McLaren Redux…sort of…

This short film caught my eye the other night on the teevee: Tony vs Paul.

Naturellement the A-merikans were raving on about what a ‘viral masterpiece’ it was, the originality of the plot, the music and most of all the AWESOME INCREDIBLE SUPER-UNIQUE stop-motion animation technique, which must have taken LITERALLY HOURS to shoot.

I thought it was a slow news day, but no they were right, the intriguingly-titled Tony vs Paul has been gob-smacking audiences around the globe on th’interwebs everywhere. People are raving about it.

What a shame for fratboys Tony and Paul that Norman McLaren already won the Academy Award for this film in 1953, titled Neighbours. Oh it’s a little different – it actually has a plot, and an idea behind it. And McLaren used an old technique in an original way to make something interesting and thought-provoking: two guys living side by side aim to protect something precious and valuable, and wind up destroying each other’s houses, families and eventually each other.

But Tony and Paul used the above idea to make something new, dull and predictable: two guys have a hissy fit over an amusingly-worded note and have a mock battle over hill, dale and a green that looks suspiciously like McLaren’s back lawn. They finish by making things up over an iced frappe moccachino hold the lite soymilk at Starbucks (insert liberties here). Well done guys!

In response to all the monkeys crapping about it on Metafilter and the like, let’s talk about the so-called ‘technical wizardry’ of Tony and Paul. Pixilation (a form of stop-motion animation whereby humans are used as puppets) is the easiest, quickest way to produce an animated short.

The method: stand in the middle of your backyard and get a friend to take a frame of you with a digital camera. Move to the left by a few centimetres and get them to take another snap, making sure the lighting hasn’t changed or the position of the camera on the tripod. If you want to appear to go faster, widen the gap between movements. If you want to go slower, make the gap shorter and take more pictures. Do this until you reach the back fence, then play back your tape. HOLY SHIT OMG THAT PERSON JUST WALKED OVER THE GRASS WITHOUT MOVING THEIR LEGS ROLFMAO BITCHES.

There’s nothing astounding or time-consuming about it, unless of course you take the time to sit down and write a decent script. In addition, Tony and Paul would have made it on a modern digital camera that would have allowed them to wind back and preview instantly what they had done. They would have edited it digitally at their fancy pantsy uni, or at home on their own computers. They would have had some mate with a Midi and a keyboard to do their soundtrack.

McLaren however, would have shot Neighbours on a 16mm film camera with no option for seeing what he’d already shot. He would have had to film it in one day as fast as possible, to preserve the same lighting conditions. He created the soundtrack himself on a flatbed editor by scratching the sound stripe along the side of the film in relation to the action in each frame. He also had to wrestle with 1953 fashion, which seemed to consist of some horrendous baggy pants, Brylcreem and bad moustaches.

McLaren is credited by just about every famous animator there is as one of the great pioneers of the industry, and pushed the boundaries of technique (scratch on film, pixilation, stop motion and sound, to name a few). Yet he is forgotten by seemingly everyone except sad geeks like myself and film historians. Tony and Paul however, are hitting the advertising industry hard, lauded on shitty TV shows like the one I saw, making mega bucks and in their fetid dorm room are probably dealing with more sex than they can handle.

I do think that in the age of super-fantastique 3D software and effects, it’s kind of cool that people are still blown away by something as hokey as pixilation.

But how about a bit of credit where credit’s due, eh?

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2 thoughts on “McLaren Redux…sort of…

  1. The bw’s of him are so deliciously 1950s seminerdish. That’s semi-nerdish. (New word, I believe.) I remember the 50s, sort of. Sputnik creeping across the sky. That’s my main memory – and my brothers’ hair. Back then guys just did not have long hair. And animation? That would be Walt Disney. And Warner Brothers. What’s up, doc? I don’t know this guy.Ah, back to Googling.Nowadays, I like South Park and Powerpuff Girls. I guess my taste in animation is pretty primitive.I have never gotten into stop motion animation – is that the same as stop action – or claymation, really, except Mr. Bill. Oh, noooooooo…But whatever the technique, it’s useless without plot, plot, plot, plot. Goes plop. Plot goes the cartoon.Mai is goofy tonight. Lilly come home. I need to be grounded.

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