music

tom-waits

Tom Waits for No One (1979)

So remember when I was going to review ten shorts in one month? Man, I was young then. Anyway, part of the reason Shortstember came to a screeching halt after we covered the sixties was that finding a theatrical animated short released in the seventies is kind of like trying to find a shoe cobbler in 2016. Oh, they still exist. But they’re rare, boy. They are damn rare. By fortunate chance however, today’s short manages to be the absolute apotheosis of everything you think about when you hear the words “seventies animation”. It’s like they squeezed that entire decade of animation history into these six and a half minutes.

Tom Waits for No One was basically a job resume. Directors John Lamb and Bruce Lyon wanted to sell their Lyon Lamb Video Rotoscope technology to Ralph Bakshi, and created the short as a demonstration of what it could do. This probably explains why I can tell you that Ralph Bakshi did not create this short and you still won’t believe me. Hell, I’m not sure I believe me.  It’s the Bakshiest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s also a little NSFW, just so’s you know.

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Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

So one day Music was walking down the street somewhere in early twentieth century America and he was feeling on top of the world. Thanks to fancy new technologies like the wireless and phonograph, and this crazy new thing called “Jasz”, more people were listening to Music than ever before and that suited Music just fine.
“Hey there Mistah Music!” the newspaper boys would call as they heard him pass by and Music would tip his hat to them courteously.
Occasionally a bum would yell “You think yer so big! With your phonygrams an’ ragtime! I remember when you was bein’ spit out of a harmonica!” And then Music would drag the loud-mouthed drunk into an alley way, knife him repeatedly, and leave his body as a warning to the other bums.
He stopped on a street corner to roll himself a ludicrously expensive old-timey cigar. It was then that Music saw a tiny, starving artform, no more than a few years old, flickering and shivering on a filthy doorstep.
“Hey kid.” Said Music “What’s eatin’ ya?”
“Golly gee!” Said the infant artform “Who said that?” (Because of course, Music cannot be seen, as Music is an eight legged dragon covered in hooks and shimmering scales that go up and down, up and down and anyone who saw him would instantly go mad.)
“What’s your name, son?” Music asked kindly.
“Animation, mistah.” said Animation “I was just born and ain’t got no cultural relevancy. And I wants cultural relevancy so bad!”
“Well Animation.” Said Music “I’ve been looking for a smart young visual medium to help me expand my business ventures. I like you kid, ya got moxie. You got razzmatazz comin’ out the hooey. You and me could do great things together, kid. Whattya say?”
And so Music and his young new protégé formed a partnership that would stand the test of time. So influential was the fusion of music and animation that it even wiped out other artforms that were hugely popular at the time but have now been almost totally forgotten, like smell sculpture, colour-dancing and Grand Schmopera.
Animation has grown up a lot since the early days and can now stand on its own two feet as a medium. But if you look at the very early animated shorts from the twenties and thirties, you see that animation was almost solely used to give a visual component to music. There’s a reason those series of cartoon shorts have names like Looney Tunes, Silly Symphonies and Merry Melodies. And the link lasted long after animation had started maturing into a more narrative based style with its own way of telling stories. At Disney, even after Snow White and Pinocchio we still had movies like Make Mine Music, Melody Time and Fantasia where the animation is very much guided by and in service to the music.
Animation and Music, to put it plainly, are tight. They go way back. They’re best buds. When Film kicks Animation out of the house, he crashes on Music’s couch. Music was the best man at Animation’s wedding, Animation is the godfather of Music’s child…Music…Junior…okay the analogies are breaking down in a big way, moving on.
 
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is French electro act Daft Punk’s 2003 album Discovery. Daft Punk are a band who…
Um…
Shit shit shit. Okay, I really didn’t want to do this, but I’m going to have to ask for some help from by evil brother, The Unscrupulous Mouse. See, he may be a twisted maniac, but he’s also a pretty awesome musician and he knows more about house music than anyone else I know.
"Ha" I knew the day would come when you would bow before my greatness, brother!"

“Ha! I knew the day would come when you would bow before my genius, brother!”

"Oh just get it over with."

“Oh get on with it.”

"Wait a minute, Mouse."

“Wait a minute, Mouse.”

"What is it, Nit?"

“What is it, Nit?”

"I thought The Unscrupulous Mouse was your brother Eamonn? Donal's your brother who's a musician!"

“I thought The Unscrupulous Mouse was your brother Eamonn? Donal’s your brother who’s a musician!”

"Eh...he's...look, he's a composite character. I have three younger brothers. He's based on all of them."

“Eh…he’s…look, he’s a composite character. I have three younger brothers. He’s based on all of them.”

"Younger? But TV Tropes said he's based on your OLDER brother!"

“Younger? But TV Tropes said he’s based on your OLDER brother!”

"Yes. Sometimes TV Tropes can be wrong."

“Yes. Sometimes TV Tropes can be wrong.”

"Gasp!"

“Gasp!”

"I thought The Unscrupulous Mouse was your brother Eamonn? Donal's your brother who's a musician!"

“Look, are we doing this thing or what?”

"Enlighten us, Maestro."

“Enlighten us, Maestro.”

"A person can talk endlessly about Daft Punk's music career. Their iconic house tracks revolutionised dance music in the mid 90's and their re-imagining of funk music brought it roaring back into the mainstream until pretty much right now."

“A person can talk endlessly about Daft Punk’s music career. Their iconic house tracks revolutionised dance music in the mid 90’s and their re-imagining of funk music brought it roaring back into the mainstream right up to the present day.”

"But the main reason for Daft Punk's success is that they are completely anonymous. That means that it is impossible to hate them! They have no opinions, attributes or features and so can be judged solely on the merits of their music. The hipsters can't hate them because they're earlier music can be compared to what is popular in the underground scene at the minute, and all of the main stream listeners can't dislike them because....well I honestly believe that social media has brainwashed these people so they will like anything they've heard more than fifty times in the one day (Example: Get Lucky)."

“But the main reason for Daft Punk’s success is that they are completely anonymous. That means that it is impossible to hate them! They have no opinions, attributes or features and so can be judged solely on the merits of their music. The hipsters can’t hate them because their earlier music can be compared to what is popular in the underground scene at the minute, and all of the mainstream listeners can’t dislike them because….well I honestly believe that social media has brainwashed these people so they will like anything they’ve heard more than fifty times in the one day (Example: Get Lucky). “

"You don't like Get Lucky? You monster!"

“You don’t like Get Lucky? You monster!”

"In conclusion, the only reason you can hate Daft Punk is because they're French and have silly names."

“In conclusion, the only reason you can hate Daft Punk is because they’re French and have silly names. Now if you’ll excuse, my dark genius is needed elsewhere.”

 

Interstella 5555 is certainly not the first attempt to turn an album into a full length movie (you’re got The Wall and Yellow Submarine to name two), nor is it the first time Japan and France have collaborated in animation (Uly-seeee-eeeeeeeeee-eeeee-es). You might not know this (I certainly didn’t), but manga is absolutely HUGE in France, making up around half of all comics published there.

Likewise, animé has had a big presence on French TV for many decades, with most young Frenchlings having grown up watching shows like Dragon Ball Z and Robotech. Little wonder then, when Daft Punk were looking for a studio to animate their album, they looked East, not West. Specifically, they turned to legendary animator Leiji Matsumoto (the guy behind practically every animé TV series from the seventies and eighties) and Interstella 5555 is the product of their creative union. How did it turn out? Let’s take a look.
So the movie begins with footage of an interview with Matsumoto, flanked by Daft Punk in their robot costumes, discussing the origin of the film. Although, what with the grainy black and white footage, it looks more like the bit in a fifties sci-fi movie where the mad scientist announces to the world that his robot army will destroy them all.
“Fools! You called me mad! You denied the beauty of my children! But now the whole world shall bow before the steel legions of Doctor Matsumoto!”

“Fools! You called me mad! You denied the beauty of my children! But now the whole world shall bow before the steel legions of Doctor Matsumoto!”

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Check this guy out!

Hi guys, a slightly belated Merry Christmas to you all. You all know Erik Copper whose dulcet readings of the Unshaved Mouse drip like honey upon the ears of the waiting internet (audio of The Three Caballeros review has gone up here).  And now he’s started a blog of his own…

Terrific. Another piranha in the tank.

Terrific. Another piranha in the tank.

…called LyriCritic where he reviews awful pop music for your amusement. He does requests (like me) and he doesn’t have the temerity to ask for money (like…look, a bird!). Anwyay, you should check him out and watch him show Nicki Minaj what’s what.