Friday, October 15, 2004

On Frank, Ollie, Woody, and Learning to Laugh

A couple of things came in the mail yesterday from Amazon, two long-standing orders that I'm looking forward to. They're DVDs of movies I've seen before, but wanted to add to my collection.

Frank and Ollie, which I saw in animation school, is particularly apt given Frank Thomas's death last month. He and Ollie Johnston were the last to surviving members of Walt Disney's legendary Nine Old Men, the supervising animation artists who worked on the animated shorts and features of the Classic Disney era (the period from Steamboat Wille to The Jungle Book, the last feature made while Walt was alive).

This documentary, made by Frank's son Theodore, is a sentimental look at two men in the twilight of their years, and it's a classic example of how wisdom can be passed to a new generation. The film shows clips from the classic Disney movies that they worked on, and both Frank and Ollie discuss their history together and the creative thought behind those clips.

DVDs have bonus features, and one I especially like involves Andreas Déja and Glen Keane, two of Disney's current animators, discussing Frank's and Ollie's rough drawings and animation from the Walt Disney Feature Archive. Déja and Keane are two of the best 2-D animation artists in the field today, and even now they believe they have things to learn from this old art.

The other DVD is What's Up Tiger Lily?, which is Woody Allen's first film. I've linked to the DVD Verdict review of the film, which explains its story history in detail. I'm not an especially big fan of Woody Allen's films (though I like his short fiction stuff from Getting Even, Without Feathers and Side Effects), but I can conceded that when his dialogue clicks, it clicks big.

The reason why I like the movie is animation-related -- or, to be precise, anime-related. See, one of the biggest pet peeves anime fans have is the eternal discussion over English-language dubbing (replacing the Japanese audio track with an English one). When it works, the show soars; when it doesn't, it klunks. Usually, bad dubbing is unintended, but humor can result if bad dubbing happens on purpose, because incongruity creates laughter. This is, however, something that far too many fans of anime get upset about.

Spike TV's MXC is a current example of overdubbing humor in incongruity, but I consider Tiger Lily a classic case of it in action. Whenever I talk to anime fans who complain about the practice of English dubbing, I tell them to see this film as a way of getting them to laugh. It's a more fun solution of exiting the argument than telling them to get a life.