghibli

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2021

This. This is the stuff. Lapping water, wind through the tall grass, patient trains, birds, rolling countryside, mountains, sleeping, castles in motion, and more calm scenes compiled from Studio Ghibli movies.

See also hundreds of Studio Ghibli backgrounds for your Zoom calls and 10 Hours of Extremely Relaxing Ocean Scenes & 40 Hours of Relaxing Planet Earth II Sounds, both from BBC Earth. (via laura olin)

Disney’s Recycled Footage & Animated Doppelgangers

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2021

I have been on this internet for a long damn time and somehow this has escaped my attention until just this morning: Disney reuses bits of animation in their movies and TV shows *all the time*. And blatantly so — just check out this comparison of sequences from The Jungle Book (made in 1967) and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (made in 1977):

There are many other instances of this reuse throughout Disney’s catalog of animation — The Fox and the Hound, 101 Dalmatians, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood etc.:

For animators under time constraints and on a budget, recycling footage was a sensible thing to do and probably wasn’t widely known among the viewing public until extensive at-home viewing, digital editing, and collecting sleuthing via the internet became available.

The Animation That Changed Cinema

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2021

This is a treat: a 30-minute video that celebrates the animations & animators that changed cinema, e.g. Yuri Norstein, Miyazaki, Fantasia, The Iron Giant, Persepolis, etc. — a full list of the filmography is available in the description. Absolutely stunning visuals on some of these. See also The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation. (via open culture)

3:45 PM

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

3:45 PM is CalArts student Alisha Liu’s second-year film about a lovely day in the park interrupted by an existential case of the Sunday scaries. The animation in this is lovely, particularly in the overhead sequences when things get abstract. I think this is my favorite shot:

overhead shot of an animated parking lot

There’s just enough information here to convey to the viewer that these are cars in a parking lot — plus a little bit more, so that individual types of cars are perceptible. This is a really good implementation by Liu of the type of abstraction discussed by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics. (via colossal)

A Playful Ghibli-esque Ad for Travel Oregon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2021

I cannot improve upon the succinct description of this video from Natalie Smillie: “A new Ghibli film?! No — this is an advert for the state of Oregon.” It’s a great ad and certainly takes both content and stylistic cues from Studio Ghibli’s films. The video, along with a previous one, was created for Travel Oregon by creative agency Psyop and animation studio Sun Creature.

Remaking the Spider-Verse Trailer with Traditional Animation Techniques

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2020

Animator Pinot Ichwandardi, designer/illustrator Dita Ichwandardi, and their three young children decided to remake some of the iconic scenes from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse trailer using traditional animation techniques. You can see some of the process and the impressive results in the video above. They drew the scenes by hand, built their own multiplane camera setup (a la Disney), and constructed a camera rig using Lego. You can read more about their process in these two Twitter threads: one, two.

After they were done, Sony Animation invited the family to visit their California campus to meet some of the team that worked on the movie, including producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

See also How Animators Created Spider-Verse.

Social anxiety manifested using melty plasticine

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 03, 2020

In this short multi award-winning film, Sam Gainsborough uses “a hybrid of claymation, pixelation and live action to paint a visceral portrait of internal struggle.” Beautiful and yet haunting. If you’ve struggled with these kinds of bouts with anxiety, this might ring some uncomfortable bells but worth a viewing for sure.

Sam says he wanted to create a film that resonated with people who struggle with anxiety, or often feel isolated from others. “[It’s] about a character who struggles to interact with other people,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The main character is someone who has learned to repress his emotions. If he feels sad or angry, his skin physically restricts him from showing these emotions. This means his skin is constantly swirling and transforming, meaning he can never be truly comfortable in his own skin.”

Cool Multiplane Animation in this Pinocchio Clip from 1940

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2019

This is a 45-second clip from Pinocchio, an animated film made by Disney in 1940.

The scene itself isn’t that exciting…until you actually start to wonder, wait, how was this made? The way the camera effortlessly swoops past buildings and through archways like one of Pixar’s infinitely pliable virtual cameras, the depth of field changing as we pan and zoom toward Pinocchio’s door — how did they do that 80 years ago, animating by hand? The film’s animators achieved this effect using a relatively recent invention, the multiplane camera.

The basic idea is that instead of animating characters against a single static background, you can animate several layers of independently moving scenes painted on glass. In a 1957 film, Walt Disney himself explained how the camera worked:

And here’s how Disney used the technique in dozens of scenes from Snow White to Bambi to 101 Dalmatians:

Because we’re seeing the output of an actual camera zooming and panning, many of these scenes feel more grounded in reality than even some of today’s best digital output. Even 80 years later, the effect is impressive, a real testament to the collaborative talent of Disney’s animators & technicians.

The Breakthrough that Made Animation Look Natural

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2019

In the latest in a series of videos on film innovations that came from outside Hollywood, Phil Edwards highlights rotoscoping, a process of filming live action and transferring the motion to produce realistic animated movement invented by Max Fleischer.

As the above video shows, it started with Max’s brother Dave dancing on a roof in a clown costume. Footage of that was then used to model the classic Koko the Clown cartoons, which formed the basis for many Fleischer Studios films. Today, animators still use techniques like rotoscoping to turn real movement into animation.

A number of the studio’s most memorable cartoons used footage of legendary jazz singer Cab Calloway to create fluid animated sequences, like this dancing walrus from Betty Boop.

As Edwards notes, Fleischer’s studio also invented an early multiplane animation device, which allowed for the independent movement of different parts of the background to create the illusion of depth, resulting in yet more realism. Here’s Steven Johnson describing Disney’s more sophisticated multiplane camera in his book Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World:

All of these technical and procedural breakthroughs summed up to an artistic one: Snow White was the first animated film to feature both visual and emotional depth. It pulled at the heartstrings in a way that even live-action films had failed to do. This, more than anything, is why Snow White marks a milestone in the history of illusion. “No animated cartoon had ever looked like Snow White,” Disney’s biographer Neil Gabler writes, “and certainly none had packed its emotional wallop.” Before the film was shown to an audience, Disney and his team debated whether it might just be powerful enough to provoke tears — an implausible proposition given the shallow physical comedy that had governed every animated film to date. But when Snow White debuted at the Carthay Circle Theatre, near L.A.’s Hancock Park, on December 21, 1937, the celebrity audience was heard audibly sobbing during the final sequences where the dwarfs discover their poisoned princess and lay garlands of flowers on her.

The Return of Grumpy Cloud

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2019

Andy Bailey is a stop-motion animator at Laika who worked on Kubo and The Boxtrolls. In this video, he shares his process while making a 658-page flipbook called The Return of Grumpy Cloud that took him 35 work-days over three months to complete. The end result (skip ahead to ~14:25) is pretty impressive given the lo-fi medium. Bailey sells kits for making your own flipbooks, but the store was down for maintenance when I checked.

10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2019

Japanese public broadcaster NHK has produced a four-part documentary on legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki called 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki. The behind-the-scenes film follows Miyazaki as he made his last two films for Studio Ghibli, Ponyo and The Wind Rises. Here’s the synopsis of the first episode:

An exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the genius of Japan’s foremost living film director, Hayao Miyazaki — creator of some of the world’s most iconic and enduring anime feature films. Miyazaki allowed a single documentary filmmaker to shadow him at work, as he dreamed up characters and plot lines for what would become his 2008 blockbuster, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.” Miyazaki explores the limits of his physical ability and imagination to conjure up memorable protagonists.

The whole show is available to watch online at NHK with English subtitles and narration.

See also Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki. (thx, yuko)

How Animators Created the Spider-Verse

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2019

2018’s most visually inventive movie was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In this video, Danny Dimian, Visual Effects Supervisor, and Josh Beveridge, Head of Character Animation, talk about how they and their team created the look of the movie.

Two of my favorite details of the movie were the halftone patterns and the offset printing artifacts used to “blur” the backgrounds and fast-moving elements in some scenes. Borrowing those elements from the comic books could have gone wrong, it could have been super cheesy, they could have overused them in a heavy-handed way. But they totally nailed it by finding ways to use these techniques in service to the story, not just aesthetically.

Oh and the machine learning stuff? Wow. I didn’t know that sort of thing was being used in film production yet. Is this a common thing?

Update: Simon Willison did a Twitter thread that points to dozens of people who worked on Spider-Verse explaining how different bits of the film got made. What an amazing resource…kudos to Sony Animation for allowing their artists to share their process in public like this.

Paper Mario Bros

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2019

I love the aesthetic of Paper Mario Bros, a hand-drawn stop motion animation of World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. The artist, @KisaragiHutae6, drew the world in their notebook and shared some behind-the-scenes techniques on Twitter…how they crumpled the paper for stomped-on Goombas, etc.

Paper Mario How To

(via digg)

American Football Commentary, Animated!

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2019

For this video, freelance animator Nick Murray Willis took the audio from football commentators and made these little animated vignettes to go along with each line. Here’s a sample:

The Bears Have Won

My only complaint about this video is that it was over too quickly. Luckily Willis has done the same thing in videos for NBA, soccer, movie lines, etc.

Chuck Jones’s Trick for Drawing Animal Legs

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 26, 2018

For the past few hundred million years, the legs of vertebrate animals have evolved into many different forms and shapes. But for many animals, there’s an underlying similarity as well. In his book Chuck Amuck, legendary animator Chuck Jones used a simple technique to help visualize how to accurately draw the feet and legs of various animals: he drew shoes and socks on them.

Chuck Jones Animal Legs

Using a Chuck Taylor-style shoe, Jones’s intuitive drawings show where each animal’s ankle and knee are simply by the placement of circular “All-Star” patch on the shoe and the height of the socks just below the knee. These are keen and illuminating anatomical observations that would have made Leonardo da Vinci proud.

Ok, that’s footwear all sorted. But how should a dog wear pants?

Dog Wore Pants

Or a chicken?

Chicken Wore Pants

Or an AT-AT?

Atat Wore Pants

I wish Jones was still around to settle this.

The Importance of Food in Howl’s Moving Castle

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 14, 2018

Howl's Moving Castle - Food.jpg

Howl’s Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorites if not my very favorite movie. I’ve written about it here before at some length. I use pictures from it as my Twitter background, as my login prompts on both of my computers, and my pinned tweet is a quote about the film and its simple-yet-allegorical applicability to understanding your own life and psyche.

One aspect of HMC I haven’t touched on here, but is essential to understanding the film and its appeal, is the importance of food in the film. Luckily, Sarah Welch-Larson at Bright Wall/Dark Room has you covered.

First, there’s this remarkably concise and comprehensive survey of food in the Miyazaki-verse:

In Studio Ghibli movies, food is a feast for the eyes. Nearly every one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films includes a memorable shot of food, some more extravagant than others. A monk stirring a pot of soup on a cold night in Princess Mononoke. A herring pie, golden and steaming, fresh from the oven, in Kiki’s Delivery Service. Ramen noodles piled with toppings in Ponyo. Piles of roasted meat and dumplings spilling across the counter of an enchanted restaurant in Spirited Away. Even the Miyazaki films that don’t focus so heavily on food still allow their characters a chance to pause and eat. Nausicaä stops for a moment to eat a small bag of nuts as the world falls apart around her. Porco Rosso eats spaghetti bolognese as he hides out from the Italian authorities. Extravagant or simple, quick or languorous, the shots of food in Miyazaki films all tempt the senses.

Then this close reading of food and its themes in Howl:

In Howl’s Moving Castle, food is more than just a necessity. It sustains life, in every sense of the phrase: it helps a body hold skin and sinew together, and acts as an expression of love and care. We get the sense that Howl is a good person from the way he prepares breakfast. He has a sure hand, and a light touch. He might be flighty, but he cares enough to put together a well-cooked breakfast big enough for everyone in the room, including Sophie the interloper.

Food is also an expression of identity. Howl’s cooking is simple and elegant, but feels like a feast. The bacon is thick and crackling, and the eggs are perfect, cooked sunny-side-up with not a single yolk broken. Sophie’s own choices of food are plain and practical, like her, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable than the more extravagant examples of food we see in other Miyazaki films. Her bread and cheese look just as tasty as Howl’s bacon and eggs, and they’re likely just as satisfying. Calcifer, too, needs to eat, despite being a supernatural creature. He stuffs logs into his mouth, one by one, every time he needs to move the castle. When he isn’t active, he’s still perpetually consuming wood, albeit at a slower pace; fire is a hungry creature, and will go out if it is not fed.

Hunger in Howl is twofold: it can be the desire to be sustained, and it can be the desire to possess. This second desire takes the form of gluttony, and it is a destructive force. While he’s out in his wanderings, Howl comes across battles between the two rival countries. He refuses to fight, but he can’t stay away; the war is encroaching. Other wizards who swore loyalty to the king take part in these battles, and on more than one occasion, Howl is chased through the skies by the “hack wizards” who turned themselves into monsters in service of the war. They’re horrible half-lizard, half-dragonfly things, all oily skin and gaping mouths full of sharp teeth, open as if ready to devour. Miyazaki’s war imagery tends toward images of devouring, but the action of eating here is neither life-giving nor sustaining. War is gluttony, a force that needs to mindlessly consume until there is nothing left.

And this remarkable conclusion:

The kitchen is said to be the heart of a home, and Howl’s kitchen was empty until Sophie talked her way in to clean it. Food and love are both life-sustaining forces, but only when held lightly, without thought of possession or ownership. Sophie saves Howl without a thought for her own happiness, and, in return, Howl loves her back of his own free will. Neither takes what the other is not willing to give. Their love is neither greedy nor ravenous, but rather a hunger for food that sustains and leaves the hungry satiated.

I’m convinced: food, and the overlapping and contradictory economies of food, are the keys to this movie! This puts it up with Babette’s Feast as my favorite movies about food, love, and community. Thank you, Sarah, for helping me appreciate this remarkable film in a whole new way.

(Thanks too to @nandelabra for pointing this my way.)

Into the Spider-Verse is One of the Five Best Superhero Movies Since Blade

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 07, 2018

Spider-Verse.jpg

Since 2014, Abraham Riesman has kept a regularly updated list of the best superhero movies since Blade. This is partly an arbitrary starting point (would it really be so hard to rank the early Superman and Batman movies too?), and partly not: Blade moved away from the Superman and Batman top character mini-franchises, kicked off Marvel’s entry into modern superhero cinema, and started the pattern of every-other-year/no, every-year/wait-how-many-superhero-movies-are-out-this-year? sprawling multiverses we associate with the genre(s) today.

While there were a lot of superhero movies between 1998 and 2014, there have been, um, a lot more since. And some of the very best ones, too. “When I did the first edition of this list in the fall of 2014, I did not in any way predict that it would become my life’s work in the way it has,” Abe writes.

Today, a new entry cracks the top five. Abe rates the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, starring the former Ultimate Comics hero Miles Morales, fifth on his list, well ahead of the rest of the Spider-movies and just behind the highly revered The Dark Knight. Abe writes:

The unassuming and artistic Miles, a more recent addition to the comics’ Spider-canon, feels new and Zeitgeist-y in a way that Peter hasn’t in decades, and we want desperately for him to find his footing as he tries to be a hero. Luckily, he has the assistance of an array of other Spider-people from alternate dimensions — a gimmick common in comics, never before dared on the big screen, and here executed with deft and thrilling elegance. The story, performances, and jokes are all top-flight, but perhaps the greatest delight is the film’s awe-inspiring mastery of visual whizbang: Rather than try to ape reality, everyone is designed to evoke a feeling, be it the hulking intimidation of the inhumanly massive Kingpin or the proud wackiness of the stoutly cartoony Spider-Ham. It’s a damn shame that Lee and Ditko both died a matter of weeks and months before they could see the release of Into the Spider-Verse (though the famously reclusive Ditko wouldn’t have watched it, anyway), but their beloved baby is in good hands.

I love Miles Morales, and can’t wait to see him on screen. It’s been surprising that Marvel and DC haven’t done more with animation outside of television: cartoons are proven family-friendly money makers at the box office, and there’s a natural connection between comics and animation. Here’s hoping this spurs the superhero cabal to give more formats a try.

Miles is also in a new comic book series, written by Saladin Ahmed and drawn by Javier Garrón. Issue #1 comes out next Wednesday, December 12.

Awaken Akira

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 01, 2018

Awaken Akira was created by two friends, Ash Thorp and Zaoeyo (XiaoLin Zeng), who wanted to collaborate on a tribute to the iconic anime, Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo. It’s creation took over a year…

Looks great and there’s a lot more on the project website, including multiple long videos about the process for each shot.

(via @Oniropolis )

A close reading of Miyazaki’s sound design in The Wind Rises

posted by Tim Carmody   Mar 12, 2018

I recently rewatched a bunch of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, although “watched” is a bit of a misnomer. I was playing them in the background while I was working, or reading, or trying to sleep, so really I was re-listening to them, and not especially closely.

This almost feels like a sin for movies as beautiful as these, but it did help me notice something. Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind looks different from Princess Mononoke or The Wind Rises, sure; however, it sounds way different. The music, the foley effects, the subtler cues, the sheer sound density are completely different from one end of the career to another.

This made me wonder whether somebody had charted this transformation. I didn’t quite find that, but I did find an outstanding series of blog posts specifically on the sound design in The Wind Rises, which stands in nicely. It’s not well copyedited, but it’s attentive and insightful. A few samples:

Jiro enters his airplane, adjusts his aviator gloves and starts the artisanal machine. By now we have noticed the sound effects of the valves and exhaust pipes made of human mouth sounds and with vocalisations. The first engine starts and it’s clear that human voice is used to portray this activity. But once the propeller activates a low rumble sound effects is introduced, and a sound effect of a servo ascending is applied to the airplane rising, triggered by Jiro’s pulling the lever, and it’s in harmony with the music score. One occurrence with the sound that emphasises the oneiric dimension of this scene is the ‘dreamy’ quality of the reverb applied on the last blow of the machine lifting before it goes crossing the skies [00:02:03].

Here’s a clip a little later in the sequence — I’d never recognized that the dream engine sounds were being made by human mouths, but once you hear it, it’s perfect.

Or consider the earthquake, detail by detail:

It is now that we are in the presence of the horror lived in this earthquake and sound plays such a big role with all its brutality. Different to the traditional approach of western film, the main elements heard are a composition of :

  • horrified human screams on a higher-pitch range,
  • medium-low pitch throat growls and groans like coming from a big beast,
  • that moves upwards in pitch as the image from the houses undulates from a farther plane to a closer one.
  • an earthy impact stinger

These elements are introduced a couple of frames before we see the houses being ripped apart.

In the next scene the audience is shown, through close-ups, how the ground is animated in brutal waves breaking and disrupting the order of all man-made constructions. We no longer hear the horrifying screams and the sound designer paints the scene with sound of the ground disrupting, by utilising rumbles and earth debris. The sounds here are in the same universe as those indicated on Jiro’s first dream - choir-like sounds mimicking up and down movements, in which the upwards vocalisations are like rising stingers.

It really helped me appreciate these movies again, as sonic masterpieces.

A brief visual history of Studio Ghibli

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 26, 2017

Studio Ghibli has been making incredible animated movies since 1985. This video traces the history and the work of the studio and its principal director Hayao Miyazaki from his pre-Ghibli work (including Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) all the way up to Miyazaki’s recent unretirement & involvement in Boro the Caterpillar.

The name Ghibli was given by Hayao Miyazaki from the Italian noun “ghibli”, based on the Libyan-Arabic name for the hot desert wind of that country, the idea being the studio would “blow a new wind through the anime industry”. It also refers to an Italian aircraft, the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli.

I still remember seeing Princess Mononoke in the theater in 1999 (having no previous knowledge of Ghibli or Miyazaki) and being completely blown away by it. Made me a fan for life. (via film school rejects)

Update: The Movies of Studio Ghibli, Ranked from Worst to Best. Happy to see Princess Mononoke in the top spot and surprised at Spirited Away’s relatively low placement.

The Ballad of Holland Island House

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2017

The Ballad of Holland Island House was created by animator Lynn Tomlinson using a clay-on-glass painting technique.

The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.

The technique is a hybrid of traditional cel animation (traditionally done on transparent sheets) and claymation stop-motion animation.