Spring 2008

Dudes to go

Pictoplasma: Characters in Motion 2

Edited by Peter Thaler and Lars Denicke
Designed by Alex Fuchs
Pictoplasma, Euros 24.90
DVD / book set

Pictoplasma is all about ‘contemporary character design and art’. The company has already released a few books, put together several exhibitions and is the force behind the Pictoplasma animation festival and conference. So what at first seems a fairly tenuous basis for an ongoing project seems to have spawned some interesting events (See ‘Emotion Graphics’, Eye no. 62 vol. 16).

A potted version of the introduction to this second volume of Pictoplasma’s Characters in Motion would go: ‘There are only three genres of animation (Disney / manga / MTV), and now there’s a whole lot of other stuff happening with characters, and it’s amazing, and we bring it to you through the Wonderful World of Pictoplasma.’

Given that unusual, experimental animation (character or otherwise) has been around for a long time, this approach does seem a bit simplistic, but the pictures are good and so are some of the films.

The 64-page book has a thumbnail for each clip on the DVD, which makes it a neat reference-cum-mini-coffee-table book. However the information is listed at the back and seems all of a muddle: there is no real commissioning data (is the clip for a music video or just set to some favourite music; is it for an ad, or what?), and referring to the index could be quite frustrating. But, maybe that’s not the point when you have three hours of interesting dudes to watch.

Some of the short films are wonderful – the puppet / animation mix of Guilherme Marcondes’ Tyger; the Blackheart Gang’s The Tale of How for its spaghetti-legged seagulls and watery inky strangeness; Marc Crastes’ brooding intro for the 2005 Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival. Some just prompted a swift ‘next!’, and we laughed (in a good way) at the very silly Karnival series by Jun seo Hahm.

Studio Aka’s Lovesport: Dominoes is nothing short of text-book character animation; and some amazing and mysterious techniques abound. Favourite characters? Tado’s folks are always great fun, everyone in Joel Trussel’s worlds (superb), Doudouboy’s peculiarly nostalgic puppet-filled tableaux, and more.

The DVD menu allows you to select films not only by the main sections of rhythm, motion and narration but also by creator, evolutionary stage or style , each with their own subsets.

If you are an animation student you will probably want this as inspiration. Since most of the films by the 50 featured studios, animators and designers should be available on the Web, it seems a bit pricey. But it is almost worth it for the absurd Karnival set alone – just to cheer you up on a downbeat day.

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