Review: Eyes Unclouded - The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

An academic conference on the key creative figures and animated feature films of renowned Japanese production house Studio Ghibli seems an obvious - even borderline ideal - candidate for working through the interplay between fantasy and animation. Our earlier podcast on their third cel-animated feature My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988) - whose primary spirit character Totoro now functions as the company’s logo image (Fig.1 ) - suggested just how much there was to say not only about the adventures of the eponymous creature, but the studio’s origins and evolution, production practices, and their relationship to anime as a creative medium, if not Ghibli’s longstanding critical repute and ongoing commercial acclaim.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Superhero’s Ambivalent Relationship with Technology

The term ambivalence was coined by the psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler to describe two opposite ideas that coexist in uneasy union. While superheroes are often understood as narratives of assurance, comfort and security, it is ambivalence, or even anxiety, that provides the more useful concept when it comes to interrogating the dynamics at work in the cinematic superhero phenomena. This is particularly the case in its relationship with technology, both aesthetically and philosophically.

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Fantasy Animation & Costume: The Unexploited Potential of Costume Design and Costume Designer in Computer-Animated Films

From a costume design point of view, a combination of the words ‘fantasy’ and ‘animation’ directly creates an impression of visually innovative costumes. After all, in animation anything imaginative can be designed, breaking the laws of gravity (with costume) or establishing textiles which are not bound to or are replicated from the real life. What a fruitful starting point for costume design! However, unfortunately, mostly the words ‘fantasy’ and ‘animation’ are not reflected in many animated characters’ costume design in the computer-animated films.

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The Relationship Between Fashion Film and Animation/Fantasy

My own initiation into fashion film was a hesitant one, uncertain as to whether fashion films could ever be situated on the same spectrum as traditional film. The role that fashion film plays within cinema is still relatively undiscovered. Films dissected by Stella Bruzzi have often explored both fashion and film as two separate entities which combine in challenging identity and metaphorical gestures, as well as for aesthetics (1999); whilst auteur of the early fashion film, Guy Bourdin, created voyeuristic moving images which have only in recent years, begun to emerge to a wider audience.

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Review: Carol Mavor, Aurelia: Art and Literature Through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale (2017)

If any readers are expecting a definition to be provided in this review as to what exactly the term aurelia refers to in Carol Mavor’s recent book, they are likely to be disappointed. Having now read Aurelia, I am still unsure what it means. In fact, I get the sense that this might indeed be partially point. Aurelia is not a book which aims to clarify and explain so much as it seeks to provoke and inspire. It is nominally a book about fairy tales. In reality, is a journey through a wealth of imaginative practices, touching on a range of folklore, literature, photography, modern art and sculpture which, although featuring no explicit examples of animation, nevertheless sheds light on an artistic tendency towards illumination and dynamism of folklore through the visual arts that can be located in many animated works produced over the past century.

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Review: Dumbo (Tim Burton, 2019)

It was with a degree of trepidation that I went to see the “live-action” (in reality, animation/live-action hybrid) remake of Dumbo. After all, the 1941 original, both narratively and in terms of its characters, is such that it cannot be easily translated into the hyper-real form of CG animation that is typically billed (inaccurately) as “live-action” and retain the whimsy and sweetness of the original.

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Making Delirium

My name is Mani Haider and I am an indie games developer. In this post, I would like to discuss the creative and technical process behind my latest game, Delirium, explaining how I became inspired to produce this sci-fi/horror game as my latest project. I was first inspired to work in games design in 2016 when I was working as a runner within the film industry and was exposed to the work of amazing concept artists working in the visual effects studio. I had always drawn as a hobby, but the experience working alongside vfx artists made me consider going into 3d work and eventually into games.

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Review: Emerald City Comic Con 2019

The Emerald City Comic Con attracts guests of upwards of 100,000 fans and 100s of celebrity guests from the worlds of fantasy, science-fiction, animation and gaming. Now in its fifteen year, the three day event – of which we had the pleasure of attending just one day – is professional in every sense of the word, and worthy of every connotation it denotes.

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Soho: An imagined space of fantasy?

Wardour Street, Soho was once referred to as “Film Row.” In 1951, Sight and Sound published a list of British and Hollywood companies and studios in active production. The list featured over twenty-seven British film production companies, British subsidiaries of major Hollywood studios and documentary/short film production with headquarters located on Wardour Street and the surrounding Soho district.

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Review: Captain Marvel (Anna Boden and Ryan Flack, 2019)

Running parallel to the ongoing battles about women superheroes is another that flashes across the surface and into the depths of Captain Marvel: a fight about the status of animation within the blockbuster. Christopher Holliday (2018), Stephen Prince (2012) and Paul Wells (2008) are among those to have discussed the integration of CG animation technologies into the fabric of Hollywood filmmaking, in guises as diverse as character animation and digital grading. CG animation now skitters across the surfaces of big blockbusters – perhaps especially the fantastic worlds of superheroes - producing characters like Rocket Racoon and Iron Man, creating the worlds they inhabit and the powers they use.

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Notes from an Angry Queer: Compulsive Heteronormativity in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

All too often, when a new game or film or television show that includes the barest representation of the LGBTQ+ community is announced, an inevitable, angry chorus of cisgender, heterosexual people shout out in unison: I’m fine with gay people, but why do you have to shove it down my throat like this? Thankfully, the media producers in question usually forge ahead, much to the delight (or chagrin – no one piece of media is perfect) of the LGBTQ+ community. But then, if even the smallest crumb of queer representation is enough to make cishet people choke, then is the same true for a queer person forced to navigate society’s constant stream of compulsive heteronormativity?

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Review: Experimental & Expanded Animation

43 years after the publication of the first edition of Robert Russett and Cecile Starr’s seminal text Experimental Animation: An Illustrated Anthology, experimental animation seems to be finally experiencing a very welcome surge of public interest and critical attention. Over the last few years there has been a rise in the number of screenings, performances and academic publications related to the multifarious art form, including the recent edited collection Experimental and Expanded Animation: New Perspectives and Practices (2018).

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Creating People Cat People

My name is Eric Polley, and I am the creator of People Cat People (2018-). People Cat People is an animated web series that focuses on the day-to-day lives of the characters of a small group of feline humanoids that inhabit a fictional planet called the People Cat People Planet. There is no main character or single overarching plot line. Instead the series focuses on several shorts that aim to introduce and resolve conflict within one standalone episode.

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Review: Sci-Fi Ball 25

Since its launch back in 1994, the annual Sci-Fi Ball has become a highlight on the UK’s convention circuit, establishing itself as one of the south coast’s most high-profile and bustling an events (see right). Now in its 25th year and still going strong, this annual non-for-profit celebration (all funds are donated to Teenage Cancer Trust) of science-fiction across film, television, gaming and beyond attracts a roster of industry dignitary from the genre’s past, present and final frontier.

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Laika and the Two Worlds: Deconstructing the Illusion of Stop-motion Animation

André Bazin’s “Ontology of the Photographic Image”  states that “the photograph as such and the object in itself share a common being, after the fashion of the fingerprint” (2005: 15). For Bazin, the fingerprint is symbolic of an imprint of the material object; the finger. Yet I cannot help but think of this symbol of filmmaking when I watch stop-motion animation – a process by which an animated world is created; often out of clay but also other materials, and brought to life by a series of photographs documenting miniscule movements to imitate life.

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Fantastic German Fox: The National Identity of Reineke Fuchs (1937)

In the chapter “Fantastic French Fox: The National Identity of Le Roman de Renard as an Animated Film” for the edited collection Fantasy/Animation: Connections Between Media, Mediums and Genres (2018), I alluded to the three different versions of Le Roman de Renard – France’s first feature-length animated film – that existed over the course of its production history. These were the unfinished silent cut from 1930, the German edit in 1937, and finally the official French release of 1941.

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Fantasy and the Re-Animation of Othered Cultures

The intersection of fantasy and animation is increasingly also an intersection of nationalities and cultures. The world’s best known animation studios often look beyond their own cultures for inspiration, exploring and representing people, mythologies and folklore from across the globe. Japan’s Studio Ghibli, for example, frequently adapt Western sources, creating fantasy-inflected variations on European countries (Howl’s Moving Castle [Hayao Miyazaki, 2004]) or indeterminate settings bearing both Japanese and European influence (Kiki’s Delivery Service [Hayao Miyazaki, 1989]; Arrietty [Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010]; When Marnie Was There [James Simone & Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2014]).

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The Fantasy of Animated Documentary?

When I attended the BFI launch of the book edited by the estimable conveners of this blog, Chris Holliday and Alex Sergeant’s Fantasy/Animation, I was that annoying person in the audience to ask the first, really obvious, question. Admittedly one that betrayed the fact that I hadn’t yet read their book (something now, ahem, rectified) and also my own research interests and agenda. Isn’t all animation, due to its constructed nature, in some way fantasy? And if so, if animation implies fantasy and fantasy implies animation, I queried, where does that leave animated documentary? And that, dear reader, is how you find yourself pressganged into writing a blog post…

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‘Let’s do that again!’: How to reboot Shrek in 2018

Back in November, Variety caused a furore online by reporting that Chris Meledandri, the Illumination founder and Despicable Me (2010) producer charged with overseeing DreamWorks Animation after its acquisition by Comcast, was planning on ‘rebooting’ the Shrek series. ‘Reboot’ typically refers to starting from scratch with a film franchise, recasting the characters and restarting the narrative. If Variety had read their own interview, they would have noticed that Meledandri actually said that ‘while you certainly could make a case for a complete reinvention, I find myself responding to my own nostalgic feelings of wanting to go back to those characterizations’.

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Review: Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall, 2018)

It is a common mistake to suggest that Disney’s Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964) is perfect. She never once claimed to be such a thing. In fact, I imagine she would have been quite indignant at the very suggestion. “Practically perfect”, that was the expression she used. Not perfect, but close enough to perfect for us not to quibble too much over the difference.

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