Friday, April 29, 2011

Cartoons of Glory

This is an article from the November 3, 1986 New York Magazine that was in The Ink Tank pressbook.  I won't repost all the copy, click the images to read everything.

The photo on page one is from an MTV ID designed by Mark Marek. The actress is R. O. Blechman's mother-in-law.

Cartoonist R. O. Blechman, known for his squiggly line, was frustrated.  The head of The Ink Tank, an eight year old studio that makes animated films and television commercials, Blechman had spent the whole day trying to bring to life a storyboard for Serenity, a new product for incontinent women.  But the resolution and dissolves "weren't working -the whole thing looked banal," so he decided to scrap the agency suggestion and start fresh.  The revised spot opens with animation, segues into a live action sequence, and closes with animation.  Ordinarily, Blechman rejects the conventional ad-industry wisdom that live action is credible and animation is not, but in this case, he agreed the patch of reality worked.
The article then discusses some of the studio's spots before getting to "a computer system recently installed at the Tape House Editorial Company... The new computer, nicknamed the Harry system, 'lets you juggle and edit out anything -an offending pole, say -in live action or animation.'"  That's the Paintbox system which would open a new chapter in special effects history.


Pan Productions has begun to specialize in "color xerography".  The studio takes live action footage, Xeroxes it frame by frame, and colors the copy to produce an animated effect.  Los Angeles based Kurtz & Friends has created a futuristic spot for Toyota in which an illustrated sports car becomes a real Supra...

Perpetual Animation created a combination spot for Home Box Office that shows an animated family in a three-dimensional set, watching live-action movie clips on their cartoon TV.  Jerry Lieberman productions put real script erasable pens into the hands of animated people...

...Buzzco Associates has created a series of ads combining  live action and animation: a cartoon vacuum cleaner hosing around real-life cans of Love My Carpet; real babies crying animated tears for WMET radio; an animated viewer watching live-action TV for Lifetime Cable; and a drawing of a made-up eye becoming a real eye for Aziza eye shadow...
Then Candy Kugel points out this sort of thing has been around forever but technology makes it easier.

 ...Nine years ago, Mark Zander Productions dropped comedian Bob Hope onto a remote oil rig operated by animated Texaco workers.  More recently Zander cast an animated basset hound in a chorus line of live dancers stomping and kicking for Hush Puppies shoes, and in a spot for Shick Plus  razors, planted a fuzzy white cartoon beard on the face of a real-life man. (The sudden appearance of the animated facial hair terrifies a crowd.)

Then there's some pretty banal history which tries to elevate itself by calling Walt "Walter Elias Disney".

The resurgence in commercial animation has been stimulated by advances in technology and by the work of artist like Blechman, who formed The Ink Tank in 1978 after producing an animated TV special. The Ink Tank's next project is an allegorical film The Golden Ass, which tells the story of a young man who, having been magically transformed into a donkey, struggles to regain his human form. The story recalls Blechman's award-winning TV film, The Soldier's Tale, in which a peasant soldier trades his fiddle to the Devil in return for great wealth, and find happiness only when the trade is reversed.

With big dollar advertising, Blechman feels he has made a personal Mephistophelian swap. In the sixties, he refused to advertise cigarettes, promote Muzak, or sell illustrations to Playboy. "But between these black and white poles lay a vast gray (and green!) world of commissions, and I did not know how to chart my course," he writes in his book, Behind the Lines.

Blechman has since learned. The Ink Tank is accepting more project than ever before -45 so far in 1986 -and many, like the Serenity ad, are animation-live action mixes. "Advertising is dead if it doesn't attract attention," says Blechman. "Mixing live action and animation does just that."

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