Sunday, August 12, 2007

In the land before mo-cap

Subject: Cinema
Okay, okay, this is the last I'll mention mo-cap for a bit... In fact, I meant to include this quicky in the last post, but I got so carried away trying to figure out how to say something nice about "Renaissance", I forgot.

Back in the 2D painted-cel days, there was a technique that was just as prone to abuse and shortcutting, and that was rotoscoping. Actually, that's still going on in the digital era, and the term is also applied to any FX work where you go in frame-by-frame with the paintbox and manipulate a shot. But I'm particularly referring to the technique of tracing, frame-by-frame (or on 2's or 3's or whatever) previously-filmed live-action.

Remember that old 70's version of "The Lord of the Rings", with all the orc armies and such? Essentially high-contrast renderings of stock footage of marching soldiers with horns and stuff drawn on. That's one way it was used. And if you remember that, you might remember that it was done by indie animation legend Ralph Bakshi. Who, just before LoTR, did a little cult sci-fi/fantasy film called "Wizards". Which used a lot of the same techniques.

By today's standards, the whole thing seems kind of crude. Heck, back in the 70's, seeing as Disney's prime still predated it, it was crude then too. But he was kind of an anti-Disney, and his flicks have mainly been aimed at niches and countercultures. The sci-fi/fantasy thing wasn't nearly as mainstream as it is now, so it was probably a natural fit for the creator of "Fritz the Cat" to wander over to that realm.

On the whole, there's not a lot of special, lasting impact the show had, except for a couple of neat bits of character imagery. The animation is kind of raw and lacking in the refinement we're all too used to these days, which was kind of the point back then. But I don't think that any of it gave me much of a feeling of the soul of the characters or anything, it just said "low budget" to me more than anything else. It didn't quite hold up over time, I guess.

Still, it's one of those historical curiousities that every animation fan should see at least once, to gain some perspective on just how far we've come, if anything.

No comments: