Month: October 2017

When life gives you hurricanes, make a game.

“Don’t come to work today, there’s a tropical storm.” is not something you typically hear in Ireland but, heck, a day off is a day off. Yesterday the Mouse family hunkered down in the living room while Storm Ophelia tore up the country like a drunken bridesmaid at a wedding looking for her purse.  We’re all fine, in fact it was fairly anticlimactic if I’m honest. When the news is promising the worst storm since the sixties, I at least expect to see a couple of cows flying past my window.

Anyway, over the weekend I attended a course on writing interactive fiction hosted by Charlene Putney of Larion Games in the Irish Writer’s Centre (Five stars, definitely recommend). That’s where I discovered Twine, an online resource that lets you create your own games even if, like me, you think “coding” is a type of pain medication.

I’ve created a horror text adventure called “The Ebon Death” which you can play here. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated (no spoilers, please) and if you feel like it’s something you want to try your hand at, you can create your own twine games here and leave a link in the comments.

Mouse out.

What I do on the weekends…

A while back, I mentioned that my brothers John and Dónal are contributors on Facts.ie. Since then, John has started his own channel, Sharuf!, featuring his hilarious adventures with his furry best friend, Rufus Bluestuff (yours truly, from this episode onwards). It’s been a hell of a learning curve, getting back into puppeteering (I did a course donkey’s years ago). I’m still finding my feet, from a technical point of view, but i’m having a blast doing this show with John and I hope you love it too. A like is better than a watch, and a subscribe is better than a like.

The Last Unicorn (1982)

Animation history is full of odd twists and turns and weird connections but one of the weirdest is that you can trace a direct line between this:

And this:

Rankin Bass is most famous for its stop motion Christmas specials but from the late sixties onwards they dabbled in feature length traditional animation. The Rankin Bass filmography is like an unfinished rollercoaster, a madcap frenzy of highs and lows before it all ends in the bloody, limb mangling, fiery catastrophe of 1999’s The King and I.

Ugh. Yeah. Probably. Some day.

But they did produce what is, by fairly solid consensus, a true classic with 1982’s The Last Unicorn, based on Peter S. Beagle’s book of the same name. While Rankin/Bass produced the film, the grunt work was actually farmed out to a Japanese company called Topcraft who’d later be hired by Hayao Miyazaki to animate Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and the rest is history.

I get the feeling this movie was a much bigger deal in the States than it was in Ireland. I never saw it growing up, and I don’t remember anyone talking about it. But that pedigree alone was enough to make me curious.

Let’s take a look.

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Thoughts on Discovery

I’ve been meaning to do a post about Star Trek: Discovery for about a year now. Originally it was going to be a “here’s what I hope” post, which then morphed into a “Oh man, this is gonna suck” post and now here I am writing a “Q be praised, it’s actually good!” post. It’s been a journey of twists and turns, is what I’m saying.

But yeah, having watched the first three episodes I can happily report that despite a year of negative hype, swirling rumours of backstage drama and basically the entire Star Trek fandom having written off the project as DOA, it’s not only surprisingly good, it’s probably the strongest opening of any Star Trek series since the original show. (Granted, that’s a low bar, Star Trek series are notorious for rocky starts).

I’m not going to do an episode by episode review, so here are just a few random thoughts about the show in no particular order. Mild Spoilers ahead but nothing too major.

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Mouse goes to War!: Fascist Jackboots Shall not Trample Our Motherland (1941)

Studio: Soyuzmultfilm

Country of Origin: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

First Screened: 1941 (Exact date unclear)

All of the shorts we’ve looked at in this series thus far have been propaganda to a greater or lesser extent. But they weren’t just propaganda. American audiences liked their propaganda leavened with comedy or drama or catchy tunes about farting in Hitler’s face. The Russians though? They took their propaganda straight while growling at the bartender to leave the bottle.

The blunt, hammer-blow-to-the-noggin nature of Soviet propaganda is right there in the name of today’s short Fascist Jackboots Shall Not Trample Our Motherland.

“Good title.”

So a little background. Jackboots is one the earliest productions of Soyuzmultfilm, the pre-eminent home of Russian animation and screen puppeteering. The studio is still going to this day but its heyday was during the Soviet era where they produced beautiful and beloved animated classics like the Winnie-the Pooh trilogy and Hedgehog in the Fog.

What’s the Russian for “smurges”?

Now keep in mind, I don’t read Russian, so all my information is coming second hand from places like Wikipedia which claims, for instance, that after the fall of the Soviet Union Soyuzmultfilm’s facilities were sold to the Russian Orthodox Church and then promptly burned to the ground by Cossacks who believed that their puppets were animated with the blood of Christian children. And, while anything on the internet originating from Russia should normally be treated as purest truth from the beardy lips of God Himself, I find that a bit hard to swallow.

I mean c’mon, the blood of Christian children hasn’t been used to animate puppets since the late forties.

Anyway, that was all in the future. Although originally based in Moscow, Soyuzmultfilm was evacuated to Samarkand when the Germans invaded and were put to work creating propaganda for the war effort. And one of those films was Fascist Jackboots Shall Not Trample Our Motherland.

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