October 27, 2006

Bambi Meets Godzilla

I first saw this short in a college film class many, many years ago. I believe we had just finished watching some typically pretentious film school dreck, and then this came on. As they say in stand-up, it killed (especially being preceded by the typically pretentious film school dreck). A truly timeless classic. Watching it again, I definitely detect a Maurice Sendak influence in Godzilla's foot, though story credit is also reputed to belong to the rapidly descending appendage in the opening credits of the original Monty Python television series, which debuted on the BBC the same year. This is also a good opportunity to point out that elephants have about the same reaction to mice, childhood myths notwithstanding.

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October 19, 2006

Resistance is futile!

Industry domination in less than a decade. Eighty-one of the 100 top-selling comics and graphic novels in 2005 were translations of Japanese manga. Though it's nice to see Frank Miller's classic The Dark Knight Returns (first published in 1986) holding on at #85.

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October 06, 2006

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman makes an appearance on John Dvorak's "Cranky Geeks" webcast. Also a discussion of ebooks and writers who blog.

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Sherlock Hound

As can be surmised from the title, the titular character is a dog. Nothing unusual there for a children's cartoon. And then you realize that everybody's a dog.

Now, Disney and Warner Bros. have been anthropomorphizing animated animals for a century. But characters like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are presented as caricatures of human beings. That is, nothing in the world they occupy explains their existence. They're mutant creatures who happen to live like (and often alongside) human beings, along with other inexplicably sentient pigs, dogs, and rodents.

Okay, they're just cartoons, and I've got no aesthetic bone to pick with Disney or Warner Bros. on this account. My point is that, in contrast to every other bunch of anthropomorphic cartoon animals, the world of Sherlock Hound is delightfully consistent. All sentient creatures are canines (dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes, jackals), as if somewhere back in the mists of evolutionary time, mankind's common ancestor belonged to the species Canidae.

This is a children's program, so this backstory pretty much goes without mention (except as a running gag whenever they visit a museum). But if you're simply going to replace all the humans with bipedal, doggy-looking characters, what's the point? Well, they're really cute. And the "casting" is quite clever: Holmes is appropriately a fox. Moriarty is a Little Red Riding Hood-eating breed of wolf. Watson is a Scottish Terrier. And Inspector Lestrade, naturally, is a British bulldog.

Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed six of the first two-dozen episodes, and the series strongly reflects his influence. Miyazaki's Holmes is less Conan Doyle than Jules Verne, and the mysteries he tackles are less brain teasers than cinematic Rube Goldberg machines, something Miyazaki does very well. For a more cerebral animated Holmes, I recommend Case Closed, whose boy detective, Conan, does justice to the name.

Crunchyroll is currently streaming the series.

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October 03, 2006

The problems with 3-D

Anne Althouse discusses 3-D animation and why she can't stand it. I offer an explanation here.

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October 01, 2006

Public domain audio books

The combination of public domain texts (Project Gutenberg), affordable recording equipment, and MP3 players has naturally led to a site called Librivox where people who like to talk meet people who like to listen, and distributes the results. They have also produced two-dozen works in foreign languages, making the site a handy language-learning resource as well.

I started listening to Pride and Prejudice and found the first three chapter read by Chris Goringe quite good. (You do tend to forget just how funny Austen is in that book, and Goringe approaches the material with an appropriate wryness.) The quality of the other readers, though, is understandably all over the map.

There are only two Japanese entries, but the reader, one Kasumi Kobayashi, also has her own site, Japanese Classical Literature at Bedtime, where she lists several more. She has a very nice voice. But since Japanese classical literature is even less comprehensible to me than, say, Chaucer, I end up listening to her rather like background music.

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